Date: Friday, 31st May, 2019
Venue: BankWest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 7:55pm
Head Referee: Adam Gee
Assistant Referee: Gavin Badger
Head-to-head: Played 133 Eels 59 Rabbitohs 70 Drawn 4
Odds: Eels $1.55 Rabbitohs $2.50
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Rabbitohs 26 Eels 20 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Rabbitohs 42 Eels 24 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Eels 22 Rabbitohs 16 ANZ Stadium (2017)
Eels 22 Rabbitohs 16 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
The Eels last up loss to the Panthers was nothing short of embarrassing.
In what I regarded as their worst performance of the season, the Eels fumbled their way to defeat against a Panthers side that would have been hammered by most opponents.
Totally devoid of intensity and footy smarts, Parra’s effort drew the ire of home supporters with boos echoing around BankWest Stadium as the match concluded.
After beginning the season with a brand of tough, entertaining footy, the Eels have shown little resilience since the flogging at the hands of the Storm. This inability to fire up against poorly performing teams after such a humiliating loss has rightly concerned the majority of their fans. In wielding the axe at the selection table, it seems that BA shares the same concerns.
This week, Parra come up against a Souths side decimated by injuries and representative call-ups. Even so, it would take a brave punter to tip the out-of-form Eels against the table-topping Bunnies.
That’s not to say that the Eels can’t win this clash. The form they displayed across the first eight rounds would be enough to overcome a Rabbitohs team missing three of their key spine stars. Then again, the same could have been said about the last two rounds.
Will Souths further emphasise their premiership credentials via a win without a host of stars or will the Eels respond to the much needed kick up the bum by re-booting their season?
Having a Punt
My punting form has mirrored the Eels season. I started off on fire, delivering precious coin for anyone following my tips. But, the wall has been hit.
In spite of the setbacks, I’m ready with to jump in with a bold bet. I’m tipping Maika Sivo to score two or more tries @$6.50 with NSW TAB.
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Ferguson $10 Sivo $10
Rabbitohs: Graham $10 Hiroti $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have only won four of their last 15 matches against the Bunnies.
The record under Arthur is not quite as bad, with the same four wins coming from nine clashes. Given the Rabbitohs relative success over this period, the more recent results have been decent.
A victory to the Eels will make it a 50% record from the last ten.
Tracking: Kane Evans
Kane Evans is an interesting selection for this week’s starting 13. The two metre tall front rower has spent recent weeks out of favour, but he was arguably the best forward on the field in Wenty’s last up win over the second placed Panthers.
In his six top grade appearances this season, the Eels have emerged victorious on four occasions. Though his minutes have not been huge (his season high is only 33 minutes), it’s hard to argue against winning form.
There’s two things to glean from Evan’s selection.
Firstly, BA has signalled that nobody is now safe from the selection axe, not even middle forward stalwarts like Mannah and Alvaro. When you drop the team co-captain, a local hero, there’s a very strong message delivered to the other players.
Secondly, Evan’s selection is evidence that if you produce what’s asked of you in reggies, and the players in the NRL fail to produce, you can earn a recall to the top grade.
Arthur will definitely be looking to the rangy prop to tighten up the middle. Last week, the coach was forced to use Lane as a middle forward for a period of the game.
Such a move only serves to dull the back rower’s attacking prowess, something that is not ideal for BA’s intent with his recruit from the Northern Beaches.
Hopefully, the Eels middle performs better this week, and Evans has played his part.
Danger man: Adam Reynolds
Some people might be surprised that it’s not a Burgess named here.
However, as the last spine player standing for Souths, Reynolds will play the pivotal role in the outcome of this match.
As the halfback, he is the on-field game manager. He’s the bloke who ensures that the coach’s instructions are carried out as commanded. Good game managers steer the team through rough waters when times get tough. Reynolds is such a player.
The Souths half is rumoured to be playing with a significant leg injury sustained last weekend. Can you sense a Cooper Cronk type of effort coming on?
Eels : 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10.Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Tepai Moeroa
Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo 15. Ray Stone 16. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore 18. Brad Takairangi 20.Tim Mannah
Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allen 2. Mawene Hiroti 3. Ethan Lowe 4. Adam Doueihi 5. Campbell Graham 6. Connor Tracey 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Billy Brittain 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Tevita Tatola
Interchange: 14. Bayley Sironen 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Dean Britt 17. Liam Knight 18. Keaon Koloamatangi 19. Jacob Gagan
Burgi vs Eels Forwards
This week’s match up isn’t a one on one. It’s basically where the game will be decided.
The three Burgess brothers symbolise the Bunnies power. Big men powering the hit ups through the middle and in Sam’s case, on the edges. If the Eels allow quick play the balls, with defenders still on the ground, the outcome won’t be pretty.
If the Eels can put the pressure on, the brothers do have a tendency to get loose with their handling, and Sam is prone to letting his temperament rule his game. But on recent form, that’s a huge if.
The responsibility doesn’t fall on a single individual. It’s time for the pack to function as a group, not a collection of strangers. They train to run in support of each other, even in basic hit ups. They train to communicate in defence and in the wrestle. It’s time to execute.
And The Winner Is?
The Eels are favourites. Let’s call them a Bradbury favourite.
The Eels aren’t impacted by Origin. The Bunnies are.
The odds, so heavily in the Eels favour, are not a reflection of form. They are based on the profile of the players in each team. But an in-form team is just that – a TEAM that’s playing well as a unit.
The Eels aren’t playing anywhere near their potential. It’s a fact that’s hard to ignore. They hit rock bottom against the Panthers, and players looked to be waiting for someone else to spark some resistance.
Expect the Bunnies to play to their strengths, which just happens to be the Eels exposed weakness – the middle.
So the question. Will the Eels middle find something that they haven’t found in recent weeks? Can the team lift in energy and intensity?
Despite my very strong reservations, despite expecting a loss in the last two weeks, I’m backing the Eels to respond to last Thursday’s abysmal performance.
Don’t ask me how.
It’s just… the vibe
Eels 28 Rabbitohs 18
Man of the Match – Shaun Lane