Date: Saturday, June 29, 2019
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
Kick Off: 7:35pm
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Jon Stone
Head-to-head: Played 59 Eels 27 Raiders 31 Drawn 1
Odds: Eels $2.15 Raiders $1.73
Broadcast: Foxtel, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Raiders 19 Eels 0 Bruce Stadium (2019)
Raiders 18 Eels 2 Bruce Stadium (2018)
Raiders 22 Eels 16 ANZ Stadium (2017)
Raiders 30 Eels 18 Bruce Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
Back in Round 5, the Raiders produced a comprehensive defeat of the Eels. The 19 points to nil victory provided a reality check for Parra supporters daring to dream about finals appearances.
Truth be told, the win was hardly unexpected. On their home turf, the Green Machine have had the measure of the Blue and Golds since 2006! Even with different personnel, that sort of record is impossible to ignore.
But this upcoming game isn’t being played in Canberra. It’s not even being played in a Western Sydney winter. It’s scheduled for the tropics of Darwin and the Canberra boys, especially their Poms, are going to be far from comfortable.
Parramatta have a strong record as the “Territory Eels”. In their five matches at TIO Stadium they’ve only tasted defeat once – to the Cowboys in 2017. The North Queensland team were literally playing a home game that night, enjoying healthy crowd support and very familiar playing conditions.
The Raiders will be deserved favourites in this encounter. They are proving themselves to be genuine contenders for the 2019 title via their impressive defence.
With a bye looming next weekend, this has the potential to be a “four premiership points” result for the Eels. Going into the last nine rounds on 18 points would be a tremendous platform to set themselves for finals footy.
But will we see the “home” Eels or the dreaded “away” variety?
Having a Punt
Followers of my tip were back in the money against the Broncos when they took Parra giving away 1.5 points coupled with over 38.5 total match points @$3.40. That was a money for jam bet at BankWest Stadium.
As the saying goes, when you’re on a good thing – stick to it.
With that in mind, I’m staying with the line/over under double. Take the Eels getting 1.5 points start coupled with over 40.5 match points at the tantalising odds of $4.20.
If, like me, you think that this could be a high scoring game, and you’re looking for sweeter action, you can get amongst the total match tries market. I like 10 tries or more @$5
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $10 Ferguson $11
Raiders: Rapana $10 Croker $11
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have an absolutely diabolical recent record against the Raiders. Since 2010, the Eels have only won two of their 13 clashes with the Green Machine.
However, it’s worth noting that one of those victories was in Darwin – a Jarryd Hayne inspired 18 to 10 result way back in 2014.
In fact, that was the only time that the two teams have met in the Eels annual Territory match.
Tracking: Dylan Brown
After spending the last three months on the sideline with a back injury, the return of boom youngster Dylan Brown was always going to attract plenty of attention.
And it’s easy to see why.
Since losing the talented five-eighth after round 3, the Eels have struggled to find a consistent halves partner for Mitch Moses. In doing so, the Eels have become more reliant on their “dominant” half and despite some big score lines’ they limit their attacking potential.
And it’s backed up in the statistics. In his three games earlier this year, Brown averaged 40.7 possessions per game. By comparison, Smith (27.6) and Salmon (26.4) handle the ball far less. Of course their stats are impacted (marginally) by their time on the field during games played in other positions, but the relative dominance of Moses (47.6 possessions) is obvious without reference to numbers.
There won’t really be too much pressure on Dylbags in his return. The things that he does well come easy to him. He plays his football with composure, which means he rarely pushes unnecessary passes to his support runners, he makes good defensive decisions and he’s confident in his own running game.
Dylan Brown only has to be Dylan Brown, and that alone will benefit the Eels.
Danger man: Josh Hodgson
For mine, the anomaly of the Raiders 2019 season has been the form of Josh Hodgson. In his 11 games this season, the English dummy half has hardly set the world on fire.
Though he hasn’t been in poor form, you can’t help but feel that he’s going to start producing his best sooner rather than later. This slow burn into the current season could prove ominous for the Raiders opponents, and the Eels are the next cab off that rank.
The talented rake is a bone fide playmaker capable of filling a halves role should the need arise. When the Raiders attack is on song, Hodgson is prominent. Canberra’s attack hasn’t fully clicked into gear in 2019, and their defence has earned the praise.
Will that be more of the same this weekend or will the trip north see a return of the Raiders’ attacking mojo?
Hodgson will be the key. Shutting him down will go a long way towards securing a win for the Eels.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Peni Terepo 16. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore 18. Daniel Alvaro 19. Tepai Moeroa 20. George Jennings 21. Will Smith
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine
Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili 15. Corey Horsburgh 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Sam Williams 19. Emre Guler 20. Royce Hunt 21. Michael Oldfield
Nathan Brown vs John Bateman
Though these two players play in different positions, they offer similar qualities and skill sets to their respective teams.
Both play aggressive footy that inspires their team mates. They are smaller’ mobile forwards who possess running games, ball skills and the ability to make things happen in attack.
Bateman has added an X factor to the 2019 Raiders. He just competes and competes and competes. That kind of energy is infectious. His recent soccer dribble try was the perfect example of what he brings to the table.
The Eels badly missed Nathan Brown during his extended period on the injured list. They will be a different proposition as he returns to peak fitness. Adding an aggressive, mobile forward to the middle defence should help to stem the points haemorrhage which has typified nearly half of the Eels matches this season.
One of these two players may yet determine the result in this encounter.
And The Winner Is?
Will “good” Eels or “bad” Eels front up in Darwin?
It’s an Eels home game, but is it really an away game given it’s one of the longest trips away from home?
Will the playing conditions actually favour the Eels?
What will the returning Dylan Brown provide for his side?
Attitude appears to be the basis of the Eels fluctuating form. Energised and motivated one week, a shadow of themselves the next, the Eels have probably earned the Jekyll and Hyde monicker attached to them this season. It’s perfectly illustrated in the ineffective tackles statistic. The Eels generate more ineffective tackles than any other team. Yet they sit last in the NRL for limiting their own ineffective tackles. In contrast, the Raiders sit second in the NRL in that metric.
The simplest analysis sees the Eels possessing the attack to win but needing to find defensive resilience quick smart. The Raiders have premiership quality defence that’s been the cornerstone to this year’s successes and they’ll look to a continuation of that standard to achieve victory.
The Raiders have their share of game breakers – Croker, Rapana, Papalii, Nicoll-Klokstad, Bateman and Hodgson. Moses, Gutherson, Sivo, Ferguson, Brown, Paulo and Lane can be just as damaging.
It’s time for Parra to step up away from home.
I think it will be a high scoring affair in the warm conditions.
Eels 36 Raiders 22
Man of the Match – Clint Gutherson