The lazy rugby league headline writers (so basically all of them) will have it in drafts already: “X point turnaround as Broncos rebound after week from hell”. In a game where form is week to week it always seems to astound people that a team that is belted one week can then come out and play well the next. Here’s hoping it isn’t as big a surprise to the Parramatta Eels players and coaches, who rarely need an excuse to phone it in on the big stage.
That’s all a bit down for a week where we are coming off a huge win, but Parramatta has a major problem with playing poorly when expecting to win, and Brisbane towelled them up only one month ago, at home. Whatever happened to the Broncos last week doesn’t mean a thing in this contest, though Melbourne did expose some passages for attack that the Eels could find fruitful.
Parramatta has more than enough talent to beat the Broncos, and the difference between winning and losing is as much as a top four position and almost certainly hosting a finals match. Last Brisbane preview I said “if they aren’t getting up for this run, they aren’t footballers”, so let’s hope this group of non-footballers in Eels jerseys can get up this time around.
Date: Thursday August 25, 2022
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 7:50 PM AEST
Referee: Grant Atkins
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo
Head-to-Head: Played 62, Eels 27, Broncos 34, Drawn 1
Odds: Eels $1.65 Broncos $2.25
Lines: Eels -2.5, total points 49.5
Fact: The Brisbane Broncos share price dropped 6% after the Storm put 60 on them
Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)
Last week it was a matter of odds on/look on for the tip.
I’m not fond of the favourites tag that the Eels will be carrying into this week. It pays little regard to the Broncos convincing victory over the Parra just a few short weeks ago.
Nonetheless, the Eels should back up their return to form last week with a win over a Broncos side that has had the wobbles of late.
I’m looking at the “score a try and win” market and backing Shaun Lane to grab a try in an Eels victory. It’s a nice return of $7.50.
Happy, responsible punting everyone.
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson. 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Jake Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore.
18. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Bryce Cartwright 21. Sean Russell 22. Ky Rodwell.
Yeah, I’m not defending this one. Brad Arthur must love “the discourse” because I and most fans thought the bench combination last weekend was a winner and shouldn’t have been changed. The Broncos have some big middles and roughed the Eels up last time around, it is a good week for a utility forward in Bryce Cartwright rather than injury cover in Jake Arthur. At least the game is on Thursday so we only suffer two days of whinging.
UPDATE: It appears Bryce Cartwright may be missing this week to be able to attend to personal matters, so let’s not jump the gun about his exclusion just yet.
At least Makahesi Makatoa has earned his spot back, playing a couple of big NSW Cup games with dual 68 minute stints and running for over 200 metres two weeks ago. Ofahiki Ogden probably deserved more of a chance to be that impact runner in first grade, but Brad clearly wants the known quantity in Mak Attak. He won’t let us down.
I liked the late swap last week between Marata Niukore and Ryan Matterson, with Simba bullying Tevita Pangai Junior so badly he got dropped to reserve grade. That’s a good use of the energy Niukore can bring, though the Broncos lack that same kind of “enforcer” without Carrigan in the team so he might revert to his bench role here.
1. Te Maire Martin 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Brenko Lee 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Ryan James. 14. Billy Walters 15. Kobe Hetherington 16. Corey Jensen 17. Rhys Kennedy.
18. Delouise Hoeter 19. Jordan Pereira 20. Tyson Gamble 21. Keenan Palasia 22. Zac Hosking
Not many missing for the Broncos at the moment, with Herbie Farnworth having missed half the season through injury and Pat Carrigan suspended. Kurt Capewell is a risk after limping off last week but is named as of now.
Coach Kevin Walters has seemingly settled on his spine, with the sure hand of Te Maire Martin preferred over the erratic defensive efforts of Tesi Niu while Jake Turpin and Billy Walters share hooking duties. Ezra Mam took his opportunity and looks to be the long term partner for Adam Reynolds. They’ve played some decent football together but Brisbane has been plenty shaky at times and targeting the rookie halfback, workmanlike hooker and temporary fullback sounds like a good way to continue that trend this week.
Last time around the Eels were beaten in three aspects: effort, execution and fortune. There was undoubtedly some luck going the Broncos way with kick bounces, deflections and knock downs, but Parramatta compounded the issue by being weak in contact defensively and mistake prone in attack. There were massive cracks in the Broncos defensive line but Parramatta couldn’t string enough good ball together to exploit them, and Brisbane found themselves with plenty of good chances because our highly paid, very experienced forward pack couldn’t tackle Tom Flegler or Pat Carrigan.
Winning this one, like winning most football games, starts in the middle. Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo have been eased off for the last month; Reg has played less than 50 minutes the last two weeks after averaging 54 since round 15, Junior’s average over the last month is down a few minutes on his season as well. It doesn’t sound like much, but it should mean a bit more fuel in the tank for the big matches, of which Parramatta will be playing nothing but until the end of the year.
Last week should also give a glimpse into how the rest of the pack will help ease the load on the big bookends. Shaun Lane has never been known as a tough yardage carries player, but he was getting the ball early in the tackle count and doing a very effective job of the hard work against Canterbury. Marata Niukore played a blistering first 20 minutes as an impact lock before the more creative Ryan Matterson entered the match, Niukore making as much of an impact defensively as he did with the ball. Where many teams rely on their outside backs to ease the load (with varying levels of effectiveness) Parramatta has a one-week sample of getting their big men more involved in those situations. I’d like to see more of it, because we certainly have the forward rotation to do it.
With a competitive middle and no need to play panic-ball, the Eels attacking structures should fall into place and the inconsistency and mistakes that plagued the last Broncos loss should vanish. Then it becomes a matter of attacking the weaknesses in this Brisbane side. Mostly that is the right edge defence, where Jordan Riki had a nightmare game last week while Kotoni Staggs has never been known as a great defensive player. With the two form players in the Parramatta squad being Dylan Brown and Shaun Lane, expect both to feature prominently in the gameplan.
There is reason to be hopeful coming into the final straight of season 2022. Clint Gutherson has come good after an up and mostly down season, Mitchell Moses made a successful return from injury and immediately Isaiah Papali’i morphed back into a superstar back rower. Tom Opacic has offered plenty on both sides of the ball at centre and the ill effects of Ryan Matterson’s rib injury lasted only one week. If you choose to believe the front row have just been eased off for the big games ahead, the only Eel in the squad that you could say is not at his peak is Reed Mahoney. Timing is everything in rugby league and I would dearly love for Parramatta to have been timing their run every second week for the last five months rather than being an inconsistent mess. Big efforts for the rest of the year will go some way to proving that ludicrous theory.
This is a big game, no doubt. That would normally mean something, but like a broken record I’ll stutter it out again: Parramatta aren’t a normal football team and occasion means nothing to them. Surely the taste of finals footy and the chance for revenge against Penrith is a huge motivating factor this late in the season. Maybe the Eels click and put another big score on the Broncos, elevating themselves into the ranks of Melbourne and setting up a huge final week showdown. Maybe I’m just being hopeful.
Brisbane are there to be beaten. Their most convincing win by a long way in the last two months was against us, and that was a gift as the Eels beat themselves with stupidity and softness. Good teams usually rebound from an unlikely hiding like the one the Broncos copped last week, but the motivation from that is temporary and the flaws are harder to fix. Like the Manly game showed, if you can weather that high effort early period, teams with flaws can be broken down. Last time we played, that early period saw the Eels down by 20 and a hot start this week is a must.
I’ve believed most of this season, so what is one more week going to hurt me? I’m expecting a finals level performance from the Eels, and am sure that will be more than enough to handily handle the Broncos.
Go you Eels!
Prediction: Parramatta 36 d Brisbane 16
Man of the Match: Shaun Lane