NRL Team List
No Maika Sivo. No Marata Niukore. More than likely no Blake Ferguson.
Or at least that is how it is supposed to play out this week.
When the Parramatta Eels host the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday night in a sudden death showdown they will enter the game as underdogs. The Rabbitohs’ flashy victory over the Newcastle Knights has weighed more favourably in the eyes of pundits across the game than Parramatta’s gutsy defeat against the Storm.
When you factor in the injuries and suspensions alongside the last meeting between the Eels and the Rabbitohs it lends credence to the thought that Parramatta are next to no chance this Saturday.
If so, why even turn up? Well, we all know the answer to that question. If favourites got up every time most of rugby league’s (and indeed sports in general) most legendary storylines would never exist. Parramatta, battered and bruised as they might be, rekindled their attack in a big way in the first week of the finals and if they can bring the same energy to the field this week then they will have a red-hot crack at the Rabbitohs.
Brad Arthur has made one obvious adjustment and one surprise adjustment in light of the absences of Sivo (Knee, Season) and Niukore (Suspension, 2 Games) by naming George Jennings onto the left flank and Ray Stone to the bench. George was the logical inclusion to the backline following a highly successful stint with the New Zealand Warriors but Stone’s inclusion over Oregon Kaufusi has me somewhat puzzled. That isn’t because of any lack of faith in Stone’s abilities but rather than Kaufusi seems more of a ready made replacement for the role in which Niukore has been consistently utilised.
With Stone and Will Smith working the interchange the Eels will enter Saturday night with one of their lightest benches of the 2020 season. Perhaps this is a signal that ‘BA’ is ready to ride the talents and athleticism of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard deep into the game in order to gain and maintain ascendancy through the ruck.
The other consideration for this week’s final is that Blake Ferguson is a likely scratch – even in spite of his inclusion in today’s team list. Should Ferguson’s knee fail to get right in time, Brad Takairangi is expected to bump Waqa Blake from centre to wing with the only remaining question being who plays left and right centre between Takairangi and Michael Jennings?
In a way, the loss to Melbourne prepared the Eels well for the clash against Souths this Saturday. The Storm’s predilection to attack wide early and often will be echoed by the Rabbitohs this week. Parramatta will take damage down both edges without a doubt, Souths are simply that good of an attacking outfit – the challenge will be limiting that damage to manageable levels.
While the Eels obviously need to blunten the strengths of South Sydney’s attack, they also need to stay true to their own strengths. Build into the game on the back of the Paulo and Campbell-Gillard, attack both edges with speed and decisiveness and force South Sydney to grind their way out of their red-zone as often as possible.
The path to victory is not complicated for the Parramatta Eels. All that remains for them is to believe in their own systems and in themselves.
|Parramatta Eels||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|1||Clinton Gutherson||1||Corey Allan|
|2||George Jennings||2||Alex Johnston|
|3||Michael Jennings||3||Campbell Graham|
|4||Waqa Blake||4||Dane Gagai|
|5||Blake Ferguson||5||Jaxson Paulo|
|6||Dylan Brown||6||Cody Walker|
|7||Mitchell Moses||7||Adam Reynolds|
|8||Reagan Campbell-Gillard||8||Tevita Tatola|
|9||Reed Mahoney||9||Damien Cook|
|10||Junior Paulo||10||Thomas Burgess|
|11||Shaun Lane||11||Jaydn Su’A|
|12||Ryan Matterson||12||Bayley Sironen|
|13||Nathan Brown||13||Cameron Murray|
|14||Will Smith||14||Mark Nicholls|
|15||Andrew Davey||15||Liam Knight|
|16||Kane Evans||16||Jed Cartwright|
|17||Ray Stone||17||Keaon Koloamatangi|
|18||Oregon Kaufusi||18||Steven Marsters|
|19||Brad Takairangi||19||Hame Sele|
|20||Haze Dunster||20||Troy Dargan|
|21||Daniel Alvaro||21||Patrick Mago|