"IT'S good to win, mate, pity it wasn't there at the start of the year. I don't know why, but we're winning games and it is a good feeling."
With that, retirement-bound Parramatta skipper Nathan Hindmarsh sang the strands of the Eels' lament, the tale of how a club finished its season by throwing a series of telling KO blows after spending most of the competition on the ropes.
Last night, their match against fellow cellar-dwellers the Sydney Roosters was always going to be won by the team with the most desire. The Eels seemed to have the mortgage on that early, squandered it before and after half-time but reclaimed the game with a rousing finish.
Hindmarsh could not explain his team's encouraging finish to a winter of discontent, saying he and his teammates had worked just as hard and tried just as desperately for similar results under former coach Stephen Kearney before he cut his ties with Parramatta after a shock win over heavyweights Melbourne Storm a few weeks ago.
"We've been working on the same stuff all year," Hindmarsh said. "I don't have an answer why it is but I'll take it, winning games. It's enough for me."
Hindmarsh, now only weeks away from his farewell to arms, said his own season changed for the better when he looked at the smouldering ruins of a campaign that went bad before it had even started and made a choice.
"I made a conscious decision that win, lose or draw, I'm going to go out and try to enjoy myself … soak up the last couple of weeks," he said. "We're in a position on the ladder where everyone can do that. I know the wooden spoon is still around but we're not pushing for semi-finals so it's just so much more relaxed."
The Eels struck early - and brilliantly - when winger Luke Burt, who has also announced his retirement plan, struck in the seventh minute after he latched onto a Reni Maitua pass on the Eels' 30 metre line and bolted 50m before kicking ahead for centre Ryan Morgan to open the team's account.
Burt, who has always given the club 100 per cent since his top grade debut at 17, maintained his 90 per cent accuracy rate with a successful conversion. By the end of the match he had kicked six from seven, providing his team with a distinct advantage.
Sure, the Eels made trademark errors but there was plenty to cheer.
Hindmarsh made four tackles in a row; Chris Sandow hammered Anthony Minichiello so hard in a kick return he rattled the ball out of his custody and Hindmarsh then combined with Justin Poore to deny the visitors what appeared a certain try.
Caretaker coach Brad Arthur said he was pleased with the play that led to Parramatta's 18-10 half-time lead, but his blood pressure rose when the Roosters seized the lead with a 20-18 score.
"A couple of little things got the better of us,'' he said. ''We allowed them back in the game. The pleasing thing was we toughed it out, dug deep and finished off strong."
Sandow orchestrated the fightback in the 57th minute when he scored off his own kick. Hindmarsh then set Morgan up for his second try with a long, floating pass and as the Eels army demanded even more Sandow finished the Roosters off with another solo effort.
Roosters skipper Braith Anasta conceded that being a mere three points off the bottom of the table - wooden-spoon territory - was a concern. "We have a lot to play for," he said. "We have our personal pride and respect. You mentioned the spoon and whether we say we're trying to avoid it or not I think it will be in the back of a few of the boys' minds."
PARRAMATTA 36 (R Morgan 2 C Sandow 2 C Blair N Hindmarsh tries L Burt 6 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 (B Anasta J Friend A Henry B Takairangi tries B Anasta 3 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Referee: Jared Maxwell, David Munro. Crowd: 12,193.