Parramatta have vowed not to fall into the same trap as 2018 and believe their own hype after being handed the dream draw for the NRL restart.
Already one of the competition favourites and unbeaten after the first two rounds, the Eels were given another massive boost on Thursday.
Parramatta have avoided facing Melbourne, Canberra or the Sydney Roosters twice in the rejigged schedule, and won’t leave Bankwest Stadium between round four and round eight.
The club emerged as one of the big winners of the draw, scheduled to only face Brisbane, Manly, the Wests Tigers, Canterbury and Penrith twice.
But with their nightmare 2018 season still fresh in their mind – where they were among the pre-season favourites and finished last – the Eels were insistent they would not buy into the hype.
“We haven’t handled it (the pressure of favouritism) really well in the past,” halfback Mitchell Moses said.
“I think 2018 will show that.
“We just have to focus on what we can do. We’re not going to worry about anything outside our little bubble.
“We have to worry about ourselves, if you start worrying about everyone else it will start impacting our footy.”
The other advantage working in the Eels’ favour is they are the only NSW team to be able to play at their home ground for the next seven games.
While that advantage is mitigated by the fact the NRL is only hopeful they will have fans return late in the year, the Eels have won 10 of 12 games at the ground.
“It will be a little bit of an advantage,” Moses said.
“There’s not 30,000 Parramatta fans screaming during the game so that will be a bit different.
“But we obviously know the field pretty well.”
Winless Cronulla were the other big winners from the draw, meeting only teams who missed last year’s top eight twice.
At the other end, the schedule could not have been worse for the Roosters as they try to pull off the first NRL three-peat since the Eels in 1981-83.
The Tri-colours play South Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, St George Illawarra and Brisbane twice in their bid to become the first team to win three straight titles in more than 35 years.
“There are always going to be elements of inequality in any long competition,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.
“This is an incredibly unpredictable and tough competition. And over 18 straight weeks of football, there are going to be plenty of surprises and upsets.
“And I think over time we will have a top eight who deserves to be there. And from there it’s on who plays well in the finals.”
The Roosters’ traditional Anzac Day match against the Dragons has been moved to August 6, to commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Lone Pine.
Their grand-final rematch with Canberra will kick off round 10 in a Thursday night game.
Meanwhile the grand final has also been scheduled with the kick off time as “TBC”, potentially leaving the door open for a daytime encounter.
And State of Origin is set to follow on three straight Wednesdays – November 4, 11 and 18.
The second game has the potential to clash with a cricket Twenty20 World Cup semi-final at the SCG featuring Australia, if that tournament goes ahead.