The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 22, 2022: Eels vs Rabbitohs

Here we go again. After tumbling down Mount Redfern on every attempt to conquer it over the last three years, the Eels have brushed themselves off and are taking another crack. The attempts haven’t been pretty, rarely has Parramatta even looked like reaching base camp, let alone the top, but maybe things will be different as the Eels step it up in the run to the finals.

There are reasons to be hopeful. Last week against Manly wasn’t a complete performance but the attack was strong, even in the absence of Mitchell Moses. The Eels did well to shut down the early energy from Manly, then recovered well to wrestle the game back after falling behind. They’ll need to do more than just dig deep against Souths, especially in defence, but seeing consistent effort back-to-back weeks is a good start.

Few Eels fans will be confident, but a win on Friday night will have the Parramatta premiership hype train charging full steam ahead towards the finals. South Sydney is the final frontier, and in a year where we’ve beaten Penrith twice, Melbourne away and ended Manly’s season, one more milestone would make for a very nice set.

Game Info

Date: Friday August 12, 2022
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 7:55 PM AEST
Referee: Grant Atkins
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo


Head-to-Head: Played 132, Eels 55, Rabbitohs 74, Drawn 3
Odds: Eels $2.45, Sea Eagles $1.55
Lines: Eels +4.5, total points 46.5
Fact: Parramatta last beat Souths in round 12, 2019. The only players from that game in the South Sydney squad this week are Tevita Tatola and Mark Nicholls. Six Eels remain: Clint Gutherson, Maika Sivo, Reed Mahoney, Junior Paulo, Shaun Lane and Marata Niukore.


Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Last week I steered you towards taking Parra at -5.5 points in the pick your own line market. It returned odds of $2.80, and hopefully some of you were bold enough to select an even greater margin.

If the well is full of water, you should keep drinking from it. Therefore, I’m going back to the pick your own line market and taking Parra at -4.5. That’s paying $3.20, and simply requires the Eels to win by a converted try.

Happy, responsible punting everyone.



Parramatta Eels

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jake Arthur 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson. 14. Ofahiki Ogden 15. Bryce Cartwright 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore.

18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Ky Rodwell 21. Sean Russell 22. Elie El-Zakhem.

Big impact is expected from a big man

One change to the side that beat Manly, with Makahesi Makatoa replaced by Ofahiki Ogden making his Eels debut on the bench. The writing was on the wall for Makatoa after he backed up first grade on Friday night with NSW Cup on Sunday, and by the eye test Ogden is a closer match to “impact forward”. It isn’t a huge change, but at least Brad Arthur is trying something with the troublesome bench.

A name of note in the reserves is Bailey Simonsson who has also been named at centre in NSW Cup, perhaps indicating that Tom Opacic’s move to the starting side is permanent. This also solidifies Waqa Blake’s shift to the wing, where he showed off spectacular acrobatic ability last week, as well as some trademark shaky defence. We’ll get to all that.

There is some concern over Ryan Matterson, who left the field for a HIA in the closing stages of the Sea Eagles clash though whether he passed it or not is one of the great mysteries. Given his history it would not surprise to see the club remain cautious; expect Ky Rodwell to get a recall to the bench should Matterson be rested.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Jaxson Paulo 4. Isaiah Tass 5. Izaac Thompson 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Hame Sele 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray. 14. Blake Taaffe 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Siliva Havili 17. Davvy Moale.

18. Taane Milne 19. Dean Hawkins 20. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 21. Shaquai Mitchell 22. Josh Mansour.

A few outs for the Rabbitohs with Tom Burgess not making his expected return from suspension due to a groin strain, while centre Campbell Graham also remains sidelined. Doubt remains over halfback Lachlan Ilias; Blake Taaffe or Dean Hawkins would be the replacement if he can’t go.

While exploiting a weak backline defence is usually what Souths does to us, there are chances there with the fresh combinations on both sides of the field. Tass and Thompson are rookies while Paulo often still plays like one, though they were just fine in executing the trademark Rabbitohs backline shifts last weekend. Get some good ball though and the chances will be there.

The Game

I could do a deep statistical breakdown of why South Sydney beat the crap out of Parramatta every time they play, but I’m going to rely on the eye test being genuine in this case and go with gut feel. There are two main factors: losing the middle and defending the edge.

Parramatta shouldn’t lose a forwards battle to South Sydney. Looking at the quality of cattle, it just shouldn’t happen, but time after time the Eels have been made to look second rate by Mark Nicholls, Tom Burgess, Liam Knight, Tevita Tatola and the Rabbitohs middle rotation. Not all of those names are there on Friday, but it isn’t the troops that does the Eels in as much as the strategy and the service.

Reed hasn’t lived up to his form of 2021, but he needs to lift for this big matchup

Damien Cook is an expert at delivering a flat pass to a runner at full speed, and the Parramatta defensive line has struggled to cope with that. There are more pre-contact metres there for the Rabbitohs forwards, and at top speed they are best placed to gain crucial metres after contact and draw a fast play-the-ball for the process to repeat. Cook both provides very flat service and uses his running game to engage defenders. It’s a simple tactic and one that South Sydney executes very effectively against the Eels.

The counter has to be line speed around the ruck, reducing those pre-contact metres. This creates its own problems with fatigue and potentially leaves the outside defenders isolated, which is probably why Parramatta hasn’t come up with a good answer for it in half a dozen attempts. The big Eels bodies need to be up early, perhaps pushing boundaries to do so, and dig especially deep off fast play-the-balls to neutralise the momentum.

This will mean the outside backs and bench need to do a lot of work out of our own end, another area where Parramatta struggles against Souths. The Rabbitohs own defensive line moves up fast on the inside and the Eels forwards and Reed Mahoney don’t have an adequate response beyond “keep charging through”. Parramatta needs to go two passes wide or outside-in, not just straight into the teeth of a fired up, fresh defensive line. It’ll be a game of confidence and momentum; we’ll know early on if we’re seeing the same old story of the last three years or if things have changed.

The edge defence, well, good luck. It was unfair that the Rabbitohs could keep running their elite shapes with rookies last week, plug anybody in on that left edge and they know where to be and when. The Eels need a new approach, as the silky quick hands of Latrell Mitchell are too good for the inside rush and the passing is too fast and accurate to rely on cover defenders beating Alex Johnston to the corner.

Keeping Souths out of good ball is a big way to neutralise the threat, but easier said than done. The Rabbitohs haven’t been a great side when it comes to discipline, last in the NRL for errors and fifth in penalties conceded, but despite having the best penalty discipline and making the third fewest errors, Parramatta is worst in the NRL at forcing errors. Without the kicking game of Mitchell Moses this becomes an even bigger issue, the Eels will miss his boot being able to pin an opposition inside the 20 even after a lacklustre attacking set.

Waqa the winger has the acrobatics down, but will be tested in defence

It might be another wet one on Friday night, though nothing like the monsoonal conditions of the last clash with the Rabbitohs. South Sydney took advantage last time around with a huge number of repeat sets, kicking behind the defence in slippery conditions and chasing hard, but the Eels were their own worst enemy bringing the ball out of trouble. They need to retain their composure here, which might not be easy if the Rabbitohs do what they usually do and easily score with the first decent opportunity they get.

It isn’t all doom and gloom for that right edge defence, as it recovered incredibly well from being torn to pieces by Dylan Walker, Kieran Foran and Jason Saab in the first half last week to completely shut them down in the second. The combination of Blake and Penisini might be fresh but Waqa has shown he can be up to the job. The best the Eels have managed against Souths was the preliminary final of 2020, where the edge defenders did a decent job, especially considering injury forced a complete reshuffle of the side. That night it was Damien Cook that killed Parramatta.

The Lowdown

If Parramatta can win here I’m ordering my grand final T-shirt, because they’ll be able to handle anything. The Eels have put together back-to-back good efforts in crucial games, and last week overcame adversity and won an arm wrestle to run away with the game late in the second half. It looks like the mental preparation is on and Parramatta has clicked into “finals mode”, but the struggles against Souths are real and just wanting it won’t be enough on Friday night.

How good is the form of Shaun Lane?

Forgive my pessimism but I can’t ignore history. The average margin between these two teams in the last five games is 23 points and the closest the Eels have got is losing by 14. The right edge defence has played one game together, last week, where Jason Saab was allowed to have his best game in Manly colours. Despite improvements in the second half it doesn’t fill me with much confidence that Blake, Penisini and Arthur can handle what Souths will throw at them. Jake is a solid enough defender but his decision making can be a bit tentative, and that will be all Souths need for those saloon passage tries they score down the left side.

I hope I’m wrong here, but hope is what kills you. At least a loss is not terminal for the Eels’ top four chances, though a win would leave us in complete control of our own destiny. If we come out fired up and with a better gameplan then there is every chance of the upset, but I’m not game enough to tip it.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: South Sydney 34 d Parramatta 16

Man of the Match: Latrell Mitchell

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18 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 22, 2022: Eels vs Rabbitohs

  1. Shaun

    Maybe hope is what kills you but hope never dies. Parra to do the improbable or even the impossible and be impressive in showing they are not impostors. RCG first try scorer. Sivo to score a double.

    1. Gol Post author

      Hey no need to apologise. The quality of my end of year TCT pint is determined by my predication accuracy and right now I’m looking at Tooheys Old so occasionally I need to tip against us.

      1. sixties

        Keeping it real mate. Mate I’m honestly tipping the Eels. Wasn’t too confident the last two weeks and was happy to be wrong. I reckon we’ll aim up big time tonight.

  2. DDay

    Good summary Gol.
    It’s not like South’s tactics are unknown, just that their tactics are kryptonite for the Eels.
    Hopeful at best but low expectations.

  3. Jim Muir

    This team is sick of being bullied by the bunnies. I expect some serious determination to give them some of their own treatment and some early bounce of the ball our way, might be all it takes to do a souths on souths. Go Parra!

  4. BDon

    Tks Gol, I didn’t check but that 34-16 loss sounds like your prediction from last week…maybe there’s some method in your art.
    The Storm last night showed that great defence is an attitude, hope some can rub off on us because I reckon the Bunnies saw the Manly strategy and here it comes again.

  5. Zero58

    Well, the clear and present danger is Mitchell. He is just a natural for the game. He is match fit now and will play like Turbo so the team as a whole should call out where he is. Don’t kick to him – kick for the line or the wingers.
    Cook and his darts create havoc – thats Cash’s job to watch him like a hawk. And as for Cody Walker it’s a good day or a bad one. If it’s a bad one he is going to take it out on Jake. I hope the boys are alert yo this.
    The last time they played I can’t recall such artotrocious conditions. Even that match against Cronulla wasn’t as bad. Everything Souths did worked. Mahoney kicked hard down the right wing and AJ just caught it like it was a dry day. They played dry weather footy in the mud and Parra could not adjust. Forever on the back foot.
    Tonight is not mission impossible and I believe they will do it. The whips are cracking let’s hope the Eels have the whip hand.

  6. Anonymous

    Gutho, Lane & Waqa a bit, they tried. The rest were plodders. JA, nice kid, desperate to learn and improve, unfortunately he just doesn’t have the natural ability, he is not and never will be good enough. Matto, true to form, plays well when his contract is coming up for renewal, contract secured and back to plodding. Dylan, WTF? So much ability and he was putrid last night. Poor old Carty, gets on earlier and shows some attacking spark, so BA takes him
    Off? We were losing the middle so BA leaves his big 17 off until what? 75th min. The season is done. The coach is done.

    1. Anonymous

      Yes there will be people here hanging their hats on that, we beat the Storm at home, we best Penrith 3 times, JA was a standout in the trials, blah, blah, meanwhile we miss the top 4 and limp out of the semis. Rinse repeat

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