On the first day of the post-Chris Sandow era, Parramatta have vowed to keep their season alive with an upset of competition hotshots North Queensland.
The Eels took to training for the first time without their maligned halfback, who was on Thursday granted a $50,000 payout that finally brought an end to a troubled four years at Parramatta.
In 77 games over four seasons with the Eels, Sandow won just 28 games for a success rate of 36 per cent.
Sandow will now join Super League side Warrington just before transfer deadline in a move Eels skipper Tim Mannah said was best for all parties.
“I had breakfast with him two days ago and was texting him (on Thursday night). He seemed in good spirits and I dare say he’ll kill it over there,” Mannah said.
“It was healthy for him to figure out what was best for him and his family.”
In fact, Mannah predicted Sandow could return from a two-year stint in the UK an improved player.
“I think it’ll be good for him to get away from all the noise around here for a bit, clear his hand, just play some footy and go back to doing what he loves,” he said.
“I’ve got no doubt he can definitely come back and make it in the NRL.”
A knee injury to regular five-eighth Corey Norman means back-up halfback Luke Kelly will be partnered by makeshift pivot Joseph Paulo against the Cowboys’ representative duo of Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.
The 11th-placed Eels, who will also be without key forwards Anthony Watmough and Danny Wicks for the rest of the season, must win to keep their season alive.
But Mannah believes that, with the Sandow drama now behind them, his team can fling a surprise performance against arguably the hottest team in the competition.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world for us,” he said.
“Luke Kelly is a very capable halfback. To be able to have someone like that that we can slot in our team is very handy.
“And when we get Corey back, and with Reece (Robinson) back now, we’ve actually got a spine that’s not too hindered by what’s happened.
After serving his two-game suspension for a shoulder charge in last week’s defeat to Canterbury, Sandow’s first game for Warrington is expected to be for the opening match of the new Super8s series.