The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 23, 2021: Eels vs Cowboys

Game Info

Date: Saturday 21st August, 2021

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

Kick Off: 7:35PM AEST

Referee: Ashley Klein

Head-to-head:  Played 42, Eels 21, Cowboys 20, Drawn 1

Odds: Eels $1.27 Cowboys $3.70

Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo

Last Four Encounters:

Eels 42 d Cowboys 4, Bankwest Stadium, R8 2020

Cowboys 17 d Eels 10, Townsville, R10 2019

Cowboys 44 d Eels 6, Townsville, R24 2018

Eels 20 d Cowboys 14, Darwin, R14 2018


I don’t think I’ve ever turned off an Eels performance as quickly as I did last week. When Turbo went over because Maika Sivo showed the fastest man in league the sideline to make it 16-0 the game went onto the small screen, and before halftime I was out completely. Lockdown has made me appreciate the need to focus on positives and remove negatives from my life, and the Parramatta Eels are, right now, a massive negative.

Yet last weekend the Eels officially secured the right to play finals football in 2021, so let’s focus on that. We started the year of previews by stating that absolutely nothing before the second week of the finals matters to Parramatta, and that is just as true for pathetic efforts like the last month as it is for the good wins and early season dominance.

Because it worked so well last week, here’s some players we could really use about now. First, the meanest man in league.

Our conquerors last weekend showed just how quickly you can turn around from easybeats to contenders (though Parramatta doesn’t have a Tom Trbojevic waiting in the wings to spark them) and while I tend to feel most of the Eels problems are chronic, there is nothing to be gained writing this season off before it is all done and dusted. Adjust your expectations, sure, but come September we’ll all be on the couch cheering the Eels on in an elimination final, which is a chance I’d have done very bad things to get back in 2016. If a turnaround is to come, it starts this week against the hapless North Queensland Cowboys.


Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Imagine losing your last four matches, including a 56 to 10 hiding at your most recent outing, then starting at $1.27 favourite in your next match.

Rugby league has always had its unreliable form lines, and the Cowboys are on a nine game losing streak, but even the most passionate Eels fan would find it impossible to put their coin on an Eels win – especially at such prohibitive odds.

Therefore, I’m suggesting that punters keep their wallets closed this week. Consider it a Blue and Gold betting curfew.

However, if you simply enjoy a fun flutter, then let’s make it real fun.

Look at the “score 1st, 2nd or 3rd try” market, because there are some attractive odds there. My suggestion is Mitch Moses at $9 or Isaiah Papali’i at $12.

Happy, responsible punting everyone.



How we look

The problem with using the term “shithouse” to describe us last week is it doesn’t leave much room in the vocabulary to detail another step into the pit. There are a few words I reckon come close though: gutless, stupid, broken to name a few. That it came after a week of big talk and commitments is no surprise, Parramatta is nothing if not unmotivated. How many milestone games have been met with meek performances? Mitch asked on Twitter this week what would be the most “Eels” thing to happen for the remainder of the year, and the result says it all about how fans perceive the Eels ability with backs against the wall:

Parramatta are not a team of surprises or a “brilliant one week, ordinary the next” group.  They flow in waves, and right now this wave is a dumper, leaving the fans with salt water up their noses and a boogie board floating a hundred metres out to sea.

But enough venting, lets try and find some positives. When the Eels finally got the ball last week the first few sets were encouraging, making solid metres and running a touch wider than usual. In another dimension where Joey Lussick doesn’t attack the back of a knee on the first tackle of the game and the edge defence is trained to actually mark a winger, maybe the Eels hold strong in the early stages and make last week a contest. While we’re in fantasy land, can I have a set of abs like Dylan Brown too?

That will be the key to any Eels success going forward: complete middle dominance. We still have the players to achieve that, particularly when Reg and Matto come back well rested for the first week of the finals. These next three weeks are a chance to fine tune the middle combinations with Joey Lussick and for players like Junior Paulo, Shaun Lane, Marata Niukore, Nathan Brown, Bryce Cartwright and Oregon Kaufusi to round into form. Yes, I did just name the entire pack (except Ice Papa, who may be down slightly on form but has done enough this year to avoid the list).

If Parramatta is going to win a finals game, it will be from the forwards gaining unstoppable momentum and creating second phase play. “Lots of offloads” has rarely translated to “good ad-lib footy” for Parramatta recently, too often a late offload is followed by ineffective, flat footed spreads or charging into the teeth of a defence for an extra hitup, but a bit of adventure and a “what have we got to lose” attitude could be what is needed to exploit the Eels biggest advantage. 

This also doubles as the best chance to find Will Penisini and Waqa Blake the room they need to put effective footwork on. Waqa Blake is Zoolander, he can only step off his left, but if given space he has been the most dangerous Eels player in this dreadful month of football. Penisini is another dangerous runner who can break tackles, he shouldn’t be wasted doing hard work out of our end. Give him some one-on-one chances and let him run.

Simple footy can be effective footy, and right now it is all Parramatta has got. If we want to somehow make some noise in the finals that edge defence needs to be fixed, and I’d be telling the team to just go for it in attack, and spend every training session until the finals changing that defensive approach.



1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Haze Dunster 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Isaiah Papali’i 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Nathan Brown. 14. Will Smith 15. Bryce Cartwright 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Makahesi Makatoa. 18. Ray Stone 19. Keegan Hipgrave 20. Sean Russell 21. Jake Arthur.

Tom Opacic was added to the injury list last weekend, though his place in the team was under threat anyway after a month of average efforts. Will Penisini is a welcome sight in the team after an impressive debut a month ago. Michael Oldfield had a shocker last weekend and paid the price for being a winger in this Eels defensive “system”, replaced by Haze Dunster. 

Ryan Matterson has found himself suspended, forcing yet another reshuffle in the pack. Oregon Kaufusi is back from a head knock while Marata Niukore shifts from the bench to the edge. Makahesi Makatoa was good on debut last week and deserves some time out there during a competitive game. Isaiah Papali’i remains in the middle and he needs to find some of that early season form and spark this squad.

North Queensland

1. Valentine Holmes 22. Connelly Lemuelu 3. Daejarn Asi 4. Jake Granville 5. Ben Hampton 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Tom Dearden 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Ben Condon 12. Heilum Luki 13. Coen Hess. 14. Reuben Cotter 15. Jeremiah Nanai 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Tom Gilbert. 18. Jason Taumalolo 19. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 20. Peter Hola 21. Laitia Moceidreke.   

What a terrible squad. The scary part is, the two main injuries are players named on the extended bench, though Murray Taulagi is also in the casualty ward and has been solid on the one edge Val Holmes is capable of playmaking to. Granville and Hampton in the backline is just crazy, Hampton has been given so many chances in first grade and never delivered, while Granville was a “past it” hooker a month ago.

The Cowboys pack has rotated all year, with the failures furthest from mind given the next chance after their replacements inevitably let the team down. This week that means Ben Condon and Francis Molo get a start while Tom Gilbert and Mitchell Dunn ride the bench. I have absolutely no clue who Jeremiah Nanai is. Tom Dearden is chasing the record for least successful first grader ever, just to top things off.


It should be dry on the Gold Coast Saturday night, and it is heating up in the sunshine state with a warm day expected. Nights are still cold, so dew on the surface could be an issue. The Eels clash will be the second game in a double header, so the field may be a bit choppy, but almost every ground has held up well to extended play this year and it hasn’t been a problem. Ashley Klein is the referee.

The biggest intangible is how the Eels pick themselves up off the canvas. The Cowboys might be the worst team in the NRL right now, having lost nine in a row, including losses to the Tigers and Broncos. It is as good a chance as any to rebuild shattered confidence before two brutal games to finish the year. The Cowboys will probably come out strong, seeing a real chance to grab a win for the first time since May, and holding out an early surge will be crucial. Hot starts (or hot middles, or hot finishes) haven’t been the Eels’ strength this last month, but if they can’t show up here, then Sterlo help us all to suffer through the discourse following.

The Opposition

The Cowboys are really bad. They’ve at least given it a go the last month, so they’re one up on Parramatta, but this is not a talented football team. They concede at will down both edges and now they have a hooker playing at centre. Tom Dearden is as low on confidence as you can get, and is worth targeting, but even the stale block play offence the Eels have trotted out for three years should be able to tear this Cowboys team apart.

Remember when our big Fijian wingers ran hard?

Valentine Holmes has occasionally been dangerous as a link man on the left edge, but now has Ben Hampton finishing those movements instead of Murray Taulagi. He is the one to watch though, as any fullback joining the line seems to confuse the Parramatta edge into conceding a four on two overlap. He’s also got enough of a pass to float over the top of a rushing centre, a move used to great effect by every halfback and fullback Parramatta has played the last three weeks.

There isn’t much to fear in the middle. Jordan McLean is a shell of a player, while Coen Hess is a low effort player who only looks hungry when he has the ball ten out. Heilum Luki has looked promising in his few top grade games, but he’s surrounded by plodders in Gilbert, Dunn and Condon. There is absolutely no excuse for the Eels in this one, even if Taumalolo comes back off the extended bench, this is a huge mismatch.

The story

When the going gets tough, the Eels get flogged has been the story of the last month, but this week is not tough going. The Cowboys are busted and are there for beating, and Parramatta has them for class if not form. Winning this one will convince exactly nobody that things are turning around, but any turnaround has to start here.

Just kidding. Thanks for the trade, Warriors!

Whatever malaise has infected the Eels, they haven’t been able to play themselves out of it so far. Fixing Parramatta happens in the sheds and in the players’ heads, and who knows, maybe another grovelling apology letter, this time from the CEO, will work where open letters and commitments failed before. Maybe this time front loading our effort will get it done.

The things that don’t work for Parramatta right now are not getting fixed in a week. You don’t just say “mark up on the winger” and magically fix an edge defence, those overlaps come from the inside out and require an entirely new structure to correct. That takes an offseason, not a month, but for how bad things have gotten out wide, I’d be seeing what a month can do.

Similarly, I’d be throwing the attack in the trash. Maybe just put up the bomb as soon as we are in attacking range, and save the fatigue of running ineffective blocks and flat footed spreads for three tackles back and forth across the field. Tell the halves to get in closer to the play-the-ball and take the line on. Do something, anything, differently. This is the week to try it, against an opposition low on confidence with nothing to play for. Throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks is the best plan we’ve got now, because everything the team has been doing will see Penrith and Melbourne setting scoring records against us as tune ups for the finals in the next fortnight.

Parramatta should win, so for the first weekend in a month football might bring me some joy, however fleeting. If they can’t win here, no, I don’t even want to think about it. Go you Eels!

Prediction: Parramatta Eels 34 d North Queensland Cowboys 22

Man of the Match: Will Penisini

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43 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 23, 2021: Eels vs Cowboys

  1. Anonymous

    Font load is a stupid expression but, to put it another way, how important is a good start. It drives the team forward, think Manly last week when the only time Parra got the ball for the first ten minutes was the kick offs. I don’t recall a team not getting a set for the first ten minutes in a game.
    So Parra are clearly down on confidence and nothing but, a fifty point win will pick them up. Arthur’s team selection over the past four weeks are not so much mysterious but, stupid and reflected the mind of one who has listened to wrong advice and it has back fired terribly. Or, he is not listening at all. Whatever, the results are there for everyone to see. You should always play the best available and Arthur hasn’t.
    This week’s game is one that only Parra could lose. I am having nightmares of North Sydney reinvented. That Parra’s game revolves around one hit after another takes me back to the sixties. That is how predictable they have become and are not running lines and in giving the opposition choices in defence.
    If Parra concentrates on the first layer – defence – their attack will come. Their defence was number three for most of the season and now it is farcical. Get back to defence and the win will come. The key word – defence. Any chance that our wingers will actually stay out and mark their man? What a difference that could make.
    I am making a bold prediction Parra 52 Cowboys 12. The second half is when the points will flow.

  2. Cryptic Eel

    Thanks for the write up Gol it’s always appreciated. I’’ve just realised I’m looking forward to this game!

    Firstly to see Will Penisini play and secondly because the boys have great chance to make it a day out. Fingers crossed for that but I’m going to keep it simple and keep an eye out for a few things that should make a difference. For what it’s worth, here they are:
    We will see the attitude levels based on errors with the following metric: Silent finger-tip touches at social distancing = bad, hair ruffles and backside slaps in groups = good.
    Gutho is a lead by example captain and and he hasn’t been the same since the blowback from his spray on Opacic, hope he gets’s back on his max energy horse and sets the standard once again. Guthos’s metric: support around the ruck
    I agree with you on the edge defence Gol, a month isn’t enough to turn it around but it’s all we have to find an alternative to the jams leaving unmarked wingers open. Edge metric: Cowboys wingers tackled on the ad line.
    Other than that, nothing more to add to what you’ve all been saying – forward pack power and early ball to our centres. Throw in Mitch’s kicking game and I think we have field position dominance with plenty of points on offer.
    Will this be a momentum reversing win, a last hurrah, or devastating confirmation of how our season ends? Time will tell, go you Eels! 

    1. John Eel

      I like it CE. However just on the defence having Marata on the right edge may help that problem with defence system.

      Hard to see them change the system at this point in the season. You never know I guess

  3. Milo

    Thanks Gol, always a good read.
    I appreciate your optimism in the score; i just hope we can score more than 20 points and keep them to less.
    I keep seeing our outside players get caught out…and we have tried a few wingers over the last month, but to me the wingers are not the monly issue. It is the ruck and not delivering on it properly, and that is the forwards job to own the ruck and slow it down in defence and numbers.
    If we do that tonight for 80 we should win.
    Just hope Moses is able to run more, and D Brown too.
    Watching Canberra and Manly last night, both teams played wide in attack and used the ball around the ruck….i.e. they moved each other around, and then Manly held the ball to win comfortably. Players in motion…….

    1. sixties

      I agree entirely Milo, but after last week I’ll be happy with the execution of some rugby league basics to start the game. Build from there.

  4. Brissyeel

    What is it with you people wanting the team to lose ? Brad is not the problem it’s all you idiot fans who don’t have a clue

    1. Mr controversy aka rev

      U for real brissyeel it’s us fans have no clue. We are not coaching the team we are not selecting the team. Some nerve coming on here blaming the fans n not the coach.

      I got worried when brad Arthur said he doesn’t have a clue how to fix it the slump. I’ve never heard belly or Robinson or benny say they didn’t have a clue.

      Just like ypu brissy you have no clue either.

  5. Zero58

    Freedom of speech is the trade mark of TCT and with the responsibility of that freedom comes the thought of non abusive speech. Sadly, I believe you stepped over the line. Understand your thoughts but expressed in harsh tones.
    Watch the game, it might just cheer you up.

    1. sixties

      Zero, thanks for your support here. If you are responding to the first comment on in the replies, it’s been removed due to the last comment which was nothing but a personal insult. I considered simply editing it out, but if this first time visitor was so disrespectful to our site, I decided it wasn’t worth giving any benefit of the doubt. And quite honestly I don’t want someone like that visiting here again.
      Let me be very clear to anyone thinking of choosing such a path in their visits here.
      TCT was created as a site which is respectful of those who choose to visit here. For that to happen, we always maintained standards which we don’t intend to stray from. Those standards start with ensuring that personal abuse is not allowed.
      People are welcome to be critical of the players, the coach or the club for poor performances or poor decisions. But there is a line that we will not allow to be crossed, and sadly some recent viewers have minimal respect for that.
      We will be vigilant In ensuring that such a line remains intact.

        1. sixties

          No, I don’t think he should be sacked Nathaniel. And I expect him to be coaching the Eels next season. Eels management have confirmed that he has their support and unlike the typical “full support of the board” death knell that people joke about in rugby league, those in charge of Parra are people who will stay true to their word.

          1. Nathaniel

            Where do you rate Brad with previous Parra coaches ? Personally think he is the best we have had since Jack Gibson

          2. sixties

            He’s had an enormous challenge from Day 1 with a team that won back to back spoons, and then with the cap dramas. No other Eels coach has ever had to deal with that. Gibson and Fearnley were brilliant. Monie should be in the conversation given his success. Smith was extremely good, but given his roster, should have done better. BA has turned this club around in tumultuous times and given roster strengths and circumstances I rate what he’s done at Parra above what Smith achieved

          3. Mr controversy aka rev

            Sorry sixties but i disagree with you on brad being a better coach.

            Why you ask well let me put this to you Per say.

            Brad Arthur coaches the 01,05 team’s do you think we win the grand final.

            B,Smith coaches thos mob how far you think he get’s us n would we be in a form slump like this.

            Sorry but imo i think smithy was our best coach after jack Gibson n john Monie.

    2. Zero58

      Mr Sixties, we get his frustration but, his words were poorly chosen.
      Us old time supporters have been through all of this and stuck by them
      The Eels are almost a part of our DNA – we love when they win – hate when they lose. But, through thick and thin we stick with them. We have every right to chastise the team for their poor effort. It’s the words we use that can help us get over the loss and you an always be privately abusive without embarrassing others.
      I think we will win big tonight. I am tipping 52-12. If we lose I head to the toilet – you know why.
      Then next week we are back to watch them again. From my perspective – from afar.
      Keep up the excellent work and remain positive.

      1. sixties

        Well said Zero, but I reckon he very deliberately chose those words and expected the outcome of comment deleted. When you passionately support a team, it’s impossible to not react during and after games like we’ve played lately. I was in a meltdown during that Manly clash. But public personal abuse is not on, and I won’t have TCT used as the vehicle for certain people to do so.

  6. Dday

    The write up sums up my take on things Gol, switched off before half time and spent the week concentrating on other more positive things.
    There’s still a good roster running out in the blue and gold, might tonight be the start of the turnaround.

  7. Sec50

    To me the performance over the past month has been purely due to mental confusion and attitude. I have asked this question before and if you have answered it Sixties I apologise but I didn’t see it. Does the club employ a Sports Psychologist??

    I too turned off at 16-0. I have never done that before even during the terrible times. Here’s hoping we get to watch it all tonight.

    1. sixties

      Sec, I have answered as best I can each time you asked, but you probably missed it as it was a day or so after you asked. The Eels have used Kurt Wrigley and Andrew May in the mental approach to the game and leadership. I’m pretty sure that Andrew was still working with the club at the start of the year as a mental skills coach, but I’m not sure about right now.

  8. Mr controversy aka rev

    I’ve got to the point where we need to move gutherson to 5/8 n drop Dylan brown.

    Dylan brown really is playing poor n we can’t afford to carry a lazy 5/8.

    I think it’s time we chased a much better fullback some one with skill n pace n can tackle well.

    Gutherson is to slow these day’s mind you happy if gutherson left the Eels.

    We should win this game if not then we got no chance vs storm n Panthers.

    Eels 32 cowboys 12

    Mom Waqa with 2 tries.

  9. BDon

    Tks Gol. I’m hoping like hell that Niukore and Penisini can make a difference with our defensive ineptitude as the ball travels wide. If that happens, plus working into the game with composure, good kick chase, and Joey Lussick getting the service right(he’s a good back up for Reed but his passing was just off last week), we should put the Cows to the sword.

  10. AJAX

    Thank you for the write-up. After 10 rounds, my hope level was say, 8/10. Now it is probably 1/10. Once we get into the finals, we are expected to be blasted out in straight sets. Everyone has 100% written us off. With very good reason. Look at our form. Look at the way we’d lost last week. It is a downward curve. I am hoping that this game will somehow ignite some hope. Some spark. If we show some fight, from here on in, miracles can happen…can’t they? It’s not illegal to hope and pray. GO THE EELS!!!!!!!!

    1. sixties

      Ajax, we can hope, pray, wear lucky socks, perform strange dances and rituals – I reckon it’s all legal in the circumstances.
      As you say, Go the Eels!

  11. Colin Hussey

    I honestly thought TCT had gone into hibenation as I have not seen a post from there now for 2-3 weeks, can understand why its been quiet owing to the impressive losses since my last sighting of TCT, thought it may have sailed out through the heads chasing a modern day titanic. So good to see it still exists.

    I am sincerely looking forward to a quality win tonight that will enthuse supporters, but more so the players themselves as they need to break through the shell that has them ready for crunching the opposition. A good win tonight will, or should be the ideal motivation to take a forward step big time.

    I do like the look of the team against the cows, even without some key players. A win by 18 for me.

    1. sixties

      Colin, there has been no lack of content over the past month Colin. However, our notifications haven’t been working so if you rely on that, then that’s why you’d be thinking we’ve been quiet.

  12. Brissyeel

    Sixties, just to clarify, there was a response purported to be made by me in response to the comments made by Joe Biden. That comment was not made by me, it was made by someone else. Snake has just posted a screenshot of it on 1EE and has had another go at me, so am assuming it is him. Typical crap from him, lowlife scum – hope you read this Snake and don’t worry about taking a screenshot because I’m going to tear you a new one over there now as well.

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