Parramatta players believe they will be better placed to deal with the mental fatigue of any NRL bubble this year after they faded dramatically within it in 2020.
The Eels were bumped out of last year’s finals in straight sets, with back-rower Shaun Lane admitting mental fatigue played its part.
NRL players are desperately hoping they won’t have to enter a similar bubble in 2021, as they wait anxiously on border closures and any increase in case numbers.
But Eels players believe this year they will at least be better prepared.
Parramatta led the competition until the end of round nine last year, but then lost five of their last nine to make no impact in the finals.
“It’s always going to be hard (in the bubble),” captain Clint Gutherson said.
“Obviously you learn a bit from last year because we got thrown into it without knowing what it was going to be like.
“I am sure the staff and club will have ways to make it easier.”
A particular emphasis has been placed on training skills under fatigue this summer, after they regularly lost games in bad 20-minute spells last year.
The Eels made the fourth most errors of any team in the competition, as they conceded 98 points in their last three games of the year.
They have fallen out of the finals after two weeks in three of the past four years, prompting questions over late-season pressure and fading away.
But Lane said last year was not a case of physical fatigue, but rather the mental challenges associated with 2020.
“It was just an accumulation of everything that happened last year in terms of the bubble and COVID and all the external stresses as well,” Lane said
“The footy season is already strenuous enough on you mentally and physically as it is.
“It was heaps draining.
“I have heard other sports talk about their time in bubbles and how hard it was, and they only spent a quarter of the time in there compared to us.
“A whole range of factors got to us and reduced our performance as the season went on.
“But that’s still no excuse.”