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Mistakes from last year taught Brad Arthur to hold his nerve and rest players ahead of the NRL finals, putting the health of his squad ahead of a slim chance at a top-four finish.
On the eve of Friday night's western Sydney derby, the Parramatta coach has denied the Eels have 'put the slippers on' by resting their biggest stars against Penrith on Friday night with a second chance in the finals on the line.
Instead, he says he's doing what he should have done last season before the Eels bowed out of the finals in straight sets.
"Last year I had good intentions and I wanted to rest players, but we were winning and going on a good run, and it's hard to hold your nerve and to take those blokes out of your team when you're relying on results and everyone wants you to win," Arthur said on Thursday.
"Maybe I put that ahead of preparation for the finals.
"We lost a couple of games and you feel like you've got to keep them in the team because you need to get back to winning form."
The Eels were top of the ladder until midway through the season last year when they started to stumble, losing four of 11 games before finals including big losses to South Sydney and Penrith.
From round 14 onwards they didn't have back-to-back wins until the last two rounds of the season against Brisbane and Wests Tigers, when Arthur says he should have rested stars.
"I made the decision very early this year of what I wanted to do and I've stuck to it," he said.
"I would have liked to rest some of these boys earlier, but we'd had a couple of bad performances and I wasn't going to reward blokes on the back of bad performances.
"We needed to get ourselves back on track and now it's getting ourselves ready for the finals.
"We haven't put the slippers on, this is what's best for the team and the club moving forward."
With one game to play, the Eels are fifth on the ladder on equal points with the Sydney Roosters and Manly.
They would need to beat Penrith and have short-priced favourites Manly lose to North Queensland on Saturday to finish in the top four.
The Eels have rested Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Isaiah Papali'i, Waqa Blake, Dylan Brown and Nathan Brown, while Junior Paulo and Ryan Matterson are suspended.
By contrast, Penrith have named their full-strength side to build momentum into the finals and are a chance of claiming the minor premiership.
Only last week was coach Ivan Cleary able to name his strongest side after months of injury and Origin disruption and he wants to see their combinations peaking come playoffs.
"Most of our guys have missed games through being rested or injuries, so we feel like at this point in time the best option is to keep our boys going and get together and have another hit out," said Cleary.