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Stuart wary of winless Eels ‘clicking’

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"Everyone's beating each other at the moment and Parramatta have a wonderful team there," Stuart said on Friday.

"I sense they're about to click and let's just hope it's the week after this one. They'll click at some stage. It's a very tough comp."

The Raiders are coming off their first win of the season after beating the Canterbury Bulldogs 26-10.

It was a gutsy defensive effort, with the Raiders finishing the game with just one fit player on the bench.

Stuart had questioned his players' toughness going into the game and their response forced him to apologise.

He said the onus was on his team to reproduce that effort against the Eels, but that it had also showed they were fit enough – an area NRL experts had questioned over the winless opening four rounds, especially after Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo and Joey Leilua returned from the World Cup overweight.

"You can have any defensive structure or strategy in your game but if you're missing individual tackles and not covering your mate you're in for a tough night," Stuart said.

"Last week I thought we were very good in that area.

"I thought individually we were strong, especially the first half and we covered one and other's back quite well, which I expect from our boys because last week we had a fair bit of adversity to play under and they handled that pressure and that fatigue very well.

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"All the critics were telling me over the last month that we were an unfit football team. We played with five interchange last week so I think that shoved it straight back in their face."

Stuart praised Papalii's attitude after he was dropped to NSW Cup last week.

Papalii starred for the Mounties, amassing more than 180 run metres playing in the second row.

"He'll be on the bench and he gives us great utility value. He can come on and play on an edge or play in the middle," Stuart said.

"Both edges [Elliott Whitehead and Joe Tapine] can play in the middle too. That type of utility value's quite important for the team and for each game."

Eels coach Brad Arthur said the return of Gutherson was a massive boost for his struggling team, but warned they wouldn't be able to rely solely on the 23-year-old to turn things around for a winless Parramatta.

Gutherson hasn't played since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in round 20 last year.

Arthur said the fullback had been hurting having to watch on from the sidelines since then.

Eels coach Brad Arthur has never seen anyone as focused as Clint Gutherson.

Photo: NRL Photos

"Hes been ready for a while and wanting to get out there," Arthur said.

"I havent seen a person in this situation as focused and as mentally prepared as 'Gutho' is because usually they carry a few demons with this sort of injury.

"Hes been mentally right to play for a long time now, but hes more important for us in the long-term [than] to rush him back straight, but the time has come and well see how he goes."

NRL ROUND SIX

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels at Canberra Stadium, 7.35pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange: 14. Ata Hingano, 15. Shannon Boyd, 16. Josh Papalii, 17. Dunamis Lui, 18. Liam Knight, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Brad Abbey, 21. Jack Murchie.

Eels squad: 1. Clint Gutherson, 2. George Jennings, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Kirisome Auva'a, 5. Bevan French, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Peni Terepo, 9. Kaysa Pritchard, 10. Tim Mannah (c), 11. Manu Ma'u, 12. Tony Williams, 13. Tepai Moeroa. Interchange: 14. Beau Scott, 15. Kenny Edwards, 16. Daniel Alvaro, 17. Kane Evans, 18. Will Smith, 19. David Gower, 20. Suaia Matagi, 21. Josh Hoffman.

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David Polkinghorne

David Polkinghorne is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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