The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 6, 2021: Eels vs Raiders

Game Info

Date: Saturday, April 17, 2021

Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra

Kick Off: 7:35PM AEST

Referee: Ben Cummins

Head-to-head: Played 59, Parramatta 28, Canberra 31

Odds: Eels $2.35 Raiders $1.58

Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo

Last Four Encounters:

Parramatta 25 d Canberra 24, Bankwest Stadium, R7 2020

Parramatta 22 d Canberra 16, Darwin, R15 2019

Canberra 19 d Parramatta 0, Canberra Stadium, R5 2019

Canberra 18 d Parramatta 2, Canberra Stadium, R6 2018

Background

Alright Blue & Gold army, it is time to reset expectations. Despite the hope of a new season, it is clear 2021 is yet another frustrating iteration of the Parramatta Eels, another “sort of got it together” team that is just as capable of playing down to its opposition and losing to cellar dwellers as it is of giving the contenders a red hot run. Personally I’m finding this story a little stale, but the hope delivered by that inspiring Melbourne win back in round two has unfortunately been sandwiched by lacklustre efforts and a frankly embarrassing home capitulation to a team that did little more than show up and put a solid effort in.

If 2021 is going to be different, it starts this week against Canberra. I doubt there is a bigger hoodoo for Parramatta than the old Bruce Stadium, where generations of Parramatta teams have fallen well short against the Raiders. The Eels are on a nine game losing streak in the capital, stretching back to July 2006. Tim Smith masterminded the last Eels victory in the capital, while “he who shall not be named” scored a double in his sixth first grade game. That was one of only four Eels wins in Canberra from 22 attempts, at an average margin of 28 to 12. The closest they’ve got since 2006 was a ridiculous 40-34 loss in 2012 in the death throes of the Stephen Kearney era.

That’s all before you consider the Raiders themselves, a tough side that always gives a full effort and makes you work for every point. Off the back of the Panthers roughing them up a bit, they will be licking their lips at the prospect of Parramatta coming to town to play them into form. The Eels will need to be at their best to take the points in this one. 

If this all sounds very bleak, my apologies. This isn’t going to be a kind preview for Parramatta, but they weren’t very kind to us fans with their effort last week, so let’s hope they can get back in our good books come Saturday night.

 

Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Last week we fell one try short in both the total match points and first half betting tips. The Disappointment was palpable as the Eels failed to take advantage of their field position, then totally lost their way when the Dragons lost a player to the sin bin.

This week, the Raiders and the Eels line up as last start losers and with a key player missing. I’m not certain who will bounce back the best, so I’m steering away from a tip featuring a winner.

Consequently, I’m taking on the “pick your own total market”, and selecting over 39.5 total match points. You’ll get $2.15 for that.  If you’re confident of more points being scored, you can pick a higher line for a better return.

Happy, responsible punting.

 

How we look

Last week wasn’t good, with the Eels failing to adjust to the frustrating gameplan implemented by the Dragons and reverting back to panic football when plan A wasn’t working. This meant playing sideways and forcing passes, leading to mistakes and further pressure. It also led to the quietest game of the year for the Eels’ middles, with Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard unable to stamp their authority on a contest they were expected to dominate.

The composure of the side falls on the spine players, who needed to keep the team aligned to the gameplan and to direct the forwards around the park, to adjust to the Dragons style of slowing down the ruck. Mitchell Moses had a few very unhappy plays, while Dylan Brown had a strong running performance but again failed to take a game by the scruff of the neck. Reed Mahoney also needs to shoulder some blame, as the player closest to the ruck he needs to be the man to judge the tempo and start directing the forwards wider and changing up a strategy that the opposition are countering.

Big Reg needs to stand up this week

Defensively it was only a matter of time before Marata Niukore got caught out at centre, I would expect the Raiders to target him in a similar fashion. The points conceded to the Dragons were disappointing but nothing seemed to indicate chronic defensive issues, just a team that didn’t meet the intensity of their opposition, particularly in the early stages.

Those lapses of energy and commitment are in themselves alarming for a team that has premiership aspirations, and have become a sad trademark of the Eels over many years. It is likely that the Raiders play a similarly frustrating style against them this week (the last few meetings down in Canberra it feels like the Eels barely touched the ball) and Parramatta need to be both committed in defence and patient in attack, as trying to do too much when finally getting their opportunities is another sad trademark of the team.

Teams

Parramatta

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Tom Opacic 4. Marata Niukore 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown. 14. Oregon Kaufusi 15. Isaiah Papali’i 16. Keegan Hipgrave 17. Bryce Cartwright. 18. Joey Lussick 19. Haze Dunster 20. Wiremu Greig 21. Jordan Rankin.

Dylan Brown is the notable absentee on the team sheet, taking a one week suspension for what can be very loosely described as a crusher tackle. That’s the problem with crackdowns, you are stuck with the overzealous grading and suspensions even after players stop putting each other in those dangerous positions. Will Smith will take his place and has been solid as a replacement in recent times. His performance in place of Mitch Moses against Canberra was top drawer. Ray Stone is also out injured once more, solidifying his claim to the “unluckiest player at Parramatta” title.

We miss you Matto, get well soon

Ryan Matterson is named once again and he has hopefully recovered from the concussion injury which has already cost him three appearances. 

Bryce Cartwright did not have a happy debut last weekend, but he did get a lot of minutes compared to the men who usually fill that bench role. Brad Arthur clearly likes the guy, but those crabbing runs, forced offloads and poor kicks looked an awful lot like the five-eighth in a forward’s body that flamed out at the Titans. It did feel like he tried to take the team on his back and play some hero-ball last week, if he can rein it in and do the tough stuff first there is hope yet for the great Carty Party experiment.

Canberra

1. Caleb Aekins 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine. 14. Tom Starling 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Siliva Havili 17. Emre Guler. 18. Sebastian Kris 19. Matt Frawley 20. Corey Harawira-Naera 21. Dunamis Lui. 

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is the big out for the Raiders, he copped a neck injury last weekend. Caleb Aekins makes his club debut as the replacement. Josh Hodgson is also in some doubt after coming from the field with a hip injury, but the Raiders usually run with two bench hookers anyway so they’ll be well covered.

The Canberra pack runs about 12 deep in terms of first grade talent and Ricky Stuart has done some tinkering for this week, with new recruit Ryan James rested giving promising talent Emre Guler his first run of 2021. Stuart has made a few late changes in recent weeks with Josh Papalii, but I’d expect he starts against the strong Eels pack. 

Intangibles

There isn’t much more to say about how Parramatta handles the trip down the Hume Highway, so let’s just file it in the “records are made to be broken” category. It will be cold, dry and very unpleasant down in the capital, as the first winds of winter arrived across New South Wales this week.

Ben Cummins is the referee, his first appointment to an Eels game in season 2021. The Eels were 5-1 under Cummins in 2020, while Canberra won their only game under Cummins in 2020 and also have not seen him this year. Cummins sits on the high end of set restart and penalty counts this year, but is generally regarded as one of the better referees in the game.

As is standard after any loss, even one as convincing as last Sunday, Eels fans have gone on a stream of referee blaming after the Dragons used and abused the new six again rules to frustrate Parramatta. The Eels were awarded a heap of set restarts, got a sin bin go their way for repeat infringements, and still couldn’t take advantage. That is on them, not the quality of officiating. It is up to the Eels to overcome frustration tactics, and also to use them against their opponents when a referee is showing leeway in the ruck. In a competition where there is a massive gap in quality between the best and the rest, the best should never be in a position to have a referee decide the result. Blame the players, not the officials.

This will be the most hostile away crowd the Eels have faced in a while, with Raiders fans likely to feel a bit frisky after Penrith fans mocked their viking clap in last week’s win. It will be interesting to see how they handle it, it will be the first time the Eels face a sellout opposition crowd since 2019.

The Opposition

The Raiders have had their own issues in attack this year, playing a vanilla middle game of low offloads and crash ball near the line. Josh Hodgson’s first, second and third preference close to the line is hitting that crash ball, usually to the benefit of Josh Papaplii, but his jaunts out of dummy half are still dangerous and can hold a defender up, even when they know it is coming.

The middle approach certainly isn’t a bad one for Canberra to take considering the form of their pack. Papalii is usually the answer to the question “who is the best prop in the NRL” and is tough to stop near the line, but his work in the middle of the park is also top notch in his metre making and offloading. Hudson Young has come into his own as a starter this year, Joseph Tapine is very dangerous with ball in hand and Elliott Whitehead remains an underappreciated attacking weapon with good line running.

Profile shot of Canberra Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton, in his 2020 Raiders jersey

A grub, but a pretty handy player

Then you have Jack Wighton. He’s a unique problem for any opponent, a strong, hard runner with a knack for finding gaps and running good lines. He pops up at the right time and he will be targeting arm tackles from outside backs he can isolate, and slower moving middle men. The best way to stop him and Hodgson is to avoid conceding good ball to the Raiders, easier said than done and something the Eels have not done very well down in Canberra in recent years.

George Williams has quietly become a very dangerous NRL player, the talented Englishman has a running game that must be respected but has proven adept with pass and kick, plus he plays with an impressive confidence. He hasn’t got the most to work with outside him, Jarrod Croker is on the long end of his career, Curtis Scott still hasn’t found his feet in Raiders colours while Bailey Simonsson is still more potential than performance. Jordan Rapana has looked better this year and is an elite finisher, but he has an error in him.

The Raiders will miss Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who is a Gutherson-esque high effort support player with strong kick returns. Caleb Aekins is a bit of an unknown, but it is unlikely he will match what CNK provides to Canberra. Hopefully it means their set starts are interrupted and it knocks the team out of rhythm.

The story

On paper this feels like a winnable game for the Eels if they can match the Raiders in the middle. Unfortunately, games in Canberra have rarely gone to plan for the Eels, particularly in recent years where the Raiders have choked Parramatta out of the game with repeat sets and forced errors. The Eels never had a chance in those contests, largely due to the Raiders playing near perfect football and Parramatta reverting to panic mode once they finally got the ball.

Just not seeing that panic footy would count as a win for me, but after last week the Eels really need to stand up and smack the Raiders in the mouth. Canberra will be smarting after last week and will have a point to prove in front of their home fans. They will be full of confidence from recent results against Parramatta, and it shapes as a game the Eels must really show up for to have any chance.

I expect a better effort from the Blue & Gold, but I’ve made that long, cold drive back up the Hume with the taste of disappointment in my mouth too many times over the last two decades to confidently tip the Eels down there. If we don’t win I expect it will be another one of those dominant, choking efforts from Canberra that doesn’t look great on the scoreboard. Here’s hoping I am wrong. Go you Eels!

Prediction: Canberra Raiders 22 Parramatta Eels 6

Man of the Match: Some Canberra player

 

Gol

 

 

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Brad

Our record in the last 16 years speaks less of a hoodoo and more of the fact they’ve simply had a better team than us for most of that period, it includes 4 spoon years and 9 non-finals years. I’d be interested to see if we have started favourites in any game in Canberra since 06. The top teams challenging for the title shouldn’t lose at home to the other teams challenging them, which is why I wouldn’t be disappointed if in a close fought game we came out just below them. In saying that, I think we have a… Read more »

sixties

Brad, we did indeed have some inferior teams, but we also had some good players who couldn’t perform in Canberra. Remember Semi up against Rapana- Rapana owned him every time.
Raiders should be favourites in virtually every home game. If we get this, it’s a huge in.

Mr controversy aka rev

Gol good read. I think brad will have the boy’s primed well i hope he does. It’s one hell of a grave yard trip for the eels. Brad needs their minds on the job otherwise it’s going to be a long cold hard night at the office. Let’s be clear about our record at Bruce stadium not a good look but the only way to improve is to win. What we need is a bounce back factor. We need to tighten up the middle third. Some thing we didn’t do last week. This is a game we need to prove… Read more »

Last edited 1 day ago by Mr controversy aka rev
sixties

Very pragmatic observation Rev.

Milo

Cannot disagree with much here Gol, we are poor in the ACT; and yes it needs to start again here. Does not get easier with Matto out again, but guess Niukore starts in pack and Dunster on wing.
We need to compete with them for 80 and not get blown away and MAKE STUPID DAM ERRORS………This is a pet hate of mine from experienced players.

Offside

Dunster won’t play he’s elevated purely because he’s in the 18 jersey I suspect Greig will get the call up

John Eel

Who will Greig replace?

Mr controversy aka rev

Offside your wrong I’ve got a funny feeling that dunster will play. Why it’s simple dunster to centre niakora to back row. But if dunster doesn’t play then yes you might be right Greig will play.

Offside

Greig was seen at the captains run so I think its a shot.
Unless Dunster starts at centre or wing I don’t see him playing.

Maybe there is a case for rankin to fill smith’s utility spot but I’d prefer Cartwright have that and play only 2 mins at the end.

Mr controversy aka rev

U really don’t like Cartwright like i said b4 give him til round 10 to judge him. Ease up on him its almost like a certain person on the othersite with his bush coach story it’s getting boring

Offside

If he was a 20 year old rookie I’d give him time he has been around long enough and shown enough for me to know I do not want him put there

BDon

Tks Gol, paints a good picture of the challenge for us. The Raiders make it tough in every game, even when they lose.We’ve just got to bring energy, composure and an error rate that’s not twice the Raiders.
A sidebar, I don’t think the Dragons showed up Niukore, that early try was just good football, a crisp, clever attacking hit after a first set error. I’m struggling to think of any other time in the game he got shown up(others did).

sixties

BDon, I agree re that first try. Bird hit the line from depth and at pace. Little time to react.

Zero58

And he was watching Sims. If Bird didn’t score Sims would have. Well worked move

pete

Great read Gol.
I was always confused with signing Cartwright. He is inconsistent at best and has always been that way. He’s at his third club..
I hope I’m wrong but I can’t see him changing.
Will Smith v Jack Wighton it’s going to end badly for us unfortunately.

Last edited 1 day ago by pete
Offside

Yeah I think we are in for a long night

Mr controversy aka rev

Pete im surprise that ricky didn’t choose jack at fullback n bring in frawley to play 5/8.

Jack is a big running 5/8 that’s his game he likes to run at the line on the last normally down the blind side.

Dday

Good write up Golf and agree energy and composure are key.
I’m optimistic tonight; we couldn’t possibly drop as much ball as last week, junior will be fired up, maybe a bit of bounce back and I dislike sticky.

Last edited 1 day ago by Dday
sixties

Junior had an unusually quiet match against the Dragons. He’s ready for that bounce back.

Parramatta Tragic

I have not heard who is in for Matterson yet but I would personally bring in Rankin to 5/8 and bench Will Smith. Rankin is a very good organising 5/8 who has been the star of the reserve grade team. It doesn’t hurt that he can kick goals from anywhere either. Rankin is constantly organising his team and that is what I would like to see inside the opposition 20 in firsts. If Rankin gets a run he may be very difficult to dislodge again this season in which case I would move Dylan Brown to centre (he has the… Read more »

John Eel

PT totally agree with your sentiments here. By keeping Marata in the centres we are weakening our bench rotation.

This hurts our go forward through the middle. BA may be planning to replace Marata in the centres with Dunster or some minor variation on that. Then return Marata to the bench or edge.

goodnight gimbob

You don’t have to be einstein to realize that the eels struggle at times in nearly every match because our risk management in attack is not up to standard. From crazy off loads to dumb push passes at the line in our own 50, after 8 years under Arthur nothing has changed. Teams know that if the play percentages theyll always have a good chance to beat the erratic parra team From being down 16 nil and 18 nil to the Broncos & saints, to letting wests back in the game it’s all to obvious that we are the most… Read more »

Offside

Yes BA has done a good job he has taken the team as far as he can.
He is the second longest serving coach in Parramatta history behind Smith and like Smith he won’t have any premierships to show for it at the end

BDon

GG, without buying into the coach thing, our risk management in attack keeps you on edge. Example: v Bunnies in finals, we run to a nice lead then start playing touch football. In that game most observers felt we had a bad 15 minutes after half time(bad luck and bad play), but we had already started to take aim at our foot. v St George last week, it was on display at regular intervals trying the money ball when pressure build was required.

Zero58

4 – 1 for an erratic team really??
What you say about those who are 1 – 4??

Mr controversy aka rev

I’m a Eels fan thru n thru but calling wighton a crub is abit harsh his a clean plsyer compared to McGuire or kaufusi or packer from tiger’s. Their grubs.

goodnight gimbob

I don’t understand the Grub call for whighton He didn’t explain what he meant by the Grub call

Gol

Did you guys miss Wighton giving Fergo multiple facials in the same game he broke his nose a couple years back? Plus then you have the whole off field stuff.

Parramatta Tragic

PLEASE, against any rushing defence, kick early in the tackle count and very deep into the corners for the entire first half. Make their big forwards run back 70 metres all half. Revert to standard game plan in 2nd half

Gil Carter

Just checking the NSW Cup site & they no longer have Wiremu Greig listed, replaced by Hollis. Duster is listed though. Could be Greig a starter in firsts??

Offside

I think so

John Eel

The other change was Nathaniel Roache in the SR.

John Eel

Dunster has scored a try in Knock on effect Cup.

Greig is definitely in. This is some rise to NRL.

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