The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 25, 2021: Eels vs Panthers

Game Info

Date: Friday, 3 September 2021

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

Kick Off: 8:05PM AEST

Referee: Adam Gee

Head-to-head:  Played 101, Parramatta 58, Penrith 42, Drawn 1

Odds: Eels $11.00 Panthers $1.03

Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo

Last Four Encounters:

Penrith Panthers 13 d Parramatta Eels 12, Penrith Stadium, R16 2021

Penrith Panthers 20 d Parramatta Eels 2, Penrith Stadium, R18 2020

Parramatta Eels 16 d Penrith Panthers 10, Bankwest Stadium, R5 2020

Penrith Panthers 16 d Parramatta Eels 10, Bankwest Stadium, R11 2019

Background

Wow.

I’m rarely stuck for words, but I can’t do justice to that Melbourne win last weekend with mere language. Perhaps this best describes the joy:

That win will forever be a marker for how one week can turn around a season, and the game I reach back to in tough times, knowing there is the potential for hope. Parramatta was dead and buried a couple of weeks ago, now we’re a premiership contender after delivering an absolute beating to a Melbourne side with everything to play for. 

So on to this week. How often do you beat a team on a record winning streak, paying near double figure odds, then end up at even longer odds the week after? Brad Arthur has the luxury of being able to rest much of the first grade squad this weekend, with the Eels locked into a fifth or sixth place finish. It denies us a competitive local derby, but sacrificing this match to be better prepared for a potential clash in a couple of weeks time is one I can live with. Don’t expect much deep analysis in this preview, like BA, the TCT brass is making sure I’m fresh for the finals run to come, but there is still plenty to talk about. Let’s crack in.

 

Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Where was my faith last week? Where were my b….?

There were massive odds on offer for the Eels to beat the Storm but even a glass half full Eels supporter like me couldn’t suggest putting the hard earned on it.

The punt has been a bit lean lately, and the Eels are even longer odds to win this week. Given the number of players rested, that’s no surprise.

Once again that forces me to look at the total points markets. I’m going to dive into the “1st half pick your own total” market, as I reckon that there could be around five tries scored in the first half.

Take over 27.5 total first half points which is returning $3.20.

Happy, responsible punting everyone.

Sixties

 

How we look

Young gun Penisini has secured “good enough to be rested” status after only a handful of first grade games.

There is a lot of chat about Brad Arthur’s decision to rest as many players as he can for this final round clash with Penrith. The “for” argument, as made by BA himself, is “look at what happened last year”. In unusual circumstances with no lower grade footy, it is important to get some running in the legs of the extended squad in case they are needed down the line. Looking at the Eels injury toll, and seeing what happened when we needed four fresh faces in the preliminary final last year, Brad Arthur wants to give the young guys and reserves a run and rest up the weary first grade squad. Fair enough.

The “against” argument comes down to momentum; it is a mistake to not capitalise on a huge win against Melbourne and consolidate our gains. If a team beating Melbourne gets momentum, a team that beats Melbourne then Penrith would be unstoppable, right? Conversely, a team coming into the finals off a likely belting from a full strength Panthers team won’t do as well in the elimination game as one that got another week of hard footy against a contender.

Parramatta fans shouldn’t be so quick to believe in momentum. How many times have big efforts by the Eels one week been followed by utter tripe the next? Was the win against Melbourne the culmination of a long stretch of upward momentum, or was it an overnight shift in mentality and effort? Don’t confuse the importance of momentum within a game (rolling down field, winning field position, and tiring the opposition) with momentum between games, which is a tenuous concept at best, especially for Parramatta.

You may conflate momentum with confidence, and the difference between the two is important here. The Eels will lose nothing of their confidence for getting beaten by Penrith with a team of reserve graders. I rate confidence a far more important factor than momentum, and if anything, resting the team for a week maintains the high that emerged from the Melbourne game.

The week of rest will be more important to the Eels in the long run. Clint Gutherson and Nathan Brown haven’t had a rest all year. Perhaps Nathan Brown’s renewed effort last weekend was because he knew he would be getting a spell this week? Brad Arthur confirmed Brown had been playing hurt for a while, which checks out with his recent form before the Storm game.

Parramatta are battle hardened after six weeks of matches against fellow finals contenders. Yes they spent a lot of those matches standing behind their own posts, but in terms of physical contests the team is not underdone. Mitch Moses pointed out post game that the Eels thought they were fitter than Melbourne going into those late stages, and that proved to be the case. The Eels are in footy shape, so I am all for taking a break to shake the niggling injuries and not give our wretched recent luck a chance to strike another star down.

Friday night might get ugly, but one win has reinvigorated this Parramatta season, and suddenly we have gone from finals afterthoughts to hopeful contenders. Enjoy watching the young guys go around, don’t stress too much about the result and know the team will be fresh and firing for a much bigger game next weekend.

Teams

Parramatta

1. Hayze Perham 2. Haze Dunster 3. Tom Opacic 4. Michael Oldfield 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Jake Arthur 8. Oregon Kaufusi 9. Joey Lussick 10. Makahesi Makatoa 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Ray Stone. 14. Samuel Loizou 15. Ky Rodwell 16. Shaun Lane 17. Sean Russell. 18. Will Penisini 19. Isaiah Papali’i 20. Nathan Brown 21. Dylan Brown.

Well this is surely the first time two men named Ha(y)ze have played in the same NRL side together, so that is something. It might not be how they imagined it, but congratulations on a first grade debut to Sam Loizou and Ky Rodwell, and a club debut for Hayze Perham. Good luck gentlemen, you’ll need it.

There are still a lot of things to watch for with an Eels finals run on the horizon. Makahesi Makatoa looked more human last week as his packmates lifted, but I believe there is legitimate competition here for that middle bench position between Maka and Oregon Kaufusi, who hasn’t matched the highs of Makatoa’s performances despite more opportunities. I wasn’t too upset with losing Stefano Utoikamanu last year having seen the form of Kaufusi, this year has made that feeling a touch foolish. The better performer in this one could be taking that bench spot through the finals.

It is also a chance for our utility players to make a final case for selection in the finals, though Bryce Cartwright’s sensational effort last weekend should have ended the debate about his place (and minutes, give him more minutes!) The battle may be between Will Smith and Ray Stone, who both offer coverage for the nine jersey but vastly different use cases in the scenario of no injuries. Stone can come on and be a whirlwind of effort, Smith offers more creativity and positional coverage.

If I was Brad Arthur I’d have found a way to cotton wool Joey Lussick, being the only healthy specialist nine at the club right now, but experience and match fitness will do him good, as long as he survives. Please stay healthy (and please re-sign) Joey.

Penrith

1.Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo. 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Tevita Pangai Jr 17. Liam Martin. 18. Spencer Leniu 19. Izack Tago 20. Taylan May 21. Mitch Kenny.  

The draw has conspired as such that Penrith can’t even confirm they have a shot at the minor premiership before having to lock in their squad, so they will likely go into this one at full strength and as named. A couple of years ago this game is one you’d be seeing jersey numbers in the 30s had the Storm won beforehand and taken away the Panthers’ shot at top of the regular season ladder, but now they’re locked in to a full strength side.

That may work out for them, as Penrith hasn’t had many games at full strength in the second half of the year, and the combinations that tore teams to shreds early on are now a bit rusty. Jarome Luai in particular is suffering a post-Origin hangover, while Stephen Crichton is deep in his second year syndrome and forced out to the wing. 

Let’s just take another chance to lament the Eels’ injury luck. Penrith have one fringe bench forward in their casualty ward: Matthew Eisenhuth, who is back for week one of the finals. Melbourne has Josh Addo-Carr as their only question mark. South Sydney has lost as many starters to suspension (Latrell) as injury (Mansour). Manly are basically full strength (Andrew Davey has been out all year, Manase Fainu suspended all season). Only the Roosters eclipse the Eels for injuries, and they have proven themselves immune to the effect of losing players. The Storm win proves this squad, even without Reed and Sivo, can win a competition, but I’d trade being healthy for the first half of the season for being healthy coming into the finals any day.

Intangibles

You’ll never believe it, but it is warm up on the Gold Coast in spring. There’s a chance of rain, but I doubt that’ll matter a whole lot here. Honestly, this section was probably a better home for all of that “for and against resting players” talk, but what is done is done, so let’s move on.

The Opposition

The best Eels buy since Jack Gibson.

You know who is overrated? Viliame Kikau. A shock of blonde hair and a media cheer squad can do remarkable things for a reputation, but if you look at the stats Kikau and Isaiah Papali’i are the same player in attack; equal in try scoring, assists and offloads. A couple of minor differences; Ice Papa takes an extra five runs per game, breaks 50% more tackles, and has made 274 more tackles while missing the same amount as Kikau. To top it all off, Kikau leads all back rowers for errors in a canter, making 27 over 22 games. Papali’i has 11.

Aside from taking a dig at Kikau, I haven’t got much here. Holding off on the core analysis worked for the preview last week, and the road to an Eels premiership almost certainly runs through Penrith (or wherever in Queensland Penrith calls home for the next month), so let’s save revealing the Panthers weaknesses for a later day. Hi Ivan, I know you are reading TCT’s match previews. Blow us a kiss would you?

The story

I doubt I have ever been more wrong in my life than I was in the preview last week, and back in 2012 I said Bitcoin had less chance of success than Stephen Kearney. Still, I feel very confident predicting scoreboard misery in this one. More than half the team named this week played in the Eels last NSW Cup game before lockdown, with Will Penisini I believe the only player from that starting lineup still in the Eels bubble who is not named this weekend. That team would have been stretched to beat the Panthers NSW Cup team (who had a single loss to the point of season suspension, to be fair) let alone the first grade side.

Maybe the Eels should unveil a Wenty Magpies alternate jersey just for this week so the team feels at home.

But that’s okay, because this one isn’t about winning and losing. Well, if we win it is about winning, because it would be the biggest upset in recent NRL history/since last week. But if we lose, that’s fine. It says nothing about how a rematch in a few weeks would go. If you are worried about Penrith, remember we matched them blow for blow back in round 16 and gave their middle all it could handle in a game decided by a missed penalty goal. Losing this week will not change our chances coming up.

The worst thing that could happen here is we play a couple of Panthers into form. Jarome Luai has been in a bit of a funk after an electric start to the year. Nathan Cleary is still hitting his peak after a mid season injury break. What shapes as an opposed training run for them might be what they need to tune up for the finals. Both Penrith and Melbourne have tapered off in the last month, and while it might be something planned by the coaching staff, it could also be fatigue and teams figuring them out, just a little bit. We may have woken the Storm from their slumber last week, if we do the same to Penrith this week we’re just making things harder for ourselves down the line.

Look, don’t expect much from this game. Have a movie lined up and ready to go, don’t sweat the result, enjoy watching footy without sweating on every tackle that should or could be a six again. I think the B-team will surprise us, but they won’t go anywhere near beating Penrith. It might hold close for a while, but class will win out. Let’s just hope we can rough them up a bit and give them something to think about in a rematch down the line.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: Penrith Panthers 34 d Parramatta Eels 6

Man of the Match: Jarome Luai

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Jimmyeel

3 tries to the Eels would make my day, that and some defence that frustrates the Panthers attacking structures. Really hope Will Smith and Bryce Cartwright have great games and of course, Joey L stays fit. Wouldn’t be surprised if he gets rested as well in the 2nd half.

sixties

I’d be resting Lussick too.

Baylo

I am really looking forward to this one. More then I thought I would with all the players that BA is resting. I think these young blokes might spring an upset. Carty to have a blinder and score a double. Love your work

sixties

It’s a bit of the great unknown isn’t it. We were looking forward to Eels vs Panthers in NSW Cup as they were the top two teams. Little did I know it would be Eels NSW Cup vs Riff NRL.

Zero58.

Tell me more about Perham. .
I was unhappy about the team but, East won last night so it won’t matter now. Looking forward to watching some players I haven’t seen this year. Should be an interesting game.

sixties

Can basically play any spot in the backline, has been mostly fullback in reggies. Quite fast. Not a big frame. Played on loan vs Wests in reggies earlier this year. Total of 9 NRL games for Warriors.

Shaun

Looking forward to seeing how some of the new faces go. Of course if the Storm beat the Sharks, Penrith will need win by over 131 plus the margin from the Storm game to win the minor premiership.

sixties

Let’s view this game for what it is. Blooding a chunk of players, getting game time into others, rewarding bubble fringe players with a game and resting NRL boys.

Clive

Now while I would never condone foul play this situation in the good old days would have been a prime opportunity to “test” out a couple of the Panthers key players. Imagine the implications if Cleary, Luai, Fisher Harris etc get injured.and the uproar if it was a result of a Latrell Mitchell style act of foul play.

I am keen to see the Young guys play and I am praying our key guys that are still in the team come away unscathed.

sixties

Good luck to them all Clive. Nobody want to see injuries in round 25.

pete

Great report Gol. Really looking forward to seeing this game. Well done to BA for holding his nerve and resting and refreshing the squad. BA has been under enormous pressure and he’s done a great job. I’m excited about this team selection and I’m confident that we will equip ourselves very well and will exceed expectations. All the pressure moves onto the Panthers and it’s potentially a lose-lose game for them. Panthers will need to win by 50 to really get anything out of it. Anything less will be considered a failure and will knock their confidence going into the… Read more »

sixties

So it’s a lose lose situation for them. Sounds fair.

Anonymous

Carty showing why he is not a starting first grader.
May of played himself out of the 17 tonight

Anonymous

Makatoa and stone played themselves onto the bench,
Ice and junior start in front row, Matto and Marata second row
Bench
Reg
Makatoa
Stone
Lane

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