The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 7, 2024: Eels vs Dolphins

While I’m not taking much more from last week’s unexpected win than the ability to enjoy engaging with football again for the first time in a fortnight, the Parramatta Eels have a ripping opportunity to go back-to-back against a weakened Dolphins on Friday night. Weakened might not be doing justice to the state of the Redcliffe side, there are ten players in the casualty ward, including eight you would consider as part of their best side. Not even drumming up a fake milestone (since when did we celebrate “starting games”?) for Jesse Bromwich can save the Dolphins here.

Yet the Dolphins cannot be taken lightly, especially on a Darwin road trip that has become increasingly shaky for the Eels since it was inexplicably moved to an April contest exclusively against Queensland based teams. There is still plenty of talent in this squad and Wayne Bennett will smell a chance for a backs to the wall upset, and he’s never needed much to inspire his side.

Game Info

Date: Friday, April 19, 2024
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
Kick-off: 8:00PM AEST
Referee: Todd Smith
Bunker: Peter Gough
Weather: Hot, humid, oppressive
Broadcast: Nine, Fox League, Kayo

Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

Midway through the first half last week, I was feeling very comfortable with my 54.5 and over total match points prediction. The scoreboard total was keeping pace with the clock and both defences were very insecure.

Though the Eels went on with the job in winning the game, it was all about controlling the play rather than trying anything expansive and consequently the scores were contained.

I don’t like the Darwin game. I don’t like the short odds for the Eels. I believe it will be high scoring with defensive fatigue kicking in, but I’m applying the old “odds on, look on”  cliche.

Keep your coin for another day.

Happy, responsible punting.



Parramatta Eels

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Will Penisini 4. Morgan Harper 5. Sean Russell 6. Daejarn Asi 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. Blaize Talagi

18. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Kelma Tuilagi 20. Wiremu Greig 21. Makahesi Makatoa 22. Maika Sivo.

Blaize returns to first grade as a utility

Only one change for the Eels, with Brad Arthur embracing the backline utility after losing Bailey Simonsson mid-game for the second time in four starts. Blaize Talagi is that utility, and while I don’t love developing players with ten minutes of junk time minutes in first grade over a full start in Cup, if we are going to play a bench utility that can cover the backs then Talagi is the best choice we have right now.


1. Trai Fuller 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Jake Averillo 4. Tesi Niu 5. Jack Bostock 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Isaiya Katoa 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Kenny Bromwich 12. Euan Aitken 13. Max Plath. 14. Josh Kerr 15. Sean O’Sullivan 16. Ray Stone 17. Jarrod Wallace.

18. Oryn Keeley 19. Edrick Lee 20. Mason Teague 21. Valynce Te Whare 22. Jeremiah Simbiken.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is the big out here, he’s exactly the player that can exploit what I talked about last week: early spreads and getting faster men in space against the slower Eels backs. I don’t know a lot about Trai Fuller, but I know he isn’t as dangerous as the Hammer. Herbie Farnworth is another key out in the backline, and the drop from Farnworth down to Tesi Niu might be the biggest a single position can take in the NRL.

The pack looks pretty good even with a stack of injuries, such was the Dolphins approach of recruiting deep and wide across the roster. Tom Flegler, Felise Kaufusi, Tom Gilbert and Connelly Lemuelu will be missed but Mark Nicholls, Euan Aitken, Jarrod Wallace and Ray Stone are handy replacements.

Our Territory?

Darwin might end up as tough an opponent as the Dolphins this weekend, with temperatures hitting the mid-30s during the day and settling to a very uncomfortable 28 by kickoff time. There is some chance of rain as well, which will provide little relief to anybody given the humidity it brings. Playing this game in April remains a joke; Darwin was oppressive enough playing in June or August, now it is just unfair on both sides, especially given both will back up the next weekend, the Eels on a 7-day turnaround that certainly won’t feel that long.

Daejarn Asi certainly settled the halves down last weekend

What was once a 5-1 record in the Territory has reversed to 1-2 in the last three, each game played in oppressive conditions you’d normally get a 20 minute drinks break for. Two factors are in play here: the game was moved from the winter months (or as winter as Darwin gets) to April, and has for this and the three contests before it been played exclusively against Queensland teams that have the advantage of training in much more similar conditions to Darwin than the Eels do.

I can appreciate the NRL doesn’t owe the Eels any favours in scheduling Darwin games; this is done off the Eels’ own initiative and lines their pockets handsomely. Yet this isn’t even a fair go. There is a clear will from the NRL to play Queensland teams in Darwin, who have a conditioning advantage in this heat and humidity and in the case of the Broncos and Cowboys, enjoy plenty of local support. We’re now essentially playing an away game in the tropics, against teams that train all off-season in similar conditions.

This is a league that bent over backwards to help the four teams that went to Vegas this year; an extra week of rest, and return matches against the other travellers in round 2 so everybody is at the same disadvantage. Last year we copped a five day turnaround to get to Darwin, this year we get a full week afterwards but our opponents get nine days.

I believe next year is the last of the current Territory agreement, and if I were the Eels I wouldn’t be signing off on another one without the support of the NRL to assist with scheduling. The agreement undoubtedly does great things for the game in the NT and pays well, but the Eels are in a much better financial position than they were a decade ago when this started, and despite inroads up north they were still clearly the away team against the Cowboys and especially Broncos. What is a win worth if it is the difference between the top eight and missing the finals?

Hard Yards

The Eels expected a tough out against the Dolphins last year, and beat the clock to 40 before putting the cue in the rack at halftime and pottering to a 48-20 victory. The Dolphins definitely have these kinds of performances in them, including round one this year. Since then Redcliffe made waves by topping the ladder at the end of round 5 thanks to a bye and three games against the Dragons, Titans and Tigers. Their current position on the table is generous, to say the least.

He’s playing hurt, but he absolutely torched the Dolphins in this fixture last year

That day was won in the middle of the field, the Eels rolling from the opening set and even when they conceded early, it felt like a demolition was on. At one point Bryce Cartwright created three tries in three consecutive touches down the right edge. It won’t be that easy this time, but the path to victory remains the same: middle domination. Nicholls, Kenny Bromwich, Plath, Aitken and Kerr are triers, and if you let them get a foothold and a sniff of the contest they will hang tough. Yet if you can roll them from the opening sets, they don’t have the steel to claw this game back, especially when Junior hits the field after 20 against tired legs.

Where the Dolphins may be more competitive is around the ruck, led by Jeremy Marshall-King who has quietly become one of the better hookers in the game. He was missed last year in this contest, and any lazy marker work from players sapped by the oppressive conditions will be punished. On the flipside, Joey Lussick has proven adept (perhaps too adept) at taking a dart from dummy half, and if the Dolphins fatigue first, he’ll be looking for Brown and Gutherson around the ruck to exploit the middle of the field.

Sweating It Out

This game is Parramatta’s to lose. Injuries have smashed the Dolphins and taken their two biggest strike weapons. Even without Moses the Eels have Gutherson, Dylan Brown, Bryce Cartwright and a pack of forwards capable of turning a game. Without the Hammer and Farnworth, the Dolphins have a 20 year old game manager and Jamayne Isaako.

The composure of the Asi/Brown halves pairing will give plenty of fans hope after a couple of weeks where the team looked lost. The middle are going to need to be strong, the Dolphins had shown good discipline until last weekend where they matched the Broncos error for error in a bludger of a showing; hopefully their prior handling excellence came about due to the quality of their opposition, or the lack of it. Even with making a mammoth 16 errors last weekend, the Dolphins still have the lowest average errors per game of the NRL. We need that to change in Darwin.

With all the rumours about Wayne Bennett swirling about, maybe he’ll pull out some of his magic dust and sprinkle it over the Dolphins team for a famous effort. If he does, I don’t see it in this Eels team to match them, not in these conditions without Mitchell Moses. I’m not sure the Dolphins have that kind of effort in them though, not even for their captain’s 300th starting game. Eels by plenty.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: Parramatta 32 d Dolphins 16

Man of the Match: J’maine Hopgood


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18 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 7, 2024: Eels vs Dolphins

  1. Joseph

    We are spoilt for quality content on this site. Thank you.
    I’m pleased the Darwin arrangement is coming to an end, I hope the club can find new arrangements for financial gain without torturing our team.
    I’m couch fit and I struggle to watch this game, I’m uncomfortable watching the players drenched and gasping for air on a cow paddock with crappy yellow lighting.
    We should win but we could lose, we would have put 50 on them at home with their current outs. Hoping we still can, it would be great to repair our for and against.

    1. sixties

      Thanks for the kind words Joseph. You’ve summed up what it feels like to see fit athletes struggle due to conditions not suited to footy. If we have to travel there, surely going when the humidity is at its least damaging would be best.

      1. Joseph

        I thought about the logistical nightmare it would be to take a game to England, shame there is no editing option.
        It’s not easy being stupid but it is fun.

  2. Joseph

    I don’t think there is a good time to travel to Darwin to play a footy game. It seems the club prefers to get this fixture done and dusted early. Mid year is too close to Origin and it’s all hands on deck scramberling to make the finals thereafter. It’s just a crap idea period, financial gain and community spirit aside, any idea that that impacts the well being of our player can’t be a good one.
    It would less traumatic to take this game to another country. England perhaps, strike up a sister club relationship with an English club. Bring another fan base on board. The poms still talk about Sterling and Kenny.
    The Eels are the only sporting team I follow but I can see myself invest in an English team if they were acciciated with the Eels. Who knows what player trade doors it could open.

  3. pete

    We should win this.

    Just watching Lomax. He’s playing very well. He’s really making a huge difference. It’s a shame we have to wait.

  4. Brett Allen

    Round 1, 2025, Zac Lomax in for Sean Russell. He has cost us two tries tonight and missed a very gettable conversion. That try he should have scored is straight forward in todays NRL and his defence is just embarrassing.

  5. Brett Allen

    This is worse than the Raiders game. We just aren’t on the pace of the modern game. This is beyond recruitment, this club is rotten to the core. There is nothing remotely redeeming about our roster beyond our halves and one or two others.

  6. Jonno

    Guthos been busted for at least 12 months, tries his heartout but is left behind, not his fault. If everyone is trying their best, and wedont win, is the game plan wrong? Just asking?

    1. Brett Allen

      BA is two years behind the game. He just is. The fans us constantly evolving and BA hasn’t.

  7. Brett Allen

    The roster needs to be completely overhauled.
    The only keepers
    Moses, Brown, Penisini, Hopgood, Carty, Talagi, and that’s about it.
    RCG, Junior, Lane, Matterson, Gutherson, Lussick are all past their best.
    A complete clean out of the football department, front office and board. Nothing less is acceptable.

  8. pete

    I have been a supporter of BA. But I really think he’s running on empty.

    Why didn’t change our tactics for 32c and 80% ?

    Dolphins had a reserve team and missing their head coach and still flogged us badly.

    This was poor coaching!!

    BA is a fool for having the same game plan as every other week.

    We lack heart. We are fragile and easily disposed of by an assistant coach.

    Just when you thought you saw the worst of this club. Then they dish up this muck.

    Really looking forward to BAs presser for an explanation on this one.

  9. Brett Allen

    8 tries in 25 minutes. That is disgraceful, and only Dylan Brown & Bailey Simonsen can honestly look themselves in the mirror tonight. Don’t blame the conditions, we knew what it was going to be like, we’ve been doing it for ten years now. This is who we are as a football club. Our DNA is loser DNA. It’s time we as fans admit that we are a club that has chronically underachieved for 77 years with a couple of 5-7 year windows of some success. We are a joke, we are a laughing stock. The entire joint needs a complete clean out from Chairman down to the ball boys. No tinkering around the edges, deep cuts, and it must start with the coaching department. Tonight was embarrassing.

    1. Kman

      Brett – you are always a measured and sensible commenter. For you to make such severe comments reflects the seriousness of the Eels’ condition. I agree entirely. I have followed this team since 1976. I see a team that is coached to play a style completely out of step with the modern game. A lot went our way in 2022, and we got on a roll into the Grand Final. But I believe we have been on the decline ever since.

      1. Brett Allen

        Yeah mate; last night was just the lowest moment for me. Seeing Joey Lussick walking 30m away from the play after just 50mins just did it for me, and we had Brendan Hands sitting there doing nothing. This was so obvious.

  10. B&G 4 Eva

    There is no depth to the club outside the top 17/18. Recruitment has been terrible and the tactics are stale and obvious,
    My son said, last year Hands at 9 we won 8 from 12, then Lussick was signed and we continued to have a poor end of season.
    We get carved up as soon as opposition forwards make a break, their backs tear on to the balli in support and we can’t match them . How many tries are scored against us from the opposition half.
    If there isn’t a deep look into the complete football staff from recruiting to coaching then they are kidding. This is the equivalent of the EPL, imagine what would be happening at club level there.

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