Date: Friday, 29 March, 2019
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
Kick Off: 7:55pm
Head Referee: Gerard Sutton
Assistant Referee: Peter Gough
Head-to-head: Played 147 Roosters 76. Eels 65 Drawn 6
Odds: Eels $3.00 Roosters $1.40
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine
Last Four Encounters:
Roosters 44 Eels 10 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Roosters 48 Eels 10 Allianz Stadium (2017)
Eels 22 Roosters 18 Parramatta Stadium (2016)
Roosters 28 Eels 18 Allianz Stadium (2015)
The Warm Up
Where are the Eels at?
Plenty of pundits will offer that, as the reigning Premiers, the Roosters are the litmus test for every team. Accordingly, supporters will get some sort of answer about the 2019 version of the Eels this week.
Of course, Premierships aren’t won in March or April – but they can be lost. Parramatta completely derailed in the first six rounds last year as the pressure grew with every loss. They became a team devoid of self-belief, with a key playmaker like Mitch Moses recently admitting that he blamed everyone but himself. This is what losing can do to a team.
Opening this season with two wins has resulted in an altogether different mindset for the Eels. They have faith in each other, faith in the game plan, faith that they’ve done the work in the pre-season to compete with and beat every team.
It’s a long season, and much more has to be achieved to warrant expectations of finals football, but can the Eels hope for a victory this week against the Roosters?
After the Roosters won their first game of the season against the Sea Eagles, some people have ludicrously suggested that Keary is a better half without Cronk. How quickly it’s forgotten what the ex-Storm playmaker brings to a team! He keeps the ship steady, ensuring that the game plan is followed and that those around him stay on course when the match gets tight. In short, he’s like having the coach take the field with you. He’s a leader and a winner.
Therefore the return of half of the Roosters spine, including Friend, makes the tri-colours a more formidable opposition. Something that the Eels probably welcome at this time of year.
Bring. It. On.
Update: Cooper Cronk has been ruled out of the match, with Lam the likely replacement.
Having a Punt:
That’s two weeks in a row for the punting tip! I’m doing you all a favour by not backing my own tips. People who are well aware of the “Sixties Bet Jinx” would welcome that.
Once again I regarded last week’s bet of Fergo to score a try coupled with an Eels win as “put in take out” territory.
This week, I’m tempted by two markets. But I have to recommend just one.
The Eels and the Roosters have delivered total match points of at least 40 points in their clashes over the last four years. So I’m taking the Line/Over Under Double of Eels getting 7.5 start coupled with over 40.5 points in the match @$3.80 with NSW TAB.
If you’re not as confident about taking the Eels with that start, I’ll mention that second market. Shaun Lane is $5 to score a try at any time. How does that sound? If you’re really bold, and think the Eels can win, you can take Lane in the Score a try and win market @$14.
The first try favourites are listed below:
Eels: Ferguson $11 Sivo $13
Roosters: Tedesco, Tupou, Mitchell all $9
Feed Your Footy Brain:
What does history count for?
It should count for nothing, as teams change personnel on a yearly basis and success and form changes week to week, let alone across the season.
But here’s a shocking statistic for Eels supporters.
In the 12 clashes between these two clubs since 2009, the Eels have only won three times. In six of the nine losses, the Roosters have racked up at least 38 points, and twice they’ve cracked 50!
Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat….
Tracking: Brad Takairangi
Is there a player charged with a bigger task this week than Takaz?
There’s Latrell Mitchell mate – lock him up thanks!
The next generation Greg Inglis is now the Roosters major strike weapon, and containing him is easier said than done.
But on size alone, Brad Takairangi should be better equipped than most. At 194cm and close to 110kg, the Kiwi international has the physicality to match Mitchell and that incredible fend of his.
Defence alone isn’t the only attraction of Takaz facing up to Mitchell. Paired with Ferguson on the Eels right side, Takaz’ form has rekindled memories of his potent combination with Semi Radradra. That big right hand offload is back on deck with the big centre at the top off the NRL offload stats after two rounds.
Is there a bigger centre/wing combination in the NRL?
With possibly two of the most potent combinations facing each other, that side of the field could well decide the outcome in this clash.
Danger man: James Tedesco
It feels like a lifetime ago that “Teddy” was starring for the Tigers, yet he’s only been a Rooster for only just over a year? Did he seem more dynamic back then, or is he simply now one of a host of stars for the Roosters?
His successes in 2018 would defy that opinion.
A premiership win, Origin success and an Australian jersey definitely loaded up the trophy cabinet in what was a bumper season for the talented Roosters custodian.
Does he have any weaknesses?
In the past I might have questioned his ability to ball play, or even his defence. But the past twelve months have seen him become more seasoned, if not more mature as a player. Perhaps it’s the development in his game which makes him seem less dynamic. The consistency in his form has replaced explosive moments.
Tedesco has all the attributes of a dangerous ball runner – a 96 kg frame coupled with tremendous leg speed and the capacity to change direction at pace. His support play is vital to the Roosters and the outside/inside set piece around Cronk – similar to Cronk’s partnership with Slater – must be watched.
An unchecked Tedesco could be the difference between the teams.
Eels : 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5.Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tepai Moeroa
Interchange: 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Tim Mannah 16. Kane Evans 17. David Gower 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. Peni Terepo 20. Josh Hoffman 21. George Jennings
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Luke Keary 23. Lachlan Lam* 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13.Victor Radley
Interchange: 14. Isaac Liu 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Poasa Faamausili 17. Angus Crichton 18. Brock Lamb 19. Asu Kepaoa 20. Nat Butcher
* To be confirmed
Blake Ferguson vs Daniel Tupou:
It’s rare that Blake Ferguson would face an opponent just as capable in the air as he is, but that’s just exactly the case when he lines up against former team mate, Daniel Tupou.
A former Eels junior and NYC player, Tupou has taken full advantage of his 195cm frame in scaling the heights of rugby league success. Premiership success and representative jerseys have come his way in a career where he’s been renowned for his aerial skills.
And why wouldn’t gifted kickers like Cronk and Keary send the action his way? His height, leap and Inspector Gadget arms deliver the kind of elevation that few if any in the NRL can match.
Anyone, except perhaps Ferguson.
Incredibly, opposition teams have sent the high balls and the long kicks in Fergo’s direction during the first two rounds this season. Their rationale of taking out his second tackle carry and running metres has failed to achieve the desired goal, whilst at the same time removing any threat from their own attacking kicks.
Timing and vertical leap are the key to Ferguson matching Tupou’s elevation.
Away from the aerial contest, Ferguson’s physicality gives him an advantage in any collision and it remains likely that the big bloke will rack up more running metres than his lanky opponent.
Will this contest be won on the air or on the ground?
And The Winner Is?
This feels like a head vs heart week.
The head tells me that the Roosters are the premiers for good reason – quality players being led around the field by a quality spine.
How do you tip against that?
You do so by putting the past behind you.
The Eels have to be clear in their minds that the past means nothing. They could be tempted to use the last round of 2018 as motivation. It was, after all, a humiliating loss.
However, focussing on the here and now must be paramount for the Blue and Golds.
The Eels back three are giving them far better set starts in 2019. The defence is better organised and more brutal. The players are competing as hard in the 80th minute as they are in the first.
If the Eels stick with the Roosters on the scoreboard, they will finish better than them.
It’s the Eels by four.
Eels 26 Roosters 22
Man of the Match – Blake Ferguson