Much of the talk about the NRL premiership race has centred around Brisbane and North Queensland but Parramatta claim they deserve to be spoken about in the same breath.
The Eels are preparing for a test of their title bona fides when they head to Townsville to take on reigning premiers North Queensland this weekend.
Sitting in fourth with five wins, Brad Arthur’s side will have a great idea of where they stand when they walk off 1300Smiles Stadium at fulltime on Saturday night.
While many have suggested that the Broncos and Cowboys are destined to fight out this year’s grand final once again, the Eels say they deserve to considered as one of the NRL’s leading sides.
“We believe so,” skipper Kieran Foran said when asked if his team were the real deal.
“We know there’s a lot of improvement still to go yet.
“We’re happy with the defensive side of things and the effort that we’ve been putting in and that’s been great.
“But we’ll have to improve a lot to make sure we’re playing there in September and we’ll keep working hard on our game.”
Saturday’s clash shapes as a battle between the competition’s best attacking unit in the Cowboys and one of the sturdiest defensive sides in the Eels.
After seven rounds, the Cowboys lead the league in terms of tries scored (4.9 per game), points scored (28.4 per game) and average run metres (1564m), according to Fox Sports Stats.
While the Eels have built their gameplan on defence, boasting the second fewest points conceded (10.7 per game), second fewest tries conceded (1.9 per game), second fewest missed tackles (20.1 per game).
“They’re such an exciting attack team,” Foran said of the Cowboys.
“They’ve got so many threats in their side, they really do throw a lot at you, you really have to be on defensively. Fortunately that’s been our strongest aspect to start the year.
“We’ll be hoping we can continue that and if we can do that then we can hopefully limit the amount of time they have with the ball down our end of the field.”