The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 4, 2024: Eels vs Tigers

Lamenting the imminent departure of Hot Cross Buns from supermarket shelves can only mean one thing for Eels fans: Easter Monday and a feisty Wests Tigers team are coming up on the schedule. While I’m grateful for a third afternoon game at CommBank in a row, it would be nice if they could wait until after daylight savings next time so I can watch without needing to hold a hand over my face because no, I never remember to bring sunglasses to the footy thank you very much.

Normally the vagaries of the church calendar mean this is a clash five or six weeks into the season, usually between a Parramatta team coming off an inconsistent start and a Tigers team yet to win a game and under immense pressure. This time around things are different, we’ve got a Wests team that are either good or bad, depending on which of their two contests this year that you put stock in, and an Eels team already ravaged by injury.

Still, the men in Blue and Gold will start warm favourites on a warm Easter Monday afternoon, in front of what is expected to be a capacity crowd. Can the Eels begin life without Mitchell Moses on a winning note? Let’s find out.

Game Info

Date: Monday, April 1, 2024
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 4:00PM AEDT
Referee: Liam Kennedy
Bunker: Grant Atkins
Weather: Hot, dry
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo

Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Excuse me for having a little boast about last week’s tip.

“Recent matches between Parra and Manly have produced high scoring results. In three of the last five clashes, the total match points has been 56 or more.

Therefore, I’ll be heading to the total match points market and taking 51 points or more at the sweet, sweet odds of $3.90.”

Thats now in the past as we look to this week. Despite the Eels being without Moses, and despite the Tigers impressive last up win, the Eels are at short odds to win this game. If you’re looking for value, I can’t recommend any winners market.

Part of me is tempted to suggest treating this as an “odds on, look on” event.

However, let’s go for big value in the “score first, second or third try” market. I’m tempted to select Kelma Tuilagi at $11. It’s his old team and he’s likely to start with the withdrawal of Carty. I’m also thinking about his try last week.

Instead I’ll opt for Dylan Brown at $7.50.

Happy, responsible punting.




Parramatta Eels

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Morgan Harper 5. Sean Russell 6. Blaize Talagi 7. Dylan Brown 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. J’maine Hopgood.14. Luca Moretti 15. Ryan Matterson 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Kelma Tuilagi.

18. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Wiremu Greig 20. Brendan Hands 21. Makahesi Makatoa 22. Bailey Simonsson.

Brad Arthur has embraced the unknown in replacing Mitchell Moses, impressed enough by Blaize Talagi’s pre-season and debut effort to give the youngster a shot at his preferred position for his second first grade game. The unremarkable form of expected first drop Ethan Sanders and the dramatic fade in fortunes of Daejarn Asi in his extended first grade stint last year weren’t the toughest bars to clear, but Talagi earned his spot as one of the most hyped Eels juniors in years through his form in the halves, If anything he should be more comfortable in first grade at a playmaker than a centre.

Brown needs to be the main man here

Maika Sivo returns from suspension to take Talagi’s place in the backline, with Morgan Harper returning to his preferred centre position while Bailey Simonsson makes his comeback from concussion in NSW Cup. While I wouldn’t be giving out first grade spots through sympathy, if there is any question over Simonsson this week I don’t mind Harper getting another shot, especially after his tough run as a winger.

Bryce Cartwright is named to play but it feels unlikely given the stage of the season and the state of his injury. I’m not a doctor, but I think rib injuries, even ones that are “pain tolerance issues” would heal better with rest rather than needles and 80 minutes of first grade football. A reshuffle could involve just about anybody from the extended bench; but Kelma Tuilagi would be the man to come into Cartwright’s starting role.

Wests Tigers

1. Jahream Bula 2. Charlie Staines 3. Solomona Faataape 4. Justin Olam 5. Junior Tupou 6. Lachlan Galvin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Api Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. John Bateman 13. Fonua Pole. 14. Jayden Sullivan 15. Alex Seyfarth 16. Asu Kepaoa 17. Samuela Fainu.

18. Justin Matamua 19. Latu Fainu 20. Alex Lobb 21. Brent Naden 22. Tallyn Da Silva.

If Brad Arthur is giving youth a chance, Benji Marshall is opening the gates and letting the kids rush out onto the grounds. While experienced heads like Bateman, Klemmer, Sezer and Olam ground the side, Bula, Galvin, Faataape, Tupou and Seyfarth played without fear last week, unburdened by a decade of Tigers mediocrity. It was a real shame.

Only one change to the team that got the job done against the Sharks last week, with former Eels lower grader and notorious try scorer Alex Twal out under concussion protocols, replaced by Asu Kepaoa. He debuted as an outside back but has recently found a home on the edge, where he will likely stay this week given the presence of Jayden Sullivan as a pure utility on the bench.

The Simple Things

While there are some technical aspects to the game of football that separate my couch coaching from Brad Arthur, I reckon both of us will be starting from the same point this week: keep it simple. Dominate in the middle, create second phase, respect the footy and don’t give the opposition easy chances. If the game was that easy I’d be in a press conference every weekend getting fined for abusing referees, but if Parramatta are to get the job done on Easter Monday, it won’t be through executing a complicated plan, it’ll be by getting the basics right.

Is it too much to ask that he changes four games in a row when he gets onto the field?

That comes down to the simple mismatch in talent between the teams. While the Tigers technically have a representative forward pack, the reality is that David Klemmer isn’t the player that he once was, and the sport isn’t the same game that he dominated in his early career. Stefano Utoikamanu might be the least deserving Origin representative in New South Wales history (hello Jamie Buhrer, the only reason this is a “might”) while Isaiah Papali’i hasn’t been able to maintain his electric form since moving away from the right shoulder of Mitchell Moses. Representing England barely counts in 2024, but John Bateman is, on his day, a great player, but a bit of a novelty forward who hasn’t reached any great heights since his return to Australia last year.

That’s a long way of saying that I expect RCG, Junior, Lane, Hopgood and Matto to feast in the middle. It is rarely easy against the Tigers, but middle dominance is usually, eventually accomplished. First changes will be particularly interesting if Junior Paulo remains as a bench weapon; while AlexSeyfarth and Samuela Fainu have had solid starts to the season, Paulo and Matterson they are not, and Kepaoa does little to inspire fear either. His career record since debut in 2020 sums up a lot about the Tigers, 40 games for 6 wins, 34 losses.

Red Hot, Ice Cold

The problem with playing a team that was terrible one week, great the next is that you just can’t predict what you will be seeing come game time. The Tigers were disgraceful in discipline in round 2, near perfect in round 3. Frail in defence against the Raiders, strong last week against the Sharks. Cowed one week, confident the next. It makes the life of the previews guy more difficult than it needs to be, that’s for sure.

Kelma Tuilagi likely gets a start here

Let’s be safe and pessimistic, and assume we get similar to last week’s Tigers. The confidence of Galvin and Bula is impressive for such young players, while Api Koroisau has grown into his role steering this young group around the park, and he remains dangerously creative at the ruck. With some weapons outside now in Olam, Bula and Galvin, he should be able to create some deception on the edge of the ruck for noted runners Papali’i and Bateman.

Still, even in a big win, Stefano missed 4 tackles, Fainu a mammoth 7. Sloppy ruck performances like that won’t cut it against an Eels pack that loves an offload and will have Dylan Brown, Clint Gutherson and now Blaize Talagi sniffing for half chances behind the ruck. Out wide there were targets too, youngster Faataape missed 7 tackles as well, Sezer 6. The Sharks didn’t make the Tigers pay too often, but the Eels most certainly can. Kelma Tuilagi is the assumed back row start, and he’ll be lining up these smaller men one-on-one. Ryan Matterson will find some joy as well if asked to play wider, and Will Penisini is no slouch as a power runner either.

There was certainly a bit of Panther-ball about the Tigers last week, with every outside back either eclipsing or getting without touching distance of the hundred metre mark. Junior Tupou broke tackles at will, and sets were starting on the front foot, allowing Utoikamanu to have one of his best attacking games, running for 178 metres and 7 busts of his own. Without the kicking game of Mitchell Moses to bury the Tigers in their own 20, the Eels kick chase needs to be outstanding. The pressure will be on the Parramatta back five to help in the metres game as well. A lot of eyes will be on Maika Sivo, who has often struggled in that department.

Life Without Moses

We’ve seen life without Mitch a few times now, some of it very ugly, some, like the Panthers win in round 26 last year, truly glorious. Dylan Brown has to step up as primary kicker, with Gutherson and Lussick easing some of that pressure. The forwards can do their part too, clearing kicks are a lot easier when made from the right side of the halfway line.

Gutherson will be crucial to the Eels chances. He’s an elite playmaker chiming into the line, and he’ll be looking to roam that left edge and find Maika Sivo in favourable matchups, which is basically any one-on-one about ten metres out. Dylan needs to play pass first, not exactly his natural game, but give him enough good ball opportunities and he will break this Tigers defence apart. I expect Talagi to step up and take a decent role in the team as well, he won’t just be looking to run or play as a third centre, but this needs to be the Dylan Brown show for the Eels to emerge victorious.

And emerge victorious they shall. The Tigers are always plucky on Easter Monday, and usually very hard to put away, but the 2024 Eels have been remarkably resilient and are playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. I expect a similar story to the first three rounds: a bit of an arm wrestle followed by Junior Paulo arriving on the scene and breaking the game wide open.

The defensive edges will still have some shaky moments, lack of combinations will do that to a team, but if they can overcome Manly, they can overcome Wests. Even without Moses there are more than enough points in this team, and the class across the park should be too much for even this new and revitalised Wests side. It won’t be easy, but it will be a win.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: Parramatta 34 d Wests 16

Man of the Match: Junior Paulo


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26 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 4, 2024: Eels vs Tigers

  1. Milo

    I agree Gol, Parra just need to keep it simple – play what’s in front and use the forwards well to dominate. Like all wests games – hold them for the early assault and be disciplined. It is simple tbh and our forwards and Guth with DB can lead the way.
    I also say this, Sivo and Russell also can help get us on the go forward with good courage runs from kicks.
    Quietly confident our defence will be good and we get up by 12.

  2. Ron

    These are the types of games where we need to show we have improved our defence in off season. Penrith always fall back on their defence to grind out wins when they have players, including Nathan, missing and hopefully our boys are able to choke the tigers out of the contest with defence and discipline. Keen to see Blaize his preferred (right) side. There’s something about him that stands out and it’s not just his extreme physicality for a youngster

  3. Ron

    Also Schiller from raiders is a winger that stood out in our pre season trial against them and is playing quite well vs sharks. We should have a look at him as alternative to lomax. He has speed, strength and is tall – great combo for BA to work with and can’t be expensive.

    1. Gol Post author

      I’d say he’s highly rated down there after forcing his way into a team that is playing decent footy. We’re more likely to be able to get the guys he’s pushed aside like Cotric or Hopoate. Given previous negotiations with Canberra (the pathetic “Sanders now for 3 weeks of Smith-Shields” offer) I can’t see them being reasonable trade partners, either.

      Same deal with the Dragons, they’ll be expecting a rep or near-rep player for an early release. They’ve no reason to let him go otherwise; no cap pressure, no immediate pressure to win. We need every near-rep player we have. You rarely buy from the top shelf mid-season.

      1. Ron

        As I understand it, Schiller is still behind Hopoate in the pecking order (hoppa burnt himself this week and missed sharks game). But I agree that Canberra won’t be easy to negotiate with regardless. seems like we have to use sanders in any player swap to make use of him as an asset as he’s leaving at end of this year anyway. Surely dragons would be keen with Ben hunt getting older and also wanting out

      1. BDon

        Ron, I’m not necessarily saying that you’re wrong, the left edge hasn’t exactly become watertight, but all of Wests’ tries came through our right side. Each try involved some good football by Wests. We made too many errors today, the pass to Harper’s shoulder with 2 minutes to go was the play that got me screaming at the screen. And we almost won anyway.

        1. Ron

          Yea i don’t disagree. It’s sad to see the same deficiencies we have had for many years play out again today. The right leaked the tries but in my opinion the left edge lost us the match at the end with that silly pushed pass from dyl (bearing in mind the difference in experience on both edges). BA called out the team as soft in post game and I agree but it was unfortunately his decision to put hopgood to bench and bring in the soft options like matto and kelma to start. I don’t know where we go without Moses. Too much dead wood in the team that gets exposed when Moses (our main band aid) is out and no quality replacements. At least there’s next week to see if they respond.

          1. Tired of the same ****

            Matto and Tuilagi were soft? Mate, you’re seeing what you want/expect to see.

            I didn’t like the Hopgood to bench decision either, but this is not a good take.

          2. Ron

            In defence they most certainly were (but kelma was a bit better). Brad acknowledged as much in his post game.

          3. Tired of the same ****

            He called them out? Individually?

            Either that, or we need to find a fire extinguisher for your pants.

            I reckon it’s the second one.

          4. Ron

            I’m not going to continue this as you clearly know a coach doesn’t call out specific players. He made a direct comment about the team being soft on the day and left the rest to be inferred. My inference is about the players he swapped around to start and bench contributing a lot to that softness we saw, including the ones I mentioned and junior. One of our toughest and best defensive players hopgood was benched. Another player offa isn’t flashy but just plays his simple role and was benched. Matto should not ever start a game as he’s all arm tackles and pushed passes. That sets a soft tone.

          5. Ron

            I said BA “acknowledged as much”. In case you can’t or refuse to understand that expression, it clearly means I felt he said as much without saying it in terms (ie he said it by inference that the middle was soft and was rolled by an old Klemmer, stefano and pole).

          6. Tired of the same ****

            Ooh, so we’re going on your feelings now, NOT what the coach actually said?

            Yeah mate, that’s exactly what I called you on that you denied you were doing.

            See, there’s a pattern here. You write your feelings as fact. Someone says “show me the evidence”. You point to something that isn’t evidence. You get called on it. You double down and blame the other person for misunderstanding you, despite in this case now saying exactly what you got called out on.

            Not related to Trump are you? 😀

          7. Ron

            Repacking your inability to draw an inference from brads express words as a failure on my part is quite amazing. No one other than brad can tell you what he meant. But drawing an inference by reference to objective performances is common process that is engaged in across society. It is not the process you describe. But you don’t have much to saw other than saying well he didn’t say it in terms. Hopefully that gives you some comfort

          8. Tired of the same ****

            And another double down. Hilarious!

            Just because YOU think that’s what the coach meant (two individual players out of the team) does not make it MY inability to recognise an inference.

            As I said originally, it’s you reading into it what you want/expect to see. Your word salad doesn’t change that.

        2. Ron

          Looks like team lists prove you wrong (shock). Kelma demoted back to benah. matto moved to edge as he was soft in the middle compared to hopgood but is better than kelma on an edge. Junior most likely will move back to bench pre game and it will be clear for all to see what ba meant by his comments. Hopefully I never have to waste my time like this again.

          1. Tired of the same ****

            What do you mean, wasting your time? Clearly a big strong man like you is needed to educate a poor ignoramus like me!

            But in four rounds so far, the team named on Tuesday was not the starting 13 on game day. Which you’ve said in your own post in reference to Junior, yet again refuting your own BS. So keep going buddy. Show us again how smart you are.

  4. Pete

    This game showed whomsoever is running recruitment has NO idea about football!!
    Papalli and we keep Lane
    Olam not signed but we sign Harper
    Galvin not signed and tore us a new one
    Stefano let go…

  5. Sparky the eel

    The way I see it is we played dumb football. We had them down a player and not once did we go to Thier edges. We kept playing up the middle and stuck to our game plan. We didn’t take advantage of the over lap. If you listen to Joey, Cronk, Thurston or smith , they would all say to target Thier edges. I like BA however it’s times like these that he makes me question his ability. It’s not the first time it’s happened

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