Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
Eels fullback Luke Burt says premiership expectations are being felt at Parramatta, but the NRL contenders are more than capable of dealing with the pressure.
Burt will make his comeback in Saturday night's heavyweight clash with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, his first NRL game since a devastating knee injury in round 17 last season.
He missed the Eels' remarkable run to last year's preliminary final where they fell just short of upsetting eventual premiers Melbourne for a spot in the grand final.
Last year's impressive performances, combined with their list of talented youngsters and few off-season departures, has most punters backing the Eels to be the Storm's biggest threat in 2008.
Burt said the Eels were aware of the massive expectations, but added the side's mix of youthful nonchalance and experience would keep the team on an even keel.
"I don't feel the expectations so much but I know some of the older boys might feel it," said Burt.
"And I know the younger boys don't feel it. The likes of (Krisnan) Inu and that just go out and play each game as it comes and do what they do.
"We've got a good balance there of senior players and young fellas to just get out there and play good footy week in and week out.
"We know there's expectation there obviously for us, but we've just got to go out and do the old cliche of playing week to week and do our best."
However, even without the international duo, Burt says the Bulldogs still possess one of the NRL's most imposing forward packs.
"They've got quality players in their team. When (former Test lock) Reni Maitua is on the bench you know you've got a good side," said Burt.
"We're expecting as hard a game as we've ever had against the Doggies. We're just really preparing for a tough game."
Burt says he isn't feeling any nerves ahead of his NRL comeback.
"Everyone has seen how Haynesy went last year and we've also got Inu there who played fullback for the Kiwis," said Burt.
"It's a position I have to play well in just to keep my position."
Burt, with a 84.3 per cent rate with the boot last year, will resume his goalkicking duties from smiling superboot Inu (82.2 per cent) offering the Eels two options in front of goal.