Eels eye top four with good run home - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eels eye top four with good run home

By Todd Balym 05/07/2008 11:35:36 AM Comments (0)

Parramatta coach Michael Hagan believes his side is "not far away" from hitting top gear with the Eels plotting an end-of-season surge for the NRL top four.

Parramatta have hardly set the NRL on fire this year but with a good run home to the finals, facing just three top eight sides in their last 10 games, the Eels could navigate their way into top four contention.

They moved back into eighth place with last week's 24-22 win over Origin-depleted Melbourne and face ninth-placed Penrith at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday.

A win against the Panthers would give them a three point buffer over their western Sydney rivals and create a bigger gulf between the top and bottom half of the ladder.

"We've had to work pretty hard over the last month to get ourselves into the eight and I think that there's certainly enough confidence, we're pretty healthy and I think that there's nothing to say we can't force our way a bit further up the table," said Hagan.

"The start of the year was always going to be difficult for us and we didn't have a few guys on deck at that time.

"We think if we stay healthy we can finish the year off pretty well.

"We've got 10 weeks of footy to do that and I think we're in good shape at the moment.

"We're not too far away (from our best) but it might still be another week or two until we get there.

"I have been pretty happy with the last probably five or six weeks the way we've played.

"I think we've got the majority of our players turning up with a good attitude to the tough part of the game and in this part of the season that is what you need."

The Eels will be without one of their trusted workhorses in Nathan Hindmarsh (toe injury) this week while winger Jarryd Hayne is expected to play after last Wednesday's Origin defeat for NSW.

Fuifui Moimoi returns from suspension off the bench for the Eels Sunday while the Panthers welcome back skipper Petero Civoniceva from Queensland Origin duties.

The return of experienced leader Civoniceva is a huge boost for the baby Panthers who struggled for direction in last week's 12-all draw with Brisbane.

Penrith will continue with their young approach by fielding under-20s stars Wade Graham, Masada Iosefa and Lachlan Coote against the Eels.

Hagan said his men would look to exploit the inexperienced trio, but warned the young Panthers would also be a handful to contain.

"There's certainly an opportunity to put some pressure on a couple of their key players and I think we would be remiss if we weren't trying to do that," he said.

"I think they're going pretty well with the fact they have got a few of their better players out and a few of their young blokes seem to be going particularly well for them at the moment.

"They've got a bit of strike in them too in the way they play so I think defensively we've got a bit of work to do there.

"We think if we get our own house in order we will be capable of defending well and scoring enough points on Sunday."

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