Parramatta coach Brian Smith refuses to hoist the white flag but captain Nathan Cayless concedes the Eels now need to build for the 2004 National Rugby League (NRL) season.
The Kiwis prop's safe return from a four-month injury layoff was the only positive to emerge from the Eels' 12-50 capitulation in Melbourne last Sunday.
"It was a major disappointment to play so badly in such a vital game for us," Cayless said.
"All we can aim to do now is finish the season on a good note in our last three games and give ourselves something positive to build on next year."
Cayless, in his first game back after breaking his arm against the Wests Tigers in April, gratefully emerged unscathed.
"I played around 45 minutes although we were standing behind the tryline for a fair bit of that so it wasn't too hard as far as conditioning went."
Tenth-placed Parramatta end their campaign with matches against Cronulla, Brisbane and Penrith and need a mathematical miracle to make the playoffs.
However Smith will not throw in the towel.
"We just have to keep winning and hope other results fall into place," he told Rugby League Week magazine.
Cayless has the added incentive of New Zealand test representation as he seeks to finish the season on a strong personal note.
He is keen to regain his place in the Kiwis front row for the trans-Tasman return match at Auckland in October.Like