Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Eels will emerge stronger from salary cap saga - M'au

Parramatta forward Manu M'au says the current salary cap dramas engulfing the NRL club will only make the team stronger in the long run.

M'au is in camp with the Kiwis and is set to make his test debut on Friday night, after an impressive season for the Eels.

But his big international opportunity was overshadowed yesterday by the preliminary sentence handed down to Parramatta by the NRL, which include a A$1 million fine and docking of all their competition points earned in 2016.

"I've seen it all over the news," said M'au at the Kiwis base in downtown Newcastle. "It's hard to take but what doesn't kill us will only make us stronger. We are pretty tight but this will make us even tighter on the field."

The Eels now face an imposing task to salvage something from this season, having to win at least 12 of their remaining 15 games to make the finals.

"It's not going to stop us, we are going to keep fighting, playing hard, playing for our jersey and our fans."

Kiwis team mate Jason Taumalolo admits he feels for the Eels players in their current predicament.

"I was speaking to a few boys," said Taumalolo. "They are a bit down after the points being taken away. The players have worked hard for that so to see that all go to waste is pretty sad."

But Taumalolo, who will play his fifth test on Friday night, is backing the Sydney club to be in the finals reckoning.

"But if any team is able to get back up there I'm pretty sure Parramatta can do that," said Taumalolo. "It is going to be hard road for them and there is going to be a lot of doubts along the way [but] I'm pretty confident Parramatta will be in the eight. With the talented player roster that they have and a good coach they have in Brad Arthur I'm positive we will be seeing them come September."

M'au insists the ongoing drama at his embattled club hasn't been a distraction, as he prepares for the biggest match of his career on Friday night.

"I've been trying to brush it off, said M'au. "I was talking to [Stephen Kearney] yesterday and he was saying `don't think about it, focus on playing for your country'. For him to say that has helped me a lot."

- NZ Herald

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