Coming off a three-match winning streak, Nat Butcher and Lachlan Lam have praised their teammates for their ability to adapt under adversity, and say they are firmly eyeing off a place in the top four as they face the Parramatta Eels this Thursday night.
After a period out on the sidelines with injury, Butcher - a nominee for the 2021 Ken Stephens Community Award - has made an immediate impact upon his return to the side, shifting to the second row early in last Friday's win against the Newcastle Knights - highlighting the squad's ability to react when under stress.
Round 20 Media - Nat Butcher
“It’s great to be back with the boys," he said.
“I’m really enjoying my role for the team. The lungs tested me a bit in the game against the Bulldogs but I’ve settled in well now. I’m really enjoying my footy.
“Everyone just had to adapt. The boys just were changing positions and not only were they doing their job, but they were executing and that was something really good to see. It was a real Club win for us on Friday night.
“Those are some of the greatest games we have in the year, so it’s just about being adaptable and doing your job for the team.
“Fortunately, I’ve played a lot of first-grade in the back row so I know my role, I know what to do and you’ve just got to deal with it.
With the injuries we’ve had this year and the leaders that have been out of the team, the way that he’s stepped up and leads on the field is on another level.Lachlan Lam On Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
“It was a grind for a bit and we overcame it and rolled into the back-end of the first-half."
Lam concurred with his teammate, having recently taken up the utility role on the interchange bench, and found himself in the unfamiliar position of centre on Friday night - but has ensured that he has the ability to fill in wherever the team needs to in whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
“I found it a pretty smooth transition," said Lam.
“If I’m going to play there (as a utility), I’d better be able to play a couple of positions. That’s something I’m trying to adapt and work on. Practising at training and making sure I’m not leaving any stones unturned, that’s been the biggest thing for me so far.
“The game dictates where I come on, but I’m a footy player at the end of the day. If they need me to play in the centres I’ll play there.
“It’s a bit of everything, there’s a focus on playing no.9, and I’ve been working on those different areas."
With a crucial opportunity to stake a claim for a top-four spot this Thursday night in Mackay, the pair fully believe that the last month has put the Red, White and Blue in great stead to move further up the ladder, and are looking forward to the challenge of taking on the fourth-placed Eels.
We’ve been really happy with the past couple of weeks and we’ve started to really develop our footy and play our style but we haven’t beaten a top-four team yet and that’s something we’re looking to do on Thursday.Nat Butcher On playing Parramatta
“If we’re going to be up here, it’s going to be more fun if we win,” Lam said in regard in staying at the Club's Sunshine Coast hub.
“We’ve got a good vibe going around. We’re still training hard and by no stretch is it a holiday up here - we’re still going about our business and I think the boys are getting around it.
“We want to take it to one of those sides there and the way that we’ve been training and the steps we’ve been taking over the last couple of weeks, we’re definitely on the right path.”
“I’m really looking forward to the contest,” Butcher added.
“We’ve spoken about it for a couple of days now and these past couple of weeks we’ve been developing our footy and building for a game like this.
Round 20 Media - Lachlan Lam
“I remember the last time we played them at Bankwest it was a really tough, physical game so we know the contest that they’re going to give us.
“We expect nothing less from them. They’re a great team and they’ve done well all year and it’s something that we need to challenge ourselves against.
“We’ve been really happy with the past couple of weeks and we’ve started to really develop our footy and play our style but we haven’t beaten a top-four team yet and that’s something we’re looking to do on Thursday.
“They’re a team we’re looking forward to testing ourselves against."
One player who has been a standout for Easts in season 2021 has been veteran Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who becomes just the fifth player to notch up 250 appearances for the Club, and his teammates say they are blessed to be playing alongside the enforcer as opposed to the prospect of facing up against him.
“Jared’s the man, he’s our go-forward, he’s our leader," Butcher claimed.
“We always look to him as our front rower and it’s such an honour to have played so many of my games with him and be on the same field. He’s someone I really look up to and I really aspire to be like."
“I’ve always thought of him as one of those big hardmen,” added Lam.
“With the injuries we’ve had this year and the leaders that have been out of the team, the way that he’s stepped up and leads on the field is on another level.
“Over the past couple of months, I’ve really seen that come out him and it makes everyone want to be better."
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