The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 10, 2023: Eels vs Titans

First up, congratulations to the Eels 2023 SG Ball side, who claimed the first premiership in a hot minute for the Parramatta Eels with a nailbiting win over Newcastle last weekend. Let’s hope some of those kids become household names in the not too distant future.

Now it’s time for everybody’s favourite rugby league gimmick of the moment, Magic Round! Eight games, one city, often imitated, never duplicated. I’ll be heading up to Brisbane for my taste of magic before rugby league collectively decides that it isn’t cool anymore, so wish me luck come Sunday evening when the Eels and Titans close the show.

Suncorp Stadium has held up well to previous festivals of football, but recent weather and the fact the ground has been chopped to pieces by a single game most weekends leaves me little hope that the Eels and Titans will be playing on much more than a well trod cow paddock. Let us all pray that ankles and knees hold strong.

The Titans gave the Eels some trouble last year in both contests, but the good guys in Blue and Gold were ultimately victorious on both occasions. That extended the Eels winning streak over the Gold Coast to seven wins, the Titans last victory in this rivalry coming in 2017. Our spine in that game was Bevan French at fullback, Clint Gutherson and Jeff Robson in the halves, and Kaysa Pritchard at hooker. It’s been a while. Let’s hope the dominance continues this weekend.

Game Info

Date: Sunday May 7, 2023
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 6:25PM AEST
Referee: Chris Butler
Bunker: Ben Cummins
Weather: Warm, dry
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo

Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

There is so much that I don’t like about this match as a punting proposition.

First up is the predicted condition of the surface. The turf will be cut up badly given it’s the last match of eight on Suncorp Stadium. How this impacts the play is hard to know. Let’s hope that injuries aren’t a factor.

Secondly this match is two weeks after the Darwin clash, and for some reason it’s where the physical toll of that game catches up.

Finally, there’s the travel factor with another flight away from home. No sir, I don’t like it.

I’m not saying that the Eels can’t get the job done. Far from it. However, the combination of these factors makes me wary about recommending any investment, especially in a season that’s already been tough to predict.

Based on recent previous encounters, I think this will be a relatively high scoring affair. I also believe that Parra will cover a margin just larger than a converted try.

For those reasons I’m looking at the line/ over under double and taking the Eels at -7.5/over 46.5 total match points which is returning $3.30.

Happy responsible punting.




Parramatta Eels

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Haze Dunster 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Wiremu Greig 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Andrew Davey 13. J’maine Hopgood.14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Brendan Hands 16. Ryan Matterson 17. Makahesi Makatoa.

18. Jake Arthur 19. Sean Russell 20. Ofahiki Ogden 21. Matt Doorey 22. Jack Murchie.

A couple of changes, as Bailey Simonsson makes his return from a nasty head knock in Darwin, pushing Sean Russell to the reserves. It was a coin flip for me as to which man would make way for Bailey, neither Dunster nor Russell has set the world afire, but I’d have kept the guy who can actually run at full pace right now.

Andrew Davey also fast tracks his way into the starting side, we’ll talk about that specifically in the main preview. He pushes Bryce Cartwright back to the bench, with Matt Doorey making his way to the reserves. Ofahiki Ogden is the unlucky man to lose his spot for the returning Ryan Matterson, but that effort last week will keep him front of mind for Brad Arthur should Greig or Makatoa have a down week.

Gold Coast Titans

1. Jayden Campbell 2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira 3. Brian Kelly 4. Jojo Fifita 5. Phillip Sami 6. Kieran Foran 7. Tanah Boyd 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Chris Randall 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Joe Stimson 13. Isaac Liu. 14. Kruise Leeming 15. Erin Clark 16. Klese Haas 17. Joe Vuna.

18. Keano Kini 19. Aaron Schoupp 20. Tom Weaver 21. Thomas Mikaele 22. Sam McIntyre.

AJ Brimson is the big out for the Titans, though he is ably replaced by Mr. Knees himself, Jayden Campbell. I bet he’d get a few weeks for that shot this year now that player safety is a concern again. Then again, no rules seem to apply if you are scoring a try, so who knows. I’m not bitter.

The backline and bench seem to shift every week for injuries and form, so I’m not even sure what a best 17 for the Titans looks like right now. The bench in this form doesn’t look too scary, I’m not sure Klese Haas has the wraps that are on his brother, and there are a few journeymen in that pack with Stimson and Liu. They can’t be taken lightly, but this is a side the Eels should be able to beat.


The relief felt by many Eels fans that the Territory trip is behind us may be premature, as Parramatta’s historic record two weeks following their game at the Darwin Sauna and Storm Centre isn’t pretty. Fatigue sets in, disruptions to preparation and recovery take their effect and the Eels are often flat for this match. That is not an option in 2023.

Welcome back old mate

The good news is the Eels have a nice 9 day turnaround coming off what wasn’t the most physical of contests against the Knights. Forwards that were lightly run in Darwin took up a lot of the heavy load against Newcastle, allowing players such as Junior Paulo, Shaun Lane and Bryce Cartwright to, if not rest, at least moderate their workloads. Ryan Matterson missing the match through illness also allowed his body to get more recovery than expected.

The most interesting part of the lineup is the inclusion of Andrew Davey, a former Eel who has gone the rounds of our arch rivals and decided the grass looks better in Blue and Gold. He’s a tough player and definitely a better defender than Bryce Cartwright or Matt Doorey, but his elevation straight to the starting side before his weekly parking pass at Belmore Oval has expired is a strange one. He clearly brings something Brad Arthur thinks the Eels need, and I imagine that is defensive strength.

The Eels have clawed their way into the top half of the NRL defensive rankings, though the eye test suggests there is still plenty of work for them to do.The edge combinations defended well against Newcastle on the few occasions they were tested, which is an encouraging sign, and the pack had their way with a group of Knights forwards that are no slouches themselves. It was a welcome return to form after the battering the side copped against Brisbane.

That is the one to watch for here against a Titans pack with some real giants. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, David Fifita, Mo Fotuaika, they are all big units that would enjoy some downhill running. Chris Randall might not be the most creative dummy half that gets the side rolling, but fresh English import Kruise Leeming has shown some dangerous touches in his chances and he could cause damage late in halves exploiting a well known Eels weakness behind the ruck.

Wiremu, Makatoa and Ogden stood tall last week, but the fire needs to keep burning for a couple more months to cover the loss of Reagan Campbell-Gillard. How strong the bench performs will go a long way to deciding the result of this game.


The Titans have plenty of talent on paper, but in the game played between the ears they are setting records for fragility. No team has blown so many 20+ point leads in history, and that kind of stink isn’t washed away by one quality win like they had last week against Manly. It can’t be a pleasant feeling to take a four try lead and not feel safe, to concede when up 20+ and think “we might get done here”. It’s a boon for commentators trying to keep a game interesting, but it is punishing to support as a fan. If the Gold Coast Suns ever come good the Titans are in some real trouble if they keep this up.

Still, it isn’t a viable strategy for NRL wins to go out and hope your opponent will fall to pieces if they take a lead. Luckily the Titans have proven to be a relatively easy team to score against this year, and the traditional gameplan of the Eels “hold the ball, dominate possession, points will come” shouldn’t be interrupted if they can execute successfully. That execution has been the trouble all season long, even in a dominant win last week the error rate was high. Errors trying something are much less damaging than errors out of your own half, but Parramatta makes both types at the moment.

A major threat for the Titans is their speed out wide. It is well known the Eels lack for a bit of top end pace on the flanks, and every member of the Titans back five is known to have a bit of toe. To exploit that will require early spreads off of good middle metres, and perhaps some opportunistic plays around kicks and set pieces, but Parramatta need to be aware and avoid showing faster men the sideline. Haze Dunster will particularly be a target, he’s solid positionally but he is clearly lacking top end pace right now.

A lot of the success in that area for the Titans hinges on whether Kieran Foran plays. He was out for weeks a couple of days ago, now he might be in doubt, but he’s the only level headed playmaker the Gold Coast has. In a game where success for the Titans will come from exploiting very specific Parramatta weaknesses and tendencies, Foran might be the most important player on the field and if he can’t make it on there, I feel a lot better about the Eels’ chances.

The Game

Matto will be primed for a big game

Parramatta can’t afford a down week from here out. While I believe lofty goals such as the top four are still within reach, the Eels have given up their allotted number of close wins in the early stages and now they simply must win every game they jump favourites in. Winning all of those and going 50/50 in the coin flips might be enough for a top four finish in a wide open competition, but dropping any of these games and the top eight becomes a huge risk. It’s a small margin for error, but this is a very tight competition in 2023.

While execution hasn’t been wonderful at times this year, effort and mentality seem to be areas the Eels have solved. There hasn’t been a single week they’ve packed it in, and every loss, even the worst against Brisbane, came with both positives and excuses. If it is as simple as holding the ball, that’s a much easier problem to solve than Brad Arthur sitting there in a press conference explaining yet again how he didn’t know what happened to the side, that they trained well and he didn’t see it coming that they’d phone in another one.

There is always a bit of a worry about these oddball rounds, that a change in preparation and an unusual atmosphere combine to create an environment for upsets, but I’m feeling good about the Eels’ chances. The huge effort from the collective pack last week, especially the lesser lights, both eases the loss of Regan Campbell-Gillard and gives me hope for a truly frightening forward pack when he returns. Let’s turn that from a game into a trend this week, dominate the Titans and hit that 50% win rate.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: Parramatta 34 d Gold Coast 22

Man of the Match: Dylan Brown


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11 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 10, 2023: Eels vs Titans

  1. Anonymous

    I’ve been calling for Ogden all year, it was good for Maca to have a game as he did last week……hopefully the same again. I also rate Murchies defence better than Doory and Cartys put together. We have a strong team named so let’s hope we can grab our 2 points and move onto next week…..Go the Eels!

    Love ya work Gol

    1. sixties

      Anon, that was Ogden’s best performance this year, and by some margin. To the extent that I was surprised when he was named to come into the team. I think what he did was remind BA that he can call on him with some confidence.

  2. Spark

    Talking about Titans players, they have a production line of very good young juniors via Keebra Park High School system coming through.
    They can’t keep them all and they are absolutely ripe for the picking.
    I know that the Roosters (surprise) are throwing some cash and promises around there.
    Would be worth picking up a few.
    I think Toby Sexton is a wonderful young player and would start in a lot of teams in Sydney as would Jayden Campbell.
    Holbrook is a good coach and I believe they are just coming into their own as a club. If they can hold on to most of their kids, they will be a big threat moving forward.
    Foran provides their backline with a lot of calmness and direction and they will be a different side if he doesn’t play.

    1. Anonymous

      If Foran does play it will be with an injured toe and knee so we should be directing a lot of traffic his way.

  3. Milo

    We just need a win as we travel to Canberra next week….that will be even worse I feel but if we want to be No 1 we need to show.

    1. John Eel

      Agree with your comments Milo. I want the Eels to end the year in the top four. To do that games against teams like Titans and Raiders are must win games.

      1. Milo

        Put it this way mate, if we can win tomorrow and next week, I’m sure we will be in 8; or equal and then if we can possibly beat Souffs…then even better. Tbh I’m probably dreaming a bit.

        1. John Eel

          After we beat Titans we will be one win shy of a share of fourth place.

          Just watching Sharks and Dolphins. Dolphins were smashing them. Then we had a blackout.

          We are surrounded by coal fired power stations here at The Entrance and we can’t keep the lights on.

          Seriously we have had more blackouts here in last 2 years than the previous 20 years.

          1. Milo

            We should win tomorrow but open game is a titans dream.
            Ha, coal fired electricity is being shut down John…I don’t see Wind farms helping much. Saw so many in Uk laying idle….and at sea

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