Date: Sunday, July 21, 2019
Venue: Lottoland Stadium, Brookvale
Kick Off: 4:05pm
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Head-to-head: Played 152 Eels 56 Sea Eagles 90 Drawn 6
Odds: Eels $2.65 Sea Eagles $1.50
Broadcast: Foxtel, Nine, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 44 Manly 10 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Manly 54 Eels 0 Lottoland (2018)
Eels 20 Manly 12 Lottoland (2017)
Eels 10 Manly 9 Parramatta Stadium (2016)
The Warm Up
Another chapter in the rivalry story of these two clubs will be written at Brookvale Oval this Sunday. The past matters little when assessing the likely outcome of this clash, but the rich history and tribalism associated with Eels and Sea Eagles matches always adds colour to the lead-up.
Cue the Tooheys Beer commercials.
With Manly and Parra sitting 5th and 6th respectively, there’s great importance in securing the two points. Furthermore, the winner will look to gain a psychological advantage with the team’s due to clash again at BankWest Stadium in Round 25.
Both sides are performing much better than expected in 2019. Both have a very real opportunity to jag a Top 4 berth.
They might be the team that everybody loves to hate, but you have to admire the Sea Eagles. Injuries to key backline players had little impact on their results in the first half of the season as they structured wins on the back of their vastly underrated pack.
The Turbo brothers, Cherry-Evans and Taupau add the touch of class to a gritty team and that makes Manly a genuine contender.
Eels supporters are probably happy to go into this clash as underdogs. Parra has flown under the radar for most of this season, despite the fact that they’ve been in the Top 8 at the conclusion of every round. Their defeats have attracted plenty of criticism. Their victories earn few plaudits.
In a late change, Ethan Parry comes into the team for Blake Ferguson and joins Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney and Jaeman Salmon as recent Eels NYC graduates in this week’s NRL team.
There’s plenty of confidence in both camps and Brookie will be bursting at its antiquated seams.
This should be a cracker.
Having a Punt
The line/over under double continued to deliver for my tips last week. If you’ve followed these, you’re well ahead for the year. Therefore, I’ll adhere (get it) to that old saying about sticking with a good thing again. Take the Eels getting 5.5 points start coupled with over 42.5 match points at the generous odds of $3.80.
For those not convinced about an Eels victory, you can take a TAB special market bet – both teams to score 20 points or more @ $3.75.
The favourites in the first try scorer market are:
Eels: Sivo $10
Sea Eagles: Taufua $10 Garrick $10
Feed Your Footy Brain
Few will forget the 54 to nil shellacking that the Eels copped in heatwave conditions at Brookie last year. The impact of that loss was profound, as it seemed to strip Parra of their confidence.
Yet, just as last season is starting to look like an anomaly, so too was that loss. Indeed, it marks Manly’s only victory in their last 8 clashes with the Eels.
Since Brad Arthur’s short stint as an assistant coach at the northern beaches club, his record coaching against them is very impressive – seven wins, two losses.
Have the Eels become a bogey team for the Sea Eagles?
Tracking: Junior Paulo
You can sense that the Eels big man, Junior Paulo, is really warming into this season. In the early rounds, the Samoan Sumo was doing his best impersonation of a plus-size five-eighth with some wide running ball play.
However, in the last few matches his impact through the middle has been as damaging as at any stage of his career.
Consider the numbers he’s returning.
He leads the running metres for Eels forwards with an average of 120.3 metres per game. He is the leading Eel for offloads with 2.5 per game. And to complete the trifecta, he tops the Eels forwards for tackle breaks, at 1.9 per game.
At the start of the season, I spoke to Eels trainer Adrian Jimenez about the conditioning goals for a big unit like Paulo. His answer was straight forward. Junior was expected to meet the same standards as his team mates and in doing he’d be among the fittest big men in the NRL.
His form seems to be backing that up.
Danger man: Curtis Sironen
Manly second rower, Curtis Sironen, has hit a purple patch of form, and in his eighth season of NRL he finally seems to be realising his enormous potential.
To be fair to the big fella, he looked for many years like a backrower playing out of position in the halves. Seriously, the bloke is 195cm and 105kg!
Sironen’s powerful running has been causing chaos for the edge defence of opposition teams in the last month. However, his time in the halves has provided the talented forward with his share of ball skills.
His attacking capabilities are summed up in some key stats.
In a team which tops the NRL for offloads, Sironen leads his team’s averages with 2.1 per game. His 2.2 tackle breaks per match is the third highest for Manly forwards, only bettered by Taupau and Fonua-Blake.
The Eels defence might just be working overtime on Sunday.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Josh Hoffman 21. Ethan Parry 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. Marata Niukore 16. David Gower 17. Tepai Moeroa 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. Will Smith
Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Corey Waddell 16.Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Brad Parker 19. Brendan Elliot 20. Haumole Olakauatu 21. Lloyd Perrett
Clint Gutherson vs Tom Trbojevic
An established Origin star against a fringe Blue.
As quality custodians, both are vital contributors to their teams successes.
With his exceptional pace, Tommy Turbo presents danger from all over the paddock. His fingerprints are all over every contest.
Here’s a few average numbers for the Manly fullback:
Possessions – 32.4
Running Metres – 179.8 (with an astonishing season high of 334)
Offloads – 1.4
Tackle Breaks – 4.4
You can read plenty of attacking havoc in those statistics.
Likewise, Clint Gutherson is just as important for the Eels spine. He brings the energy, and like his Sea Eagles counterpart, every game feels his presence.
His averages are impressive, but in comparison, they highlight just how dynamic Trbojevic is for Manly.
Possessions – 31.9
Running metres – 154.7 (season high 265)
Offloads – 0.6
Tackle Breaks – 1.6
Containing Tom Turbo will be a huge feature of the Eels match plan.
And The Winner Is?
Why are the Sea Eagles such a tough team to beat in 2019? After all, it’s a very similar roster to 2018.
It’s hard to ignore the Des Hasler factor, and he’s certainly got his team firing at the very top of the NRL in some key metrics.
They post the leading numbers for possession, line breaks and offloads. Essentially, they make their opposition work harder than them in defence.
The Eels don’t do too poorly in the same stats, coming in at 4th for offloads, 3rd for line breaks and 7th for possession.
But there is a stark difference between the two teams in defence, with the Sea Eagles second best in the NRL in missed tackles, and the Eels at second worst.
Based on statistics, and home ground advantage, Manly look to have a clear advantage. They are deserved favourites.
And the Eels have some firepower on the sidelines this week, with Jennings, Blake, and Ferguson out of action.
Ethan Parry is an interesting inclusion. Arthur hasn’t wasted any time in debuting the rookie contract player. He’s the prototype NRL outside back – tall, powerful, athletic. The sideline microphones will probably pick him up during the match – he’s very vocal and very competitive. Almost like a junior Fergo!
I really liked the way the Eels constructed their win over the Tigers. It was a very composed performance and Mitch Moses was extremely mature in his game management. The team have self-belief, and they are running into strong form.
This will be a close contest.
I’m tipping the Eels by 4.
Eels 28 Manly 24
Man of the Match – Clint Gutherson