Panthers vs Eels, premiers must overcome history against the Eels, Ivan Cleary press conference


Panthers coach Ivan Cleary isn’t worried about his side’s recent record against the Eels in the regular season, with the premiers maintaining they are still the “little brother” in Sydney’s west ahead of Friday’s blockbuster derby.

Penrith has seemingly forgotten how to lose matches, but that changes for some reason when they face the blue and golds who have won four in a row against the Panthers in the regular season.

You can argue that it means very little given they’ve also lost their four most recent finals matches against Penrith, including the 2022 decider, but there’s something about this rivalry that brings out their best, which is why the defending premiers are on high alert.

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Mitch Moses nailed a field goal to help Parramatta beat Penrith last year. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Mitch Moses nailed a field goal to help Parramatta beat Penrith last year. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“We’ve always been little brother so I’m not sure if that’s changed,” Cleary said.

“We’re rivals, and that’s been the case for years and years.

“Over the last few years we’ve had some really good games, and a lot of those games could have gone either way.

“We always look forward to playing them, and it’s probably vice versa.”

The Panthers only lost six games last year, but two of those were against Parramatta, including a memorable 17-16 result in round 4 that was sealed by a Mitch Moses field goal in golden point.

While that game could have gone either way, the Panthers are still smarting over the round 26 derby where they were belted by an Eels team missing Moses and with very little to play for.

Cleary said it wasn’t a wakeup call late in the season, but it did shock them back into life, with Penrith winning their next three games by 32 points, 26 and 34 before their incredible comeback in the grand final.

The Eels stunned Penrith away from home in round 26. Picture: NRL PhotosSource: The Daily Telegraph

“The other game was probably our worst game of the year and something we needed at that point,” he said.

“At that point, we were sort of winning but it wasn’t great.

“Our position had been set and they just came here and gave it to us, so they deserved the win.

“I don’t know if it was a wakeup call, but we were a fair way off the pace. Fortunately for us we fixed it up after that.”

The Panthers head into Friday’s encounter facing the same questions they were being asked last year when they lost the World Club Challenge and then went down to Brisbane in the season opener.

They started this year with a loss to Wigan – albeit overseas this time – and were then held scoreless by the Storm.

There is another quirk to all this given Penrith bounced back to beat Souths in round 2 last year – the same team they beat in the grand final two years earlier – with the Panthers set to face the Eels who they beat in the 2022 decider.

“There were some similarities with how we started last year. We were just a bit off in certain areas,” Cleary said, hoping to see some improvement in attack.

“We played the Broncos in round 1 last year and then the Storm (this time) and they’re two really strong teams. If you’re a little bit off then that’s enough sometimes to lose the game.

“It’s really up to us to try to iron out a few key parts of our game, complement them together, and then you’ll see a style that we like to play.”


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