Emotional moment behind Eels' form surge

Brad Takairangi has played in 18 games for Parramatta this season, crossing for eight tries.
Brad Takairangi has played in 18 games for Parramatta this season, crossing for eight tries.

Parramatta's resurgence can be traced back to an emotional pre-season bonding exercise that still brings Brad Takairangi close to tears when he recalls it.

The Eels' ultimate team man isn't sure he'll keep his spot once Blake Ferguson returns from injury but the 30-year-old hopes his utility value will see him in the mix as one of the NRL's form sides eyes a finals run.

He has filled in expertly on the wing in Ferguson's absence as last year's wooden spooners target a top-four finish on the back of four-straight victories and seven wins from their past eight.

It is a long way from the six wins they managed last season but, before Thursday's clash with Canterbury, Takairangi said he had an early feeling things would turn this year.

"It's so different compared to last year when nothing went right but the pre-season was huge; it was more about building relationships and knowing each other," he said.

"It's taken a little while to come through (in our results) but you can see that now when we're playing.

"When you're playing for the guy next to you there's a good chance you'll give the comp a shake."

Takairangi has no doubt a specific moment during pre-season camp helped forged that tight bond, when players were asked to share three items with the group they held close to their hearts.

In his 10th NRL season, Takairangi presented his debut jumper, a photo of his family and another of his dad Louis playing for the Eels in 1987.

"It got really emotional and it drew us closer to each other straight away," he said.

"For me, it was massive."

Ferguson is likely to return in the final round, from a nasty allergic reaction to antibiotics taken to treat a knee infection suffered after surgery.

Halfback Mitchell Moses has taken charge, under the direction of coach Brad Arthur, with a league-leading 29 try assists to his name this season.

"He's been huge; in the pre-season he was on the field for hours just practising his kicking," Takairangi said.

"He's just a real leader now, he's grabbed the team by its throat."

Australian Associated Press