Date: Friday, September 6, 2019
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick Off: 6:00pm
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Phil Henderson
Head-to-head: Played 152 Eels 56 Sea Eagles 91 Drawn 5
Odds: Eels $1.57 Sea Eagles $2.45
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo
Last Four Encounters:
Sea Eagles 36 Eels 24 Lottoland Stadium (2019)
Eels 44 Sea Eagles 10 ANZ Stadium (2018)
Sea Eagles 54 Eels 0 Lottoland Stadium (2018)
Eels 20 Sea Eagles 12 Lottoland Stadium (2017)
The Warm Up
What a way to finish the NRL regular season.
For lovers of footy tribalism, it doesn’t get much better than Parra vs Manly. Throw in a battle for 5th spot and this is like the finals have arrived one week early.
Speaking of early, the 6pm start is not ideal, yet it’s almost become a marketing point with punters being urged to submit permission slips for early knock offs.
A win by 11 points or more would see the Eels finish in 5th place – ahead of the Sea Eagles on points differential.
Who has enjoyed the better season?
The rugby league media have been suggesting that Hasler could be named coach of the year by taking the Sea Eagles from 15th to finals football.
What then do they make of Arthur’s achievements should Parra finish in front of Manly? Regardless, BA would care less. He absolutely shuns the limelight.
And so to the game itself.
Neither team would want to enter the finals on the back of a loss. And it will be multiple losses for the vanquished.
Memories of an embarrassment at Brookvale a few weeks ago will be fresh in the minds of Eels players. Though they might use that as motivation, playing smart, disciplined footy must remain paramount.
See you there!
Having A Punt
My confidence was at a low ebb last week, but I’ve regrouped and I’m ready to unleash in the final round. I’m keeping it simple. No points start, but I’m still looking for value in the TAB, head to head/over under double market.
Take Parra to win coupled with over 38.5 total match points @$2.90.
The first try scorer favourites for each team are listed below:
Eels – Sivo $9, Ferguson $19
Sea Eagles – Garrick $10, Taufua $12
Feed Your Footy Brain
The Eels have an interesting history against their dizygotic football twin.
Since their birth in 1947, Parra have unquestionably been the poor relation in clashes with the Sea Eagles. With a success rate of around 36%, only the Dragons have inflicted greater misery over the Eels than the team from the northern beaches.
That said, the Eels are enjoying much better results under the tutelage of Brad Arthur, having won seven of the last nine clashes.
Tracking: Ray Stone
It’s simplistic, and it’s probably underselling the bloke’s footballing prowess, but Ray Stone adds a degree of “mongrel” to the Eels pack.
A schoolboy/junior football star, Stone didn’t have the size to dominate. He didn’t have the pace to set the field alight. He simply competed like a touch of Ray Price had been added to his genetic mix. Consequently you’d always find him in and around the action, and if you saw a runner cut down ferociously, there was a good chance that he was the culprit.
Injury has curtailed Stoney’s season, but he’s returned to first grade at the exact time that the team needs an injection of energy from the bench.
Will he be used to give Mahoney a break?
Will he play a middle forward role?
Whatever he’s asked to do by Arthur, you can be sure that Stone won’t leave the field with the music still in him.
Danger Man: Brad Parker
Stay with me here. It may have escaped the attention of the average footy supporter, but a certain ranga centre has become a very decent NRL player.
I won’t get carried away. His name could serve as an alter-ego for a super hero, but he’s unlikely to be named as a future immortal. Nonetheless, Parker is rated so highly by Des Hasler that he was rushed straight back into the NRL team as soon as he had recovered from his recent injury.
And to emphasise his value, here’s how a couple of his stats measure up against fellow Manly centre Moses Suli:
Tackle breaks: Parker 2.1 per game, Suli 1.8 per game
Line breaks: Parker 7 (16 games), Suli 5 (19 games)
Missed tackles: Parker 0.6 per game, Suli 1.2 per game.
Take a bow Brad Parker. You have arrived and you’re this week’s danger man.
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.Brad Takairangi 15.Daniel Alvaro 16.Ray Stone 17.Tepai Moeroa 18.David Gower 19.Will Smith 20.Peni Terepo 21.Josh Hoffman
Sea Eagles: 1.Brendan Elliot 2.Jorge Taufua 3.Brad Parker 4.Moses Suli 5.Reuben Garrick 6.Dylan Walker 7.Daly Cherry-Evans 8.Addin Fonua-Blake 9.Apisai Koroisau 10.Martin Taupau 11.Corey Waddell 12.Curtis Sironen 13.Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14.Manase Fainu 15.Sean Keppie 16.Lloyd Perrett 17.Taniela Paseka 18.Lachlan Croker 19.Tevita Funa 20.Cade Cust 21.Haumole Olakauatu
Mitchell Moses vs Daly Cherry-Evans
Forwards win matches. It’s a truism that applies to virtually all rugby league games, but without the spine executing their roles as conductors, all the hard work can go to waste.
Mitch Moses has enjoyed what is undoubtedly the most consistent season of his career. His attacking stats are off the charts. Consider these numbers – 6 line breaks, 18 line break assists, 23 try assists. When the Eels are firing in attack, Moses is featuring.
The last two weeks haven’t been up to his usual high standards (he’s the victim of carrying a bad punter’s coin), but it’s fair to say that the team have dropped off the pace when the starting props have been rested.
I expect to see Moses playing a more composed game this week. He’ll be looking to execute finals footy – and that involves an accurate kicking game and controlling the pace in attack. We know what he can do when he takes on the line. He’s generally excelled in picking those moments in 2019. I expect him to find that again
How does Cherry-Evans measure up to Moses?
The Queensland Origin skipper can boast some impressive numbers too. This season he’s dished up 8 line breaks, 14 line break assists and 20 try assists. It’s certainly comparable to Moses returns and DCE has played five games fewer than the Eels half.
Cherry-Evans is deceptively strong and fast. He’s at his best when he digs into the line to set up his supports. It pits his outside men against a retreating defence, and often leads to line breaks.
With Tommy Turbo injured, DCE can be expected to rise to the occasion.
And The Winner Is
The bookies have installed the Eels as firm favourites, but in doing so they’ve ignored Manly’s fighting qualities.
This 2019 version of the Sea Eagles are as courageous as any Maroon and White side I’ve had the displeasure of watching. Their pack is as skilled and tough as any in the NRL.
Taupau and Fonua-Blake win the power battle in the middle, and Trbojevic adds the finesse. Their dummy half rotation is arguably the best in the premiership.
Can the Eels pack contain them?
Starting props Paulo and Evans have both enjoyed outstanding seasons, but the Blue and Golds are missing the defence and aggression of Brown. Niukore has been a revelation as a middle forward off the bench but he’ll be expected to play longer minutes in filling Brown’s boots.
The Eels seem to hold the advantage in the backline, especially with Tommy Turbo sitting on the sidelines. But backs can’t do their stuff without forwards laying the platform.
With both teams boasting strong starting packs, this might be a game decided by the bench. Apart from Fainu, I think the Eels might have the edge there.
Eels 24 Sea Eagles 16
Man of the Match – Kane Evans