Luke Burt ready to join Parramatta Eels for Round 20 NRL clash with CowboysDropped Parramatta fullback Luke Burt remains in the frame for a return to the custodian role against North Queensland tomorrow night. A shock omission from the Parramatta team last week that faced Manly, many were in dismay at the Burt sacking – as he was the NRL’s leading pointscorer and solid performer even in a beaten Eels side. The Parramatta side fared no better without Burt in the team; losing easily to a wounded Sea Eagles side.

When dropped last week, Burt wasn’t asked to play for Parramatta’s feeder team, Wentworthville, in the NSW Cup and had the weekend off. Again this week Burt hasn’t been named in the feeder club team, but even though he hasn’t been named in the first-grade side. Sources suggest that Luke Burt is back in with a shot at first grade for the Cowboys clash and under pressure Eels boss Michael Hagan will decide tomorrow whether to throw Burt back into the mix.

While Hagan suggested the reason for dropping Burt was  his form had been slightly off, it is understood he also had a private matter that he needed to deal with. Initially Burt was given several days off training but has been back on deck with the Eels this week. If thrown into the mix, Luke Burt will no doubt take the fullback role and Jarrod Hayne should move to the centres, which brings him closer to the action that previously on the wing.

Parramatta have been average form for most of the 2008 NRL season, but have really been under the pump over the last month, with 3 losses in a row – to the Panthers, Souths and the Sea Eagles – and have slipped to 13th place on the NRL Ladder. The only positive they can take away is that the crowded NRL table means they are still only 3 points outside the top eight, but at the moment their form would make them also-rans on the big stage.

They desperately need to boost their confidence by beating an injury-ravaged North Queensland team that has set the standard for poor performance this season with 11 straight losses, and Eels second-rower Nathan Hindmarsh is adamant that a narrow win – even though it will bring two points – won’t be sufficient.

“We need to get out there and win by a good margin,” Hindmarsh said yesterday. “It won’t be enough to scrape home by a point or two against a side that is as depleted as the Cowboys are. That wouldn’t remove the question marks. We need to play a strong game all round and win well.”

Hindmarsh said the mood of the players was reasonable, considering the hammering their confidence had taken from the series of disappointing results.

“The mood isn’t too bad,” he said. “It could be better, but things are how you would expect them to be if you’re running 13th. Everyone is still excited about playing on Friday night, but it’s just a bit low-key. All you can do in our situation is keep working hard, and that’s what we’ve done.

“We need to make something good happen for ourselves, and if something bad happens, you can’t drop the head and start kicking stones. You’ve got to move on from it and try harder.”

Halfback Brett Finch said the Eels had to try harder to enjoy their football in an attempt to break the losing cycle.

“We haven’t enjoyed our footy in the last couple of weeks because we haven’t been winning and the pressure has been mounting,” he said. “But one good win could do us the world of good, so we’ve just got to go out there with the aim of enjoying our footy on Friday night.

“We can’t be worried about whether we’ve got to win five out of our last seven games to make the finals, or some other team has got to lose so many games for us to get past them, or whatever. We’ve just got to worry about what’s in front of us – and right now that’s the Cowboys.”

By ricky

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