Moses adamant fired-up Eels will be ready for Cleary’s comeback game

Nathan Cleary will end a five-week exile against the same team he faced on the night he was sent off and slapped with the longest suspension of his career, and the Parramatta Eels say they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Parramatta have secured a top four finish with a win over the Melbourne Storm, setting up a qualifying final date with Cleary and the Penrith Panthers at BlueBet Stadium next week.

The Penrith halfback is set to return from a five-week ban for a dangerous throw on Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown, while the Panthers could effectively welcome back an entirely new starting side after coach Ivan Cleary rested 12 players for this week’s trip to Townsville.

Punters may fancy the Eels in the opening game of the finals series given Brad Arthur’s side have beaten Penrith twice already this year.

But Moses says past results will count for nothing with a preliminary final berth at stake when the Eels go behind enemy lines, vowing to start fast and silence what is likely to be a sold-out crowd.

“It’s big. [Finishing in the top four] was a goal at the start of the year so we’ve done that. That season is all done now, finals is a new beast. We’ve got to start fresh now, it’s a new season,” Moses said.

Nathan Cleary will return against the Eels.Credit:Getty Images

“The whole season is gone now, we beat them in the regular season. They’ve got a couple of players coming back now and they’ll be fresh and ready to go. They’ll be fired up, they’ll be fit and ready to go. We’re expecting their best side and their best footy, so we’re going to have to be at our best.

“It doesn’t matter what footy you played before, it’s a new season coming into next week. If we put in performances like that, it’ll help. One to eight teams, any one of those teams can win the comp. It’s a big challenge for us but we’re ready.

“You’ve got to get up for those teams, they’re the great teams in the comp and you’ve got to be at your best against them. If you start strong against them, you take the crowd out of it.

“We played out there earlier in the year, we know what it’s like. They’ve got very keen supporters there who really get behind them. If we can get a win there, it’ll be good.”

Moses and the Eels have beaten the defending premiers twice this season.Credit:Getty

Cleary and Jarome Luai will headline Penrith’s list of returning stars – which includes two Dally M medal contenders in lock Isaah Yeo and fullback Dylan Edwards – to set up an intriguing battle between the two halves pairings.

Luai and Cleary are a premiership-winning combination who have become mainstays for Brad Fittler’s NSW State of Origin side, while Moses and Brown both sit inside the competition’s top five for try assists this year.

Moses leads the pack with 22 while Brown is equal-fifth on 16 – the same number recorded by Eels fullback Clint Gutherson, suggesting Parramatta’s attack may trouble Penrith’s defence.

But it was Moses’ defence that was the big talking point in Parramatta after he rattled Storm forward Kenny Bromwich in a tackle and forced him from the field. Gutherson joked the Eels wouldn’t hear the end of it.

“Maybe if we watch the replay at training,” Moses grinned. “I don’t even remember it happening. I was just making a tackle. It was just a bit of luck. I’ve just got to get my body in front.”

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