Although the Eels are still winless this season after facing a series of setbacks, the girls are continuing to impress with their determination and unwavering commitment to improvement each week.
This was typified in their narrow loss to the third- placed, in-form Canberra Raiders. The season has turned around from a sense of lost hope and unlucky injuries to using the losses as a stepping stone, propelling them forward on a journey of growth and progress.
This week’s opponents, the North Queensland Cowboys, have lost two out of their last three games, conceding forty points to the Sharks last weekend and the Broncos three rounds ago. Two weeks ago against the Tigers, they escaped with a four-point win.
For the Eels, it’s a matter of replicating their NRL counterparts and finding that confidence to push for victory.
Date: Saturday, August 26, 2023
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 11:05 AM AEST
Referee: Cameron Paddy
Senior Review Official: Dave Munro
Broadcast: Channel Nine and Foxtel
Live Stream: Kayo & Nine Now
1. Abbi Church 2. Zali Fay 3. Kimberley Hunt 4. Cassey Tohi-Hiku 5. Monique Donovan 6. Pikhua Berryman-Duff 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Talesha O’Neill 9. Rueben Cherrington 10. Tyla Amiatu 11. Amelia Mafi 12. Mahalia Murphy 13. Jade Fonua 15. Noaria Kapua 17. Nakia Davis-Welsh 19. Ruby-Jean Kennard-Ellis 20. Madeline Jones
14. Capri Paekau 21. Lindsay Tui
The Eels are bolstered by Ruby-Jean Kennard Ellis, Madeline Jones and Nakia Davis-Welsh coming into the lineup.
Boss Kapua will come off the bench for the Eels, after arriving at the club as a mid-season signing.
Capri Paekau steps back to the 18th player role.
There is also increasing speculation that rising star Lindsay Tui will make her debut. However, this is yet to be confirmed by the Eels.
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Francesca Goldthorp 2. Vitalina Naikore 3. Jasmine Peters 4. Shellie Long 5. Krystal Blackwell 6. Tahlulah Tillett 7. Kirra Dibb 8. Tallisha Harden 9. Emma Manzelmann 10. Makenzie Weale 11. Bree Chester 12. Libby Surha 13. Tiana Raftstrand-Smith 14. Jetaya Faifua 15. Jessikah Reeves 16. China Polata 18. Sareka Mooka
19. Mia Middleton 22. Essay Banu
The Cowboys have lost Shaniah Power (foot injury) and Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (torn ACL) for the rest of the season
Makenzie Weale moves into the front row, Bree Chester replaces Power and Krystal Blackwell replaces Autumn, leaving April Ngatupuna and Sera Koroi out of the line-up. Kirra Dibb remains their key player at halfback.
The Cowboys enter this game 9th on the ladder, but still pushing for a finals berth.
Eels Improving Attack
The Eels have become more aggressive in attack and look to have unearthed some X factor players in Tohi-Hiku and Amiatu.
After falling behind by 18 to nil during the opening twenty minutes against the Raiders, they fought their way back, scoring 22-10 in the ensuing fifty minutes of the game.
Without doubt they have been committed to executing their game plan, even in adverse situations. They will make their task easier if they can eliminate the number of unforced errors which continue to be their greatest downfall.
The Development of the Forward Pack
Over the last two weeks the Eels forwards have created a far better platform for their halves, which has allowed Rachel Pearson to shine.
Despite not having their star players in Kennedy Cherrington and Elsie Albert, others have stepped up to the plate. Tyla Amiatu has belied her inexperience, both bending the line in attack and adding stability to the defence. Her combination with Mahalia Murphy and Rueben Cherrington is giving the Eels a genuine presence in the middle third.
Cherrington has also been a revelation, adjusting to the dual dummy half/lock forward role.Her versatility allows coach Widders to have greater flexibility in his bench selections.
Activate Cassey Tohi-Hiku
Cassey Tohi-Hiku’s emergence as a future star is becoming increasingly evident. Her defence has been most impressive and has become a vital component of the team’s improved performances, The cohesion in the Eels edge defence can be largely attributed to her defensive reads.
The young centre’s commitment to all aspects of her game is a credit to her maturity as a player at such a young age. Even now she is a key asset to the team.
I’d like to see Tohi-Hiku get more touches of the ball in attack. She is a powerful and elusive runner with the potential to disrupt opposition defences. If the Eels playmakers can get her some early ball, it could be game changing.
Building good habits will be the determining factor in this match.
Catching the ball on the kick-off, finding better coordination between the lead runner and decoy runners in set plays, and better ball security in yardage are basics that will help the Eels to find their first win of the season.
Both teams are missing players, but if Dibb gets a mountain of touches and the Cowboys are allowed to dominate in attack due to Eels errors, defensive fatigue will again become Parra’s enemy.
The Eels don’t need to worry about winning pretty in this one. It’s time to grind out a 70 minute performance. Finding a victory would do wonders for Parra. Sometimes, all a team needs is a win on the scoreboard, no matter how ugly it looks.
Prediction: Eels 20 Cowboys 16
Player of the Game: Cassey Tohi-Hiku