The Parramatta Eels are set to welcome back a former Origin star for their elimination final date with the Newcastle Knights.
The Eels are set to receive a huge boost ahead of the finals with front-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard on track to return for next week’s do-or-die game against the Knights.
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The towering prop hasn’t played since he injured his groin in the early stages of the Round 20 loss to the Roosters, but his coach is confident he’ll be back for the elimination final.
The news comes after Parramatta’s second-string side was thumped 40-6 by Penrith, with a stack of star players able to get some rest before the finals begin.
While the result wasn’t what they wanted, the sixth-placed Eels will look completely different next week as they try to overcome a horrible recent finals record.
“It’s a new competition, but we’ve certainly got nothing that’s going to weigh us down,” Arthur said.
“We’re going to be healthy. I didn’t realise it but someone said Gutho (Clint Gutherson) hadn’t missed a game for three years so he’s going to enjoy the rest.
“Reggie is back next week so we’ve got some real headaches picking a team, but that’s exactly what tonight was about.”
The Eels were bundled out in straight sets last year but will head into the Newcastle game with plenty of confidence after they ended Melbourne’s 19-match winning streak just last week.
They’ve rediscovered their aggression through the middle, which gives Arthur confidence that they can do some damage in the post-season.
“We finished fourth last year and it didn’t help us. We’ve got no excuses,” he said.
“That looks a bit more like us, doesn’t it, compared to what we were doing at the start of the year. A heap of energy, nice and aggressive, and I thought we were aggressive up until the last set tonight.”
It sets up an intriguing clash against a Newcastle team that has looked clunky in attack, but has still picked up five wins in a row ahead of Saturday’s game against Brisbane.
Parramatta won their only meeting 40-4 back in Round 13, but the Knights were without Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce that afternoon.
“They’re playing some really good footy and they’re playing controlled footy, so they don’t give you much so we’re going to be in for a real fight,” Arthur said ahead of a week that will feature plenty of talk about the grand final upset 20 years ago.
“We’ll get through tonight and get ready for Newcastle next week.”