They are points-less and Peats-less, but Parramatta can still make the top eight.
That’s the view of rival NRL coaches on the reeling Eels, who will have to begin the long climb back up the ladder when they are stripped of all 12 premiership points for breaching the salary cap.
They were also fined $1 million and had five officials suspended, however the biggest blow to the side came from having to push popular hooker Nathan Peats out the door this week to get under the cap.
League headquarters finally declared the Eels cap-compliant on Thursday, however coach Brad Arthur and his men face the challenge of having to win 12 of their final 15 games to make the finals.
And rival coaches refused to rule out the wounded Eels from doing it.
“Anything’s possible in this game,” Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said on Friday.
“It’s tough – I just had a look at their draw. But if they get on a bit of roll and put three, four and five (wins) together, the belief will just start to build.
Flanagan said he was keen to watch what would be an emotional game on Friday night against South Sydney.
“I hope Parra get to kick off and they defend that first set because I think it’d be something special,” he said.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy pointed to the Eels’ strong form before the heavy punishment, where they won six of their opening nine games to sit just victory behind ladder leaders Brisbane in fifth spot.
It was their best start to a season since their last premiership in 1986.
The Eels technically remain in the top eight before the final findings are handed down in mid-June and competition points are stripped.
“It’s certainly a tough ask, especially in this competition, to win 12 out of 15 games,” Bellamy said.
“But their form in the early part of the year has been really good. They’ve beaten the Cowboys once and they went really close the other time up in Townsville … they’ve been really impressive.
“I think they’re capable of doing it, without a doubt. It’ll take a lot of effort from everyone in their club. Having said that, they’ve got a chance and I’m sure they’ll give it their best shot.
“They’ve got a pretty favourable draw there as well, so there’s a few things going their way there.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said the close-knit Eels would make a real go of the challenge.
“It’s going to be a big task from where they’re starting but, if you have a look at the group, they seem pretty tight. So I’m sure that that’ll be their challenge that they’ll have a crack at.”