New season. New Hope.
Sounds like familiar territory for Eels supporters.
Given how poorly the team started last year, Parramatta will definitely be looking to kick off with a win. But how do you go about predicting an opening round result?
Do you base a tip on trial results or form, the finish from the previous season, or historical opening round outcomes?
Most “experts” will tell you that early season form is a bit of a lottery, and with that being the case, the opening round could literally be the toss of a coin.
Delving into the archives to see how the Eels have started each campaign over the past ten years would seem to confirm the even money theory.
|2015||Sea Eagles||Parramatta Stadium||42-12||Win|
|2009||Warriors||Mt Smart Stadium||18-26||Loss|
The last ten years have yielded a 50% success rate. Even the dreaded away clash to start the season has returned two wins and two losses.
So maybe we should look at some patterns?
If recent history is anything to go by, the Eels are “due” to open their 2019 account with a win. The last four seasons have seen the Eels go W-L-W-L, so if that trend continues, a W should be in the column by around 6pm Sunday afternoon.
How about something for the punters looking at backing the points?
On average, the Eels score 22 points in their opening round whilst conceding 17 points. That’s a decent average and this current squad look like they have the capability of putting on a decent score.
Moving away from historical data, is it worthwhile analysing trial form to come up with a winner?
Of course we’d all love to get a similar result to the final 2019 trial and that big win over the Panthers. No doubt things will be very different when the teams are competing for Premiership points, and especially given that neither side fired a tactical shot in that trial.
And why would they?
If you’re clashing for the real honours two weeks later you’re not going to show your hand when there’s no prize.
Yet it’s hard to ignore the very encouraging signs for the 2019 edition of the Eels.
Holding a team scoreless speaks a lot about attitude and commitment. On the back of a “warm up” trial against the Raiders, won by the NRL squad but surrendered by the Wenty Ron Massey Cup players, the Eels preparations for 2019 should have the fans comfortable about an improved season.
On that front, is it fair to base any predictions based on an abysmal 2018?
If team selections pan out the way we think, the Eels will go into Sunday’s game with only seven players who played in the same game in 2018. French, Hoffman and Evans are all expected to start at Wenty. Hayne, Auva’a, Norman, King, Scott and Matagi are no longer at the club and Ma’u won’t be seen till round six due to injury. Only Michael Jennings, Moses, Alvaro, Mannah, Moeroa, Brown and Takairangi are likely to run out against the Panthers two years in a row.
With so many changes to the 17, we should probably ignore last year and base any predictions on the team who’ll don the jersey this week. And there’s a glaring feature.
The Eels will field the youngest and most inexperienced spine in the NRL. Gutherson (age 24, 66 games), Dylan Brown (age 18, 0 games), Mitchell Moses (age 24, 105 games) and Reed Mahoney (age 20, 9 games) – it’s impossible to ignore such stats in arguably the most important positions.
With this mind, experts are already starting to write off the Eels. But this stance ignores the unknown and the enthusiasm of youth. It’s an inclusion that could inject the type of energy that was missing in 2018. Perhaps there may even less structure in the Eels approach.
The most recent Eels spine to have similar stats was back in 2009. Hayne commenced the season with 59 games, Keating had 24 games, Robson had a grand tally of 6 games and Mortimer was yet to debut. That’s actually half of the total NRL appearances that the 2019 Eels spine will boast, yet the 2009 team only fell one game short of a title.
Of course, there’s no wild Premiership predictions coming your way about this season, but it’s a good example as to how inexperience doesn’t necessarily hold a team back.
Whatever method you’re using to predict the Eels result this week, I’m sure that you’re looking forward to this week as much as I am.
I’ll be out at Panthers Stadium on Sunday, and I hope there’s lots of Blue and Gold out there too.
Yours in Blue and Gold