Eels turn premiership race on its head - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eels turn premiership race on its head

By Steve Jancetic 13/09/2009 07:42:12 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson declared the title race wide open and his Eels genuine contenders after premiership favouritism went out the window with St George Illawarra's upset loss in the NRL qualifying finals.

The Eels set up a second week showdown with notoriously poor travellers Gold Coast and consigned the Dragons to a sudden death trip to Suncorp Stadium to play Brisbane next Saturday night after the minor premiers were stunned 25-12 by Parramatta at WIN Jubilee Oval on Sunday.

The flow on effect was Melbourne joining the Bulldogs in securing a passage through to week three of the finals, while reigning premiers Manly have been left to make Mad Monday plans as they joined the Dragons of 2004 in becoming just the second team to be eliminated after losing the fourth versus fifth opening week showdown.

The results left the Storm as new $3.25 premiership favourites, the Eels - who were once out to $150 to win the grand final - now on the second line at $3.50, while former favourites the Dragons ($7.50) are only ahead of the Titans ($26) as outsiders.

Parramatta's 50-point turnaround - after they were beaten 37-0 by the Dragons at the same ground just nine days earlier - left Anderson believing anything was possible.

"I hope so because we came in eight, so lets hope that anyone can win it," Anderson said.

"We have to accept the accolades from today's performance - the players certainly deserve that - but we have to dust ourselves off to go again next week.

"No one cares who comes second or third or fourth - you win it or you don't and that's what we're here to do, keep striving to win."

Asked about the favourable match-up with the Titans, who are now rank outsiders after back-to-back losses, Anderson said:

"It doesn't matter who we play, it's a reward to get out of here, to actually have to keep planning a week of training.

"They will be smarting and they can score plenty of points ... the reward will be at the end of the game if we win and we progress."

Dragons coach Wayne Bennett was left bemoaning the inadequacies of the McIntyre finals system, which now forces his minor premiers to travel to Brisbane next weekend while the Eels - who just scraped into the finals in eighth - now have a home final.

"I'm not a fan of it ... I think today highlights it again why I'm not but it's just the system we're playing under," Bennett said.

"We realised we could certainly be beaten by eighth, the Storm were last year ... it's not new."

While the Storm - who will play the winner of the Broncos-Dragons match - were rightly installed as premiership favourites following their flogging of the Sea Eagles, the Bulldogs are now the unknown quantity with injured halfback Brett Kimmorley on Sunday declaring himself a certainty to play in the preliminary final against the winners of the Eels-Titans game.

The Bulldogs looked well below their best in knocking Newcastle out of the race on Saturday night, but with Kimmorley back anything is possible.

"I got the all clear to start full training so I started pretty much this morning ... I'm trying to avoid any contact until I need to play," Kimmorley told BigPond Sports Weekend.

"I've been off the painkillers for about a week now and I feel a lot better mentally. The fact the doctor said there's no way I can hurt it again unless I did something stupid."

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