The relatively fledgling nature of the NRLW means it is still prone to throw out some truly bizarre playoff scenarios. Whereas in the NRL we often scoff when a team limps into the finals on the back of 12-win (or less) seasons the 2022 NRLW has spat out one of the most unique ‘win & in’ situations we have seen. Despite entering the 5th and final round of the regular season without a win to their name, the Parramatta Eels have two simple requirements to take part in the finals.
First things first. They take care of their business against the Brisbane Broncos with a win that includes a margin of victory of at least 6-points. Despite the fact that the Broncos hold an 11-point advantage in points differential over the Blue & Gold, the head-to-head match up means the critical break even points is set at the aforementioned 6-points. Secondly, they need the runaway favourites for the title in the Sydney Roosters to take care of the Gold Coast Titans by any margin.
That is it. Meet those two conditions and the currently winless Eels will punch a ticket to take on the Roosters in sudden death finals footy.
Needless to say, the finals have come early for the Parramatta Eels and it is time for Dean Widders, Simaima Taufa, Tiana Penitani and the women of our NRLW to stand up and be counted!
Date: Sunday September 18, 2022
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Kick Off: 12:05 PM, AEST
Referee: Kasey Badger
Senior Review Official: Chris Butler
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo
|1||Gayle Broughton||1||Hayley Maddick|
|2||Zali Fay||2||Julia Robinson|
|3||Tiana Penitani (c)||3||Jaime Chapman|
|4||Rikeya Horne||4||Shenae Ciesiolka|
|5||Cassey Tohi-Hiku||5||Emily Bass|
|6||Ashleigh Quinlan||6||Tarryn Aiken|
|7||Tayla Preston||7||Ali Brigginshaw (c)|
|8||Filomina Hanisi||8||Annetta Nu’uausala|
|9||Seli Mailangi||9||Jada Ferguson|
|10||Ellie Johnston||10||Chelsea Lenarduzzi|
|11||Christian Pio||11||Jasmine Fogavini|
|12||Vanessa Foliaki||12||Amber Hall|
|13||Simaima Taufa (c)||13||Sophie Holyman|
|14||Kennedy Cherrington||14||Amy Turner|
|15||Rueben Cherrington||15||Hannah Larsson|
|21||Brooke Anderson||16||Brianna Clark|
|17||Rima Butler||17||Nita Maynard|
|18||Abbi Church||18||Paige Parker|
|17||Ruby-Jean Kennard||22||Sara Sautia|
The Parramatta Eels
Parramatta’s backline has gradually transformed over the course of this season. While the pair of stalwarts in Gayle Broughton and Tiana Penitani have locked up their respective positions the winds of change have blown through the remaining thee positions. Rikeya Horne has made a successful shift from wing to centre while the wings themselves have seen a youthful surge as Zali Fay and Cassey Tohi-Hiku have emerged. Hopefully Coach Widders has finally locked in on the ideal balance of experience, speed, talent and discipline in his backline because they will need to maximise their opportunities against the Broncos.
Continuity is the name of the game across the rest of the team and indeed the only change of note in the lead up to the Sunday afternoon showdown comes on the bench as Brooke Anderson slips onto the interchange at the expense of Ruby-Jean Kennard.
Given the lack of change, the expectation is that everyone knows their jobs, each player knows what their assignments are and they will go out there and execute against Brisbane with gusto.
The Brisbane Broncos
While it is clear that these aren’t the same Broncos that galloped to three consecutive NRLW titles, they are not to be taken lightly by any means. A slow opening fortnight has given way to a strong victory over the Titans and a golden point loss to the Dragons. They have rounded into a legitimate patch of form and with the ever deadly Ali Brigginshaw at the helm they will not go quietly into the night.
Brigginshaw is without a doubt the player that the Eels will be keying onto the most given the dual threat she presents with the run and pass but among the outside backs Parramatta will need to keep tabs on Julia Robinson and Jamie Chapman in particular. Chelsea Lenarduzzi is the player to target in the forward pack and she is without a doubt the tone setter for the Brisbane middles. Contain her and you go a long way towards winning the ruck.
Former Eel Nita Maynard has landed a place on the Brisbane bench this week and there is always an almost morbid curiosity about how ex-Eels will fare against the Blue & Gold. I certainly expect her to play with a chip on the shoulder and look to take a cheeky dart or two around the ruck.
Parramatta’s talismanic lock forward has been every bit the absolute machine that she was earlier this year in the delayed 2021 season. It seems almost unfair to somehow levy any more responsibilities onto her shoulders but big time games require the most from your big time players. I have no doubt that Taufa is going to churn through 150+ running metres and a whole stack of tackles but this is the kind of clash where the fittest and hungriest players put themselves in the right place at the right time to make the critical play. A crucial four pointer or a game-saving tackle – look for Taufa to at that key juncture in the game.
As with Simaima above there is no dancing around the fact that each of core players needs to deliver against the Broncos. This is a game primed for Kennedy Cherrington to be the wild card from the bench. Brisbane’s pack are by no means pushovers but Kennedy has been a consistent force for the Blue & Gold with three games over 100m in her four appearances but Sunday represents the chance for her to take over the game. Leave it all out there Kennedy.
We have had some incredible glimpses of how much talent Gayle Broughton possesses. Her first half against the Dragons showed her All-World skills, in particular a wonderful combination with Penitani, but adapting to the younger rugby code has been a process for her. Trying to cram a month’s work of rugby league lessons into what amounts as a make-or-break final exam is a tough ask but if the Eels are to win the day they need their star fullback to put it all together.
Even if she isn’t flawless across the 70-minutes the key for Gayle is simply to stay involved. Be in and round the ball and things will happen for her. In fact, playing the shadow of the other two key players above will almost certainly open up massive second phase opportunities and perhaps even the keys to victory.
That aforementioned 6 point victory will take the Parramatta Eels a huge step closer to having two senior teams in the penultimate week of the season. Head up to the beautiful Central Coast to cheer the ladies on, or tune in from around midday.