Eels skipper Clint Gutherson says Parramatta’s premiership window is still open as he and Brad Arthur aim to emulate Penrith in turning a grand final demolition into an eventual title.
The Eels were no match for the all-conquering Panthers, who rattled up an 18-0 half-time lead with 60 per cent of possession and one of the great halves in a decider.
Parramatta could take little from the contest in which they were so convincingly beaten, but plenty from a campaign where doubters and finals demons were largely put in their place.
Whether the Eels can go one better given Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali’i, Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi, Tom Opacic and Ray Stone all moving on next year remains the biggest question mark over Brad Arthur’s side.
That Penrith’s back-to-back premierships came following a similar 2020 grand final defeat to Melbourne – when the Storm led 22-0 at half-time – gave Gutherson cause for optimism after an otherwise crushing defeat.
“You’d like to think this feeling gives a lot of motivation,” Gutherson said.
“None of us have felt this. It makes you want to get back here and even a few of the Penrith boys said that, that it was a lot of motivation for them when they lost a couple of years ago.
“We’re losing a couple of great players but whoever steps up is going to do a good job for us. But we’re not going to think about now.
“We’ll sit back at what we’ve achieved as a team, as a club and as people this year. Not many people gave us a chance to get [to the grand final] four, five or six weeks ago and to prove them wrong is pretty good.”
Arthur conceded last week’s epic win against the Cowboys in trying Townsville conditions took it out of his side, as well as a late-season run that was required to secure fourth spot and a second chance in the finals.
Given Parramatta’s difficult road, and no doubt a past decade that has included wooden spoons, a salary-cap scandal and endless speculation about his own position, Arthur stressed the Eels should take pride in their achievements this season.
“They [Penrith] played too well in the first half and were too fast for us,” Arthur said.
“I said to the boys right now is not the time to review or dissect that game, we just got beaten by a better team.
“It was a tough road to get here and maybe the tough road took its toll on us. But it’s a big achievement. We’re not just putting the cue in the rack and saying we’re content with that but I just want to focus on how proud I am of the guys as individuals.”
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