The Eels and Dragons are chasing their first two points of the season after struggling in their opening round clashes last weekend.
Against the Knights, the Dragons came up short despite giving supporters cause for optimism through the impressive performances of fullback Teagan Berry and half Tyla Nathan-Wong.
Likewise, the Eels couldn’t get the job done against the Tigers after leading 8-4 with 20 minutes remaining. After the teams went set for set, Botille Vette-Welsh and Losana Lutu created havoc as the visitors went on a 32 point rush to run away with the game.
The clash with the Dragons is an important game for an Eels team still missing key recruits Elsie Albert and Rachael Pearson.
Date: Saturday, July 29, 2023
Venue: Win Stadium Stadium, Wollongong
Kick-off: 3:10 PM AEST
Broadcast: Channel Nine and Foxtel
Live Stream – Kayo & Nine Now
St George Illawarra Dragons
1 Teagan Berry 2. Margot Vella 3. Keele Browne 4. Bobbi Law 5. Cortez Te Pou 6. Tyla Nathan-Wong 7. Raecene McGregor 8. Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa 9. Renee Targett 10. Roxette Murdoch 11. Sara Sautia 12. Shenai Lenbill 13. Alexis Tauaneai 14. Kaarla Cowan 15. Ella Koster 16. Tara McGrath-West 17. Maddison Weatherall
18. Zali Hopkins 19. Cheynoah Amone 20. Sophie Clancy 21. Taylor-Adeline Mapusua 22. Macie Carlile
Significant changes have been made to the Dragons line up after losing 32-16 against the defending premiers the Newcastle Knights.
Zali Hopkins has shifted to 18th player after wearing the 14 jersey in Newcastle, meanwhile, Roxette Murdoch shifts to the front row, pushing Tara McGrath-West to the bench. Cortez and Margot come in as the new wingers with Lendill now playing in the back-row.
Last week’s edge defence for the Dragons was poor in what was expected to be a more competitive match. Furthermore, the starting and bench middles allowed the Knights too much leeway at their bread and butter of yardage. This became the ideal platform for Tamika Upton and Jesse Southwell to ignite the red zone attack.
1 Abbi Church 2. Zali Fay 3. Mahalia Murphy 4. Shontelle Stowers 5. Cassey Tohi-Hiku 6. Pihuka Berryman-Duff 7. Rosemarie Beckett 8. Madeline Jones 9. Rueben Cherrington 10. Ruby-Jean Kennard-Ellis 11. Amelia Mafi 12. Talesha O’Neill 13. Kennedy Cherrington 14. Capri Paekau 15. Nakia Davis-Welsh 16. Shannon Muru 17. Monique Donovan
18. Tyla Amiatu 19. Kyra Simon 20. Kimberley Hunt 21. Taneka Todhunter 22. Chloe Jackson
Unlike last round, the Eels have been able to complete a week’s preparation without Albert and Pearson. That’s a huge difference to losing key players during the captain’s run, and allows for the incoming players to become more familiar with their roles.
The backline stays the same, impressive with their yardage and attacking forays off half-field sets. Unfortunately, poor execution and an almost non-existent kicking game to complete sets, presented the Tigers with very few defensive questions. As a consequence, the Tigers had the energy to attack with confidence.
The debutante Rosemarie Beckett comes in for Jade Fonua in the halfback role. Fonua, last week’s replacement for Pearson injured her hand in the opening minutes of the game, adding to the Eels early season injury woes.
Madeline Jones gets a starting spot after impressing when others struggled. Nakia Davis-Welsh comes into the bench rotation alongside Paekau, Muru and Donovan.
According to some late mail, Kyra Simon is a chance of being included in the final team list.
Raecene McGregor Needs Better Service
In last weekend’s clash, McGregor only touched the ball 44 times and as a result played passively. In the 2022 season, McGregor averaged 50 touches per game and plays her best when she is aggressive and playing much more direct at the line.
Given the Eels defensive struggles, especially as they fatigued, this could be the perfect game for the 2022 Dally M medalist to get her hands on the ball more often and ask questions of the Eels.
Furthermore, her combination with Tyla Nathan-Wong showed a lot of promise, with the five-eighth scoring on her NRLW debut.
What Can Rosemarie Beckett Offer?
Rosemarie Beckett is a must-watch. The 2022 Eels Tarsha Gale playmaker is a halfback of considerable promise, and played a significant role in her Parramatta team finishing second at the conclusion of last year’s regular rounds.
Though we shouldn’t overburden Beckett with too many expectations, her talent has elevated her to the NRLW stage. A bit of offensive spark from her and Berryman-Duff will be critical in achieving victory.
What Do The Eels Need To Improve?
The trial game was really hard to judge, as the game was played in three 20-minute periods. With big changes at the end of the first and second periods, the Eels and Dragons did not have all of their starters on.
Still, the Eels showed signs of their physicality, a coherent attacking game, as well as resilience in defence.
Without their two biggest recruits, this match is about having a step-up mentality and trusting the player next to them, especially in defence.
Aggression and intensity will be key at the start of the game, with captain Kennedy Cherrington leading the way. Cherrington produced some big numbers last week, running 126 metres, with 46 post-contact metres made and 31 tackles. The Eels need her heart and soul to become contagious.
Parra’s last tackle options have to include kicks. Zali Fay demonstrated her athleticism in leaping for the ball, and the Eels need to take advantage of this. Her two tries showcased her pace and finishing skills.
A passive defence last week will not cut it against the Dragons. Parra will need a much improved line speed and some of the desperate scramble defence that they mustered in the first half against the Tigers.
I still believe the Eels have the ability to win this game, despite the current injury adversity.
Prediction: Parramatta Eels by 6
Player of the Game: Rosemarie Beckett