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Alex Mitchell

Mixed emotions after tough Parramatta loss

Celebrate the accomplishment of making a grand final? Or feel distraught you were completely outplayed on the big day?

It's the dilemma facing Parramatta after a late-season surge lifted them near the summit of the NRL mountain only to be barged back down by powerful Penrith.

They were simply outmatched in the Accor Stadium decider. Coach Brad Arthur's side trailed 28-0 on 76 minutes and looked in serious risk of being shut-out before two late tries made the scoreboard appear far more flattering.

Things weren't made easier with skipper Clint Gutherson playing with a broken hand, perhaps contributing to a tough night in which he made four errors and missed three tackles.

Enforcer Junior Paulo spoke to the conundrum facing the runners-up, but admitted they weren't at the races against the now back-to-back champions.

"A part of me feels proud of the year, proud of getting here because a lot of people wrote us off," he told AAP.

"A lot of people were doubting that we'll even get to the finals ... it's a roller-coaster not many people understand.

"The other part of me says it's disappointing to be given such an opportunity and not capitalise on it. That's quite hard.

"But I'm not gonna let our loss overshadow Penrith for what they've achieved. You can't take that away from them."

While Parramatta never really looked like missing the finals, questions were raised about their functionality as woeful performances dotted their campaign, including losses to Wests Tigers (21-20), North Queensland (35-4), Canterbury (34-4), Brisbane (36-14) and South Sydney (26-0).

It will also be an off-season of change at Parramatta, with some key departures including star second-rower Isaiah Papali'i heading to Wests Tigers and hooker Reed Mahoney joining Canterbury.

Marata Niukore (Warriors), Oregon Kaufusi (Cronulla) and Ray Stone (Dolphins) are others leaving the club.

The Eels were at least saved from the threat of the pain lingering into next season on Monday, with new judiciary rules meaning Ryan Matterson can avoid a three-match ban for the start of 2023.

Charged with a crusher tackle on Dylan Edwards, Matterson would normally have faced a ban for his third offence of the season but can instead pay a $4000 fine since it occurred in the finals.

One controversial talking point from the Eels' season was the booing and abuse levelled at Arthur's son Jake, but somewhat ironically the bench utility came on and scored late in the grand final shellacking.

Reflecting on the year in the dressing rooms after the loss, Paulo said it was family bonds such as the Arthurs' that made the club what it was.

"I'm super proud of the group," he said.

"The most important thing is everyone around this group that helped us to get here standing in this change room.

"Families, parents, partners, friends, that's all that matters to this group; the people in here right now are a part of the reason why we're here today."

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