Parramatta are down but coach Brad Arthur isn’t going to count his side out as a possible NRL finals’ chance.
Docked 12 competition points on Saturday for salary-cap breaches, the Eels find themselves near the bottom of the ladder.
Their fall from grace comes less than 24 hours after remaining in the top four with a come-from-behind win over the Sydney Roosters.
The NRL’s decision means Parramatta will recalibrate their season from 12th position with 12 competition points.
It’s a situation that is tenuous at best, but making the finals is not impossible, even though Parramatta would have to win every game of the remaining eight rounds.
Allowing for 28 points being the cut-off to make the final eight, Arthur’s team rates as a mathematical chance of getting there with 16 competition points on offer until the end of the home-and-away season.
Parramatta’s run towards an unlikely finals’ appearance will start against Penrith on Sunday week and, on what Arthur has seen amid the disasters of 2016, he will be the last one to think his players can’t perform a rugby league miracle.
“To say that I can’t believe they’re continuing to do it (is wrong),” Arthur said after the 22-18 win over the Roosters.
“They’re managed to do it week in and week out, and we’ve had quite a few distractions.
“So they’ve just hardened themselves to playing well and playing for each other.
“The fact that they keep turning up for each other on the tryline – back-rowers and front-rowers defending in the centres – and they just kept turning up.
“The attitude is great – we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Such has been Parramatta’s on-field resolve, even NRL boss Todd Greenberg said during Saturday’s announcement he had nothing but admiration for Arthur and the Eels’ players.
“If Parramatta can make the eight from where they are now … they thoroughly deserve to be there,” he later told Triple M radio.