Date: Monday, 22 April, 2019
Venue: BankWest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 4pm
Head Referee: Gerard Sutton
Assistant Referee: Chris Butler
Head-to-head: Played 39 Eels 21 Tigers 15 Drawn 3
Odds: Eels $1.85 Tigers $2.00
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 24 Tigers 22 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Tigers 30 Eels 20 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Eels 17 Tigers 16 ANZ Stadium (2017)
Eels 26 Tigers 22 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
What value do you place on a home game?
People who’ve forgotten more about football than I’d ever know have told me that a home game is worth 4 – 6 points on the scoreboard. The odd crowd penalty or 50/50 decision are great contributors to such an advantage.
Though the Tigers might see BankWest Stadium as one of their numerous home grounds, it’s likely that ninety percent of the anticipated thirty thousand in attendance will be sending them a message to the contrary. They’ll be made to feel as welcome as Paul Gallen at the Caxton Hotel.
Will the Eels be pumped or anxious about playing in front of a capacity crowd in the first match at their new home? There’ll undoubtedly be an air of expectation in what will likely be a festival atmosphere.
However, this won’t be a match played in front of casual spectators there for an event. Around twenty thousand people will take up their season ticket spots on Monday. Once the game settles down everybody, players and spectators alike, will be in footy mode, and it becomes another match where sticking to game plans and trusting systems will be the focus.
The Tigers would be buzzing after their sensational win against the Broncos. In contrast the Eels will be aiming to bounce back after some physical battering from the Raiders.
Whoever wins will be very pleased with their first quarter of the season.
Having a Punt
Some people might not believe that I’d tip an opposition player, but the punt is all about getting a return on your coin. For that reason I’m going to look at the score a try at any time market with NSW Tab and nominate Mahe Fonua @ $2.30. He’s an aggressive winger with a high involvement rate and I think he’ll feature prominently in this clash.
If you’re looking for an Eels win option, dig into the Head to Head/Over Under Double market and take the Eels win coupled with over 38.5 match points @ $3.60. Three of the past four clashes have returned over 40 points, and with fine weather predicted, I’m tipping that both teams might open up a bit more than they have in the first five rounds.
The favourites for first try scorer are listed below:
Eels: Ferguson $8 Sivo $9
Tigers: Fonua $11 Thompson $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Tigers have four former Eels in their line up. Matterson, Twal, Aloiai and Eisenhuth all represented Parramatta in lower grade football, but had to seek greener pastures to make their NRL debuts. For the Eels, Mitch Moses and Ray Stone can trace their roots back to the Tigers.
There are inexperienced forwards with less than 20 NRL games to be found in both teams, in both the starting pack and the bench. Mikaele (4) and Garner (11) have commenced their top grade journey for the Tigers, whereas Stone (1), Kaufusi (4), Mahoney (14) and Niukore (19) highlight the new brigade coming through for the Eels.
Tracking: Ray Stone
Ray Stone is one of the most popular Eels players yet to cement an NRL spot. The aggressive forward has a legion of fans, including those who’ve seen very little of his play but know of his reputation.
After graduating from the NYC at the end of the 2017 season, Stone earned an NRL Development Contract for the 2018 season. A raft of first grade injuries saw Stone make his debut off the bench against the Storm in Round 22 last year.
Although the Eels have looked to up-skill the mobile Stone to take on a replacement dummy half role, the 95kg forward plays his best football as a lock/middle forward.
Stone takes no prisoners with his defence. Although on the lighter side against some of the big units running around in the middle third, anyone hit by a Stone tackle will testify to the impact from his collisions.
Just as the 21 year old’s power and mobility is his strength in defence, the same qualities assist his attack. Stone enjoys playing close to the action, and his high involvement keeps the defence on their toes. In one memorable NYC clash, he crossed for four tries, and two weeks ago he crossed for a double in the Wenty Magpies demolition of the Jets.
Older Eels supporters might just liken Stone to 1970s hard man, Ray Higgs.
Danger man: Josh Reynolds
When the big bloke upstairs was handing out talent, Josh Reynolds was like the person stuck on the end of a buffet line – he got the scraps. In compensation, he then had his plate loaded up with heart.
Reynolds is like the Tigers version of Gutho. He competes, then he competes, then he competes some more. Maybe that’s not worth $800k per season, especially for someone in the halves, but the former Bulldog might just be the perfect foil for Luke Brooks. He’ll leave the majority of game management in Brooks’ hands, something that the Tigers half struggled to hold on to when playing alongside good mate, Mitch Moses.
Expect Reynolds to constantly bob up in support, and maybe throw the odd grubber into the in goal. Also look for him to get in Eels players faces, throwing in a sledge or two and a bit of niggle in the tackles. It worked for the Raiders last week, so why not try it out again via one of the best in the business.
Even without Perenara in control!
Eels : 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5.Blake Ferguson 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tepai Moeroa
Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo 15. Tim Mannah 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Ray Stone 18. David Gower 19. Kane Evans 20. Josh Hoffman 21. Greg Lelesiuao
Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye 2. Mahe Fonua 3. Robert Jennings 4. Esan Marsters 5. Corey Thompson 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Luke Garner 13. Josh Aloiai
Interchange: 14. Ben Matulino 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Matt Eisenhuth 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18.Paul Momirovski 19. Elijah Taylor 20. David Nofoaluma 21. Chris McQueen
Reed Mahoney vs Robbie Farah
Is this a mismatch? A 14 game novice taking on a 287 game veteran who’s done it all in the game.
The 35 year old Farah is enjoying something of a renaissance season. He could be kicking back in retirement, reflecting on career highlights which include a Premiership alongside Origin and International honours.
But it seems that the Tigers rake has a point to prove. The pain of leaving his club was there for all to see when he was photographed alone up on the Leichhardt scoreboard. He then languished in the lower grades at Souths behind rising star, Damien Cook.
That was no way to finish a career.
So, an intense Madge Maguire pre-season has Farah in arguably the best physical shape of his career, and the youthful exuberance of his team mates is feeding off his clever distribution.
How’s this for context? Reed Mahoney was in kindergarten when Farah made his NRL debut in 2003.
The energetic Eels dummy half celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday, but there’s a big job to do before any partying begins. “Cash” might only be at the start of his career, but he’s already a complete professional in his preparation and works hard on developing his skill set. The Queensland Under 20s Origin rep is frequently the last to leave the field at training.
This year we’ve witnessed more running, more kicking and more disciplined service from Mahoney. He’s averaging around 70 minutes of game time in 2019 and 50 tackles seems like a standard defensive output as he throws himself fearlessly into the impacts around the ruck.
This will be no mismatch. Mahoney will leave his mark in this contest.
And The Winner Is?
Imagine tipping against the Eels in their return home! I certainly won’t be doing that.
On paper, there should be concerns about the lack of experience in the engine room for Parra. The Tigers pack and interchange boasts 971 games against the Eels 802, with four of Parra’s forwards having less than 20 NRL appearances on their resume.
I can also find a red flag with the huge doubt over Blake Ferguson. Should he drop out, there’ll be a massive hole in the potential metres from the Eels back three.
The Eels remain without the services of Ma’u and the Browns – Nathan and Dylan, so they will be considerably under strength for such an important game.
But even without key players, the Eels should still have too much firepower for the Tigers. Junior Paulo has been a revelation in his return home, whilst Lane and Niukore have arguably been one of the form back row combinations in 2019.
I’m expecting Moses and Gutherson to push contract issues aside and have blinders.
Eels 28 Tigers 16
Man of the Match – Clint Gutherson