Date: Friday, August 30, 2019
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick Off: 7:55pm
Referees: Ashley Klein, Peter Gough
Head-to-head: Played 57 Eels 22 Bulldogs 33 Drawn 2
Odds: Eels $2.20 Broncos $1.70
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Eels 38 Broncos 10 Bankwest Stadium (2019)
Broncos 18 Eels 10 Suncorp Stadium (2018)
Eels 52 Broncos 34 Suncorp Stadium (2017)
Eels 28 Broncos 14 ANZ Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
Was it the loss the Eels had to have?
It’s been a theory put to me multiple times since the Dogs lowered Parra’s colours last week, but in my household it was as popular as Paul Kent at an Eels reunion.
Though the Eels played with intensity, passion and effort, the execution was not quite there and the discipline was disappointing.
Have the Eels learnt anything from the defeat?
With the next assignment taking place in Brisbane against the Broncos, we’ll soon have an answer to that question.
A massive home crowd will provide a hostile arena and the Broncos will be fired up for what could be their season defining game. A loss will place them in danger of missing the finals – an outcome that would leave Broncos fans and power brokers unimpressed.
The Broncos strength and their weakness lies in their forwards. They have incredible potential, and they also pack plenty of impact in this early stage of their careers.
On the other hand, they are relatively inexperienced and their errors and a lack of patience have been costly in important clashes throughout this season.
The Eels forwards controlled the middle when the two teams clashed at BankWest Stadium.
That contest in the forwards will again be instrumental this week.
Having a Punt
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have a 50% record against the Broncos during the Brad Arthur era.
Teams who use the fewest numbers of players are usually more likely to play finals football. The Eels have used 28 different players this year, whereas the Broncos have used 32 players.
Tracking: Blake Ferguson
Have the Eels missed Blake Ferguson during his recent stint on the sidelines?
The results say no, and it’s reasonable to give Brad Takairangi an above average grade for his productive stint on the wing.
However, there’s an intangible quality that Fergo brings to every team he plays in. His competitiveness and will to win cannot be denied, and he’s one of the best talkers in the club.
So maybe the question should be, “Are the Eels a better team with Ferguson included?”
It’s a resounding yes!
Danger man: Payne Haas
I’ve channeled Captain Obvious in identifying this week’s danger man. Let’s face it, to ignore big Payne would be absurd.
The Broncos superstar prop is averaging an insane 175.3 running metres per game. Throw in 5.1 tackle breaks across those runs and you’re describing one of the most dynamic forwards in the NRL.
It may surprise people that the NSW Origin front rower only has 21 NRL appearances on his resume, but it’s a measure of his impact that he’s already becoming a household name.
Though the 6ft4 behemoth tips the scales at 119kg, he has the mobility to create havoc with opposition defences. The challenge is there for the Eels middle to contain him.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 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. Marata Niukore
Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo 15. David Gower 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Brad Takairangi 18. Tepai Moeroa 21. Josh Hoffman
Broncos: 1. Anthony Milford 5. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 2. Corey Oates 6. Darius Boyd 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 17. Patty Carrigan
Interchange: 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Gehamat Shibasaki 18. Rhys Kennedy 20. Herbie Farnworth 22. Shaun Fensom
Clint Gutherson vs Anthony Milford
It may not have solved the Broncos halves issues when Milford and Boyd traded jerseys, but the impact from fullback has certainly improved since that time.
His season returns aren’t anything to write home about, but it’s still impacted by his stint in the halves. Milford has an average of 76 running metres and 2.6 tackle breaks, but attention should be paid to his season high of 198 running metres and 7 tackle breaks.
Some players, especially halves, create time and space around themselves. I don’t consider Milford one of those. He’s at his best when given space to weave his magic. That’s the assignment for Parra’s defence.
Clint Gutherson worked himself into a state of exhaustion against the Dogs last week. At one stage in the second half he seemed to be out on his feet and was barely able to defend a break. This may have been the price of a dummy half stint in attack.
It’s hard to deny what Gutherson brings to the team. Leadership, energy, support play, dummy half darts – it’s all there in his average of 162 running metres, and his season tallies of 11 try assists, 10 line breaks and 15 line break assists.
This has been a wonderful year in the career of the King. His near selection in Origin, coupled with a new Eels deal, have set the platform for his future. He’s about to cap that off with his first appearance in a finals match – having missed the Eels last finals series through injury.
And The Winner Is
Should the Eels be the underdogs in this encounter?
They were convincing winners against the Broncos at BankWest Stadium earlier in 2019, and they sit as confirmed finalists with two rounds remaining. The Broncos are still fighting for their season to extend beyond Round 25.
In going down to the Bunnies, Brisbane earned plenty of admirers for their tenacity and fight, right up to the final seconds.
In contrast, the Eels loss raised questions about their credentials and their capacity to match the competitions big guns when placed under pressure. The suspension of Nathan Brown added salt to the wounds and loaded further ammunition into the guns of the critics. And let’s not mention the Eels earlier trip to Suncorp this year.
But just as one win in isolation is not a measure of a team, neither is one loss. Brown’s absence has been covered by the switch of Takairangi to a bench forward position and the inclusion of Peni Terepo. Marata Niukore receives a well earned recall to the starting team.
Arthur will challenge his forwards to play with controlled aggression and Moses will be expected to better manage territory and attacking raids.
Eels to win. Just.
Eels 20 Broncos 16
Man of the Match – Junior Paulo