Why Fittler holds finals fears for the Eels
NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler says Parramatta's dubious edge defence makes him "nervous" heading into the NRL finals.
Parramatta has won seven of its past 10 games yet remains friendless in betting and dismissed by fans and critics ahead of Saturday's match against the Melbourne Storm.
While unconvincing again, the plucky Eels scrambled to another win on Saturday night by overcoming Wests Tigers 28-24 at Bankwest Stadium.
The TAB has Parramatta as massive $4.25 outsiders to beat Melbourne ($1.22). The Eels have drifted from $17 to $21 in premiership betting.
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In a boost for Parramatta, forward Ryan Matterson was charged with a crusher tackle on Wests Tigers player Asu Kepaoa but will escape suspension with an early plea.
"Parramatta is a tough one (to gauge) at the moment," Fittler told The Big Sports Breakfast Weekend. "They are just such a hard read.
"At times I was cheering and thinking 'they're back' but then the Tigers were able to score a stack of points on them with tries that didn't look that difficult to defend.
"There were times when they looked great again (on Saturday night) and then at times looked really vulnerable.
"When you're edges are vulnerable in defence, as they were on Saturday night, that can make it difficult if the other team gets a lot of ball and have a good day, then they get to your vulnerable places.
"They make me nervous because I don't think their edges are that good in defence."
Parramatta will carry 34 years of expectation into this year's finals - a weight which has proven too much for previous Eels sides.
And Parramatta could not have wished for a tougher first-up assignment - playing mighty Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.
"They're the ones everyone is forgetting - Melbourne. They are incredibly capable,' Fittler said.
"Look at their forwards, look at their bench. They've got a very well balanced team. They are tough and big and then they've got the hooker (Cam Smith), wow. Melbourne are the 'smokeys', for sure," Fittler said.
Blues adviser Greg Alexander believes the premiership can only be won by three sides - Melbourne, Sydney Roosters and his beloved Panthers.
"I think the Roosters and Storm are huge threats, massive threats," Alexander said.
"I'm going to look past what happened on Friday night with the Roosters (a 60-8 loss to Souths). They were starting to look invincible, like they were in the early part of the season.
"The Roosters can win the comp again, they really can, as can Melbourne Storm. It's down the three but naturally I'll be leaning towards the Panthers.
"There is such a good feeling in the Penrith camp. They look so together, so connected. Young players are different these days. They are a lot more courageous in terms of their mindset.
"They don't worry about what has happened before them."
Originally published as Why Fittler holds finals fears for the Eels