NRL Team List
The spirit of Jackie Moon will guide the Parramatta Eels for the remainder of the regulation season this year as they push to secure a 4th placed finish. Given the benign draws of the three teams placed above them, 4th place is by far the most likely scenario for Brad Arthur and the Eels and should be treated as the realistic goal for the final two rounds of the regulation season.
Naturally, that means taking care of business against the Brisbane Broncos this week in the prime time slot on Friday night in a game that shapes up as something similar to Semi-Pro’s Flint Michigan Mega Bowl. A victory this week keeps the Canberra Raiders at arm’s length and puts Parramatta’s hands on the coveted Top 4 finish.
The Eels were fully in their element when these two teams met earlier this year to relaunch the 2020 season and Parramatta’s ability to recapture the blueprint of that 34-6 victory in Round 3 will define how successful their postseason push will be in the coming weeks. Junior Paulo was devastating as a bulldozer and a play-maker while the rest of the forward pack bullied the Broncos into submission. Most importantly however was the fact that the Eels showed the patience and desire to build their way into the game and stormed home to the blowout score line in the second half after doing the hard work earlier.
While the Blue & Gold have teased the idea that they might have turned the corner a number of times throughout their downturn of form, their defensive effort against the rampant Panthers in Round 18 was the first time they truly resembled a competition heavyweight in some form for months. Battling against a torrid possession rate and a red-hot offensive outfit in the Panthers, the Eels defended grimly up until the death in a hugely encouraging team performance on that particular side of the ball.
I am not expecting a similarly exhaustive defensive effort this week, if only because possession rates should normalise, but the the reignition of that defensive spark ahead of the finals is extremely significant. In that vein, now is the time for the Eels to find the diametrically opposing catalyst and turn the smouldering flames of their attack into a roaring inferno.
Mitchell Moses might be hampered by a calf-strain but Parramatta have to find a way to game-plan around that limiting factor. Clinton Gutherson’s play-making ability will be crucial here and so too is the return of Reed Mahoney this week. Gutherson has been a victim of the Eels straying too far sideways in recent weeks, restricting his options down either edge. Conversely, Mahoney made promising strides forwards before his injury against the New Zealand Warriors, making dangerous inroads through the ruck and injecting life into Parramatta’s offence.
Not only do Parramatta have to find the delicate balance between these three men, the forwards need to return to their bruising best and take a stranglehold on the ascendancy through the ruck. It seems like a lot to do in just two weeks but that is the reality facing the Eels. Unfortunately, they will have to do that without the services of Raymond Stone who returns to the injured list with another knock to his thumb. Will Smith will handle the utility duties from the bench in light of Stone’s absence after showing his coach plenty of heart and hustle last Friday night. Stone joins Marata Niukore (and if a miracle occurs, perhaps Dylan Brown) as a likely reinforcement for Week 1 of the finals while Parramatta also welcome back quality depth options this week in George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro.
|Parramatta Eels||Brisbane Broncos|
|1||Clinton Gutherson||1||Darius Boyd|
|2||Maika Sivo||2||Corey Oates|
|3||Michael Jennings||3||Kotoni Staggs|
|4||Waqa Blake||4||Herbie Farnworth|
|5||Blake Ferguson||5||Richard Kennar|
|6||Jai Field||6||Tyson Gamble|
|7||Mitchell Moses||7||Tom Dearden|
|8||Reagan Campbell-Gillard||8||Joe Ofahengaue|
|9||Reed Mahoney||9||Isaac Luke|
|10||Junior Paulo||10||Ben Te’o|
|11||Shaun Lane||11||David Fifita|
|12||Ryan Matterson||12||Alex Glenn|
|13||Nathan Brown||13||Patrick Carrigan|
|14||Will Smith||14||Cory Paix|
|15||Andrew Davey||15||Jamil Hopoate|
|16||Kane Evans||16||Xavier Coates|
|17||Oregon Kaufusi||17||Ethan Bullemor|
|18||Haze Dunster||18||Kobe Hetherington|
|19||Stefano Utoikamanu||19||Pride Petterson-Robati|
|20||George Jennings||20||Sean O’Sullivan|
|21||Daniel Alvaro||21||Jesse Arthars|