False dawns of past leave Eels wary - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

False dawns of past leave Eels wary

By Steve Jancetic 11/03/2010 08:00:10 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta skipper Nathan Cayless claims the lessons of campaigns past will ensure the Eels don't get caught up in the hype that has some pundits engraving their name on the NRL premiership trophy before a ball has been kicked in the 2010 season.

Without a premiership in 24 years, the Eels have been installed as premiership favourites ahead of their season-opener against St George Illawarra on Friday night.

But Cayless has warned the blue and gold army not to get carried away just yet, having fallen victim to false downs before.

He saw it in 2002 when the Eels, shock losers in the 2001 grand final to an Andrew Johns-inspired Newcastle, were tipped to use the experience of defeat to go one better.

They were subsequently bundled out in the first week of the playoffs.

Then, after narrowly going down to premiers Melbourne in the 2007 finals, 2008 was again supposed to be the year of the Eel.

They would finish 11th.

Now, on the back of a splendid second half of the season in which they were again pipped at the final hurdle, the popular pick is that the Eels will go one better - particularly with new recruits Timana Tahu and Justin Poore on board.

"We've been through some periods where we've had a lot of expectation on us at the start of the season and some seasons we haven't handled that particularly well," Cayless admitted.

"There has been a lot of media and a lot of hype about our team."

The Eels get their chance to show what they've got against the Dragons at what is sure to be a heaving Parramatta Stadium, the Dragons themselves not immune to seasons of unfulfilled potential.

Under the guidance of veteran coach Wayne Bennett, the Dragons picked up the first minor premiership in the joint-venture's short history, but then became the first minor premiers to be bundled out in straight sets in the finals.

"They're (the Dragons) a great team, and a bit like us, they've got a lot to prove as well," star fullback Jarryd Hayne said.

"They had a disappointing end to their season, so they're going to be just as hungry as we are."

Unlike the Eels, the Dragons aren't on the top line of betting when it comes to this year's premiership, but backrower Dean Young said pre-season predictions mattered little.

"That's the way we like it," Young said of predictions the Dragons would finish in the lower half of the top eight.

"It doesn't really matter does it. We found out the hard way last year it's what you do in September (that counts)."

Bennett made a habit of getting things done in September in his 21 years at Brisbane, but the Broncos' 18-year streak of finals football has never looked in more danger of ending than it does heading into Friday night's northern derby against North Queensland.

A lot will rest on the shoulders of skipper Darren Lockyer, not only against the Cowboys but throughout the season, but the veteran five-eighth believes his baby Broncos are capable of surprising.

"I think everyone at the moment has good self believe as an individual and a team because they've worked so hard in the off season," Lockyer said.

"I don't want to predict too much but I think we're a good chance of surprising a few people."

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