Ricky Stuart stepped back to his old scrumbase stomping ground in the days before kick-off with a pointed barb plenty of halfbacks from the 90s would know all too well.
Time to show “why he is on so much money” was the gist of Stuart’s riposte at Eels halfback Mitchell Moses.
Moses was in a similar mood throughout the week. He was short with some questions at Parramatta’s media call, jovial but giving nothing with others, as all and sundry watched his recovery from a heavy concussion.
Within minutes of kick-off on Friday night, Moses went about earning his $900,000-a-year pay cheque and putting paid to the two-from-nine finals record he and Brad Arthur share.
Much like his coach and his teammates, Moses and the Eels have slowly but surely learnt how to deal with the suffocating pressure that comes with a 36-year premiership drought and the blue-and-gold No.7 jersey.
Arthur spoke during the week of no longer walking the streets into the wee hours after an Eels loss.
Parramatta, too, have made a point of freewheeling football being their best bet. After a late-season thumping from South Sydney, the gist of a team honesty session was “no regrets”.
From the opening minutes against a plucky Canberra outfit, the Eels offloaded with abandon and had eight to their name by the 20-minute mark.
Pulling it all together, straightening the attack from every popped pass by a Lane, Paulo or Papali’i, was Moses and his offsider Dylan Brown.
Twice in the opening quarter, Brown swung over to join Moses down the right edge. Twice he dragged Jack Wighton infield when he didn’t need to come on in, setting Moses up to exploit the overlap for Parramatta points.
Brown’s season has been superb to date and hit its highest point yet as he gave Canberra grief every time he touched the ball.
Mitchell Moses enjoys the moment with Marata Niukore. Credit:Getty
Moses, celebrating his 28th birthday, gives his young halves partner the chance to do so.
Andrew Johns lauded one early kick in commentary as evidence that the Eels halfback has reached the point where the game slows down around him, unlocking the ability to control proceedings as he sees fit.
In Moses and Reed Mahoney’s sleek service out of dummy-half, Parramatta have an ability to shift either way quicker than most teams in the NRL.
It’s this point of difference, often coming off the back of offloads from their big men, that troubles Penrith, even with last week’s 27-8 thumping by the premiers fresh in the mind.
With a couple of forced drop-outs and a typically strong kicking game, Moses ensured Parramatta kept Canberra under the thumb.
The birthday boy’s runaway second-half try was merely fruit for the sideboard.
A second-half HIA, followed by an absolute walloping by Wighton when the game was long gone, was just a little more drama to round out the week.
Seven more days and it will be time for Moses to show “why he’s on so much money” once more.
One of Parramatta’s worst performances this year came against the Cowboys in the Darwin tropics when the Eels were battling to find a backline and Reuben Cotter ran amok in the middle.
A preliminary final in Townsville, with the home side freshened up by a week off, has a whiff of something similar.
But the Eels are at their best when playing like millionaires, and Moses showing why he’s worthy of a similar price tag.
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