The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 10, 2019: Eels vs Cowboys

Date: Saturday, 18th May, 2019

Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

Kick Off: 5:30pm

Head Referee: Chris Sutton

Assistant Referee: Phil Henderson

Head-to-head: Played 41 Eels 20 Cowboys 19 Drawn 2

Odds: Cowboys $1.67 Eels $2.25

Broadcast: Foxtel, Kayo

Last Four Encounters:

Cowboys 44 Eels 6 1300SMILES Stadium (2018)

Eels 20 Cowboys 14 Marrara Stadium, Darwin (2018)

Cowboys 24 Eels 16 ANZ Stadium (2017 Finals)

Cowboys 32 Eels 6 Marrara Stadium (2017)


The Warm Up

How do you put the embarrassment of a 64 to 10 hiding behind you in seven days?

The disastrous result equalled the second highest points conceded by the Eels in their 73 seasons. To be honest, at one stage I thought the score was going to hit 80.

The positive is that the Eels have the opportunity to do so within seven days. The negative is that the opportunity takes place in the heat of far North Queensland.

Last week’s thrashing at the hands of the Storm left many Eels fans incredulous. Demonstrating less foresight than a telephone line psychic, my preview had described the match as being worthy of a finals fixture and I questioned the Storm’s credentials in attack.

I’m red faced but moving on.

The Cowboys sit in the bottom six of the NRL in a number of key metrics, including missed tackles, runs, run metres and tackle breaks.

However they feature in the top 6 in others such as hit ups, hit up metres and dummy half runs. It doesn’t take a genius to see that they play to their strengths – their big forwards, including one J. Taumalolo.

Though the Eels sit second in line breaks and fourth in total run metres, their middle defence has been horribly exposed in matches against the Knights and the Storm.

It’s hard to see the Cowboys needing to change their usual pattern against the Eels. Parramatta’s deficiencies literally suit the Cowboys to a tee.

Defence is a measure of attitude. Which team will turn up with the right mindset?


Having a Punt

After last week, you could forgive any Eels supporter from being scared off the punt. There’s a particular supporter I know who always punts against his Eels – it makes the losses more bearable, and it’s been a good earner in the last decade. That said, I know he’d swap every dollar earned for an Eels win.

I’m really not confident about an Eels victory, but I suspect that this will be a high scoring affair. For that reason, I’m suggesting an investment which doesn’t involve picking a winner.

Try the total match points market, with over 41.5 points at odds of $1.90 with NSW TAB. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, and agree with me that this will be a high scoring affair, then total match tries might be for you. I like 10+ tries @ $4.80.

The favourites for first try scorer are listed below:

Eels: Ferguson $10 George Jennings $10

Cowboys: Feldt $10 Hampton $11


Feed Your Footy Brain

Including this clash, six of the last seven meetings between these clubs have taken place in the far north of Australia. This includes two of the Eels Darwin “home” matches. The only game to take place in Sydney during this period was the 2017 Finals fixture.

In terms of venue/location, the advantage has unquestionably been with the North Queensland team.

The Cowboys have also become another of the Eels bogey teams in recent times. Since 2011, the Eels have emerged victorious in only four of the last fourteen matches.

Just how many bogey teams can we have?


Tracking: Manu Ma’u

The NRL’s scariest man? Maybe. Manu’s stare has certainly featured in footage and photos from Eels clashes ever since he first pulled on the Blue and Gold jersey.

Back in early 2017, I wrote of the journey that Ma’u and Suaia Matagi had taken to become NRL players. You can read that here. That journey says plenty about the strength of character required for such players to achieve success in professional sport after making such horrible decisions in their youth. For someone like Munz, the late start to his career means that at 30 years of age, he has yet to play 100 first grade games.

Of course injury has not been kind to him. He battled his way through rehab during the pre-season, and was on fire during the pre-season trial against the Panthers, only to be forced from the field with an MCL injury. After spending more time on the sideline over the first six rounds, the Tongan Terminator has now forced his way into the starting line up at the expense of Tepai Moeroa.

As a middle forward, Ma’u will provide both mobility and aggression around the ruck. Given the Eels defensive issues last round, such attributes will be a welcome addition.

Ma’u has always be noted for his ability to offload when hitting the edges of the ruck, and it’s likely he’ll be encouraged to do similar in the middle. Within reason. After all, the go forward from hit ups must remain a priority for the Eels middle men. Any shifts must be earned.


Danger man: Jason Taumalolo

There’s no rocket science involved here. This is the bloke most likely to deliver the damaging blows to a questionable Eels middle defence.

A bloke of his dimensions should not possess a pace and step that would rival some of the game’s best outside backs. The man is a freak.

In a less than stellar season for the Cowboys, Taumalolo is averaging 170 running metres, with a season high of 315. No other forward in the Cowboys pack comes close.

There’s no point in detailing what this rampaging lock can do to an opposition. We’ve all witnessed it. The question is, how will the Eels stop it? Will there be an Eels player on a personal mission to shut the rampaging Cowboy down?

Or is it mission impossible?


Team Lists

Eels : 1. Clint Gutherson 2. George Jennings 3. Josh Hoffman 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Manu Ma’u

Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo 15. Tim Mannah 16. Tepai Moeroa 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Kane Evans 19. Matt McIlwrick 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Bevan French

Cowboys: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Ben Hampton 6. John Asiata 7.Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12.Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo

interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17.Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Gideon Gela-Mosby 20. Shane Wright 21. Jake Clifford


John Asiata vs Will Smith

I just couldn’t ignore this match up.

Both are 26 years old, but that’s where the similarities end.

When it comes to size, I’m not sure that you could achieve a more ridiculous mismatch.

Asiata might be better known as a forward, but he’s no stranger to the pivot role. At 104kg, the former Eels junior dwarfs his 88kg Parramatta opponent. He might not possess the quick acceleration of Smith, but his step, mobility and deft ball skills defy his frame. There’s the threat from his running game and his capacity to put runners into space.

The lightweight Smith has long been dogged by injury. Since debuting with the Panthers in 2014, the Newcastle junior is only making his 50th top grade appearance in this week’s round. It will be his first NRL match this season.

Smith’s strength is definitely his running game. He has lightning acceleration and can change direction without losing pace. This makes him the ideal foil for Moses, with the Eels half preferring to hold the major responsibility for the team’s game management.

It will be an interesting contrast of styles to watch.


And The Winner Is?

The Eels have the capacity to win this clash. They’ve already beaten teams with more impressive form than the Cowboys, so as fans, we know that the Eels at the best can take the premiership points here.


I would be less than authentic in any preview if I ignored some cold hard facts.

I could possibly ignore the Taumalolo factor. I could even ignore the Eels ordinary 2019 form on the road and their recent history against the Cowboys.

However, I cannot ignore last week’s performance along with the loss of the Eels left side attack weapons, Jennings and Sivo. That’s some significant firepower, and strong defence, sitting on the sideline.

As much as I want to see the Eels get into the grind to win this, I just don’t see this as being a close contest. I believe that whichever team gains the ascendancy will get away from their opponents in the warm conditions.

My heart hopes and prays that it will be the Eels to take control. My head says otherwise.

I hope I’m wrong.


Cowboys 38 Eels 18

Man of the Match – Jason Taumololo

Eels forever!


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Sixties, I think you have it on the head. Your comment below for me sums it all up. ‘Defence is a measure of attitude. Which team will turn up with the right mindset?’. I have less faith that we will play for 80; maybe we will play for 60 mins and the Cows play for 40 or so. For me consistency in defence has been the issue throughout the year; if we do not mend this our season will be over by winter. The backs also for me look a little light on and to be honest I am not… Read more »


Sorry left my name off…..

John Eel

I agree with your thoughts there Milo. We need to get some consistency in defence because the boys have shown that with good effort in the middle they are very capable of rattling up a score


Sixties, I was trying to watch last night what the Tigers did different to us. Big picture only, because you could probably write a book covering everything. Smith didn’t have anywhere near the same freedom we gave him and the Storm only rolled through the ruck later each half when fatigue set in. Tigers were hitting hard and weren’t allowing many quick play the balls for 80% of the game and their line mostly looked organised and on the front foot. Tigers got the first 4 penalties(made a mess of one) and this helped to hinder Storm’s fluency. It was… Read more »


We looked like a deer in the spotlight from the first moment of the game. I’m confident with this one, an easy Cowboys victory. We have so many deficiencies in our team. Can someone buy Alvaro new boots, please, those concrete ones have made him slow, and combined with Paulo who is relatively slow as well, this contributes to our poor middle defence imo. I’d have much more confidence in Bevan French at 5/8th than Will Smith tbh. I’d have started with Kaufusi as well, start building his minutes up. If Hass has shown us anything is that young front… Read more »


If anyone last night saw Rooster’s JWH launching himself at the line like a kamikaze they’d get the concrete boots point, and he’s an old guy. Haas takes the point further, youth, longer minutes. Up tempo play troubles us, we have to find ways of not getting on the back foot and becoming ragged in defence.


Without the hiding last week makes me very very nervous with with this game, as the big factor of another JT weighing much heavier than the other smaller fellow, at the same time he has been contained by other teams and players in the past. Put in two other forwards in Hess and to a lesser degree Scott and it could be a worrying time, also if Glanville has an on game. I like the idea of Ma’u at lock opposing JT, with the likes of Marata and Layne in the 2nd row they could keep JT quiet. Thing will… Read more »

John Eel

This is a game that we need to come out firing and it could define the rest of our season. The players owe it to BA, themselves and the Eels faithful to put in a big effort against the Cowboys in order to put last weeks defensive failings behind them. We have contained JT before when Tepai was given the task no reason that we can’t do it again. Last week Cowboys were opened up thru the middle that is their defensive weakness. I understand there is some doubt about Smith thru injury. If he plays look out for Smith… Read more »

Seth hardie

If we turn up again with no intensity or mongrel in defence it will be another hiding. Sorry to be negative but frankly I’m sick of our piss poor efforts.


Simple game for us really. Have good line speed, get up as one in defence and we win. They have no speed in the backs. We need to play quick and keep the ball in play. The problem of course rests with our ability to do this.
Great test, not really sure how it will go.

John Eel

Shelley you have summed that up nicely. It is all in the effort.


Couple of additional things worth noting: 1) Cowboys are a confidence team and if they get on top of us early, it’ll be game over 2) Every game we’ve lost this year the opposition hooker has been one of the top three players for the opposition. Jake Granville is a massive danger player for us. 3) Cowboys strength in recent weeks has been their right side attack and we’ve got Smith, Hoffman and G Jennings all lining up next to each other for the first time this year on our left … They should expect a LOT of traffic and… Read more »


Such an important game for the Eel’s season. The middle forwards, our defensive line speed and kick chase need to be massively improved on last week. If that happens Moses, Gutho and co can ice the game. Looking at Mau to have a big game. There’s plenty of reasons for the Eels to be passionate – first 20 mins will be a good indicator.


Previews, and predictions eh sixties? The comparison between Asiata and Smith is an interesting one and could have a profound impact on the outcome imo.
I believe, Manu to start at #13 is also a subtle but critical change as his presence in the middle during the early confrontations gives us a more combative look which I hope is exactly what and how the Cowboys see it too. If we can hold them through the middle for the opening stanza I believe we have a better chance of rolling over them off the bench.

Parra by plenty!

John Eel

Love your optimism Rowdy. You did nail it against the Dragons. Hope you are right again


Good on’ya John, but your guess is as good as mine and unfortunately with our Mighty Eels guessing has as much substance in away games like these as any technical evaluation.

Having said that, I’m going have a tiny tipple on them at 13+ Go Parra!!!


Not tonight my friend.

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