The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 14, 2024: Eels vs Bulldogs

You could be forgiven for thinking a bit of the fire has gone out of the old Eels v Bulldogs rivalry. One side winning 8 of the last 10 and 14 of the 17 games played since 2016 can do that to a rivalry, although I don’t seem to remember hating the Bulldogs any less when they swept through the Eels 9 wins to 1 back in 2011-15 (though I did stop taking reciprocal tickets to Stadium Australia to watch it happen). Indeed, the “Battle for what used to be called the West” has always ebbed and flowed; you will struggle to find any period since the mid-80s where the chocolates have been evenly divided between both Blue and Gold and blue and white.

When the Maroon Observer released the 2024 edition of the NRL Rivalry Survey, it seemed to back this up. In the 2022 edition, Eels v Bulldogs was rated the third most intense rivalry in the NRL, behind only Sharks v Dragons and Roosters v Rabbitohs. This year, the Bulldogs are barely the third most intense rival that Eels fans have, with both Penrith and Manly passing the dirty dogs in the eyes of the Blue and Gold faithful.

Then you go and take a peek over the fence, and you see that the Bulldogs fans still hate us plenty. The intensity of their dislike has only increased since 2022, no doubt due to the continued beltings we have handed them and the way Parramatta players have treated their captain, battering and bullying the former Eel all over the park. My message to Eels fans is this: don’t let the comfort of total domination of this rivalry let you get complacent. The Bulldogs fans in your life might have stopped talking so much about footy, but they are just waiting for their moment to pounce. Will that moment be this week? Let’s check the preview.


Game Info

Date: Monday, June 10, 2024
Venue: Stadium Australia, Homebush
Kick-off: 4:00PM AEST
Referee: Peter Gough
Bunker: Kasey Badger
Weather: Mild, dry
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo


Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)

After finally securing a win last week, and on the back of the successful return of Moses and Gutherson, the Eels go into this round as favourites.

That means looking away from a straight out win market to find value.

Plenty has been made of the Dogs improved defence in 2024 but I believe that points will come early today.

Look to the first half line/over under market which is offering the Eels at -1.5/over 22.5 total points for a return of $3.20.

Happy, responsible punting.




Parramatta Eels

1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Blaize Talagi 5. Sean Russell 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Brendan Hands 10. Junior Paulo 11. Kelma Tuilagi 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. J’maine Hopgood. 14. Joe Ofahengaue 15. Shaun Lane 16. Makahesi Makatoa 17. Wiremu Greig.

18. Daejarn Asi 20. Joey Lussick.

Sure to be tested in defence, Talagi needs to give as good as he gets in attack

With the unfortunate season ending injury to Bailey Simonsson, the Eels have lost their form outside back. Blaize Talagi comes into the starting side at centre, where he’s got some issues defensively but offers that individual elusiveness and spark which can break open the tough, workmanlike defence that the Bulldogs present. This pushes Sean Russell back to the wing, where he should be more comfortable.

J’maine Hopgood will back up from his Origin bench stint, where he ran hard and was duly belted a few times, but he’ll be right. Makahesi Makatoa played 50 minutes in reggies on Friday and is likely to drop off the bench, but I’ve left writing this until Monday morning and we are still none the wiser about who will replace him. It won’t be Ryan Matterson, who is suffering from concussion symptoms and despite some hope he would play, has dropped off the extended bench. The choice is between Daejarn Asi and Joey Lussick. Asi is a zero minute game waiting to happen, so Lussick is probably the choice. Few will be excited by that, but he should improve as a 30 minute impact player given fatigue is usually the culprit for his drop in performance.

Canterbury Bulldogs

1. Connor Tracey 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Blake Wilson 6. Matt Burton 7. Toby Sexton 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Sam Hughes 11. Jacob Preston 12. Jaeman Salmon 13. Kurt Mann. 14. Bailey Hayward 15. Josh Curran 16. Kurtis Morrin 17. Lipoi Hopoi.

21. Jake Turpin 19. Poasa Faamausili.

It took Cameron Ciraldo about three months, but he’s finally moved an actual halfback into his side in Toby Sexton, and since he’s come in the Bulldogs have won two games by a combined 76-14 scoreline. Those two games were against the hapless Dragons and disappointing Knights, but still, it shows off two danger signs in this Canterbury team: their elite defence and suddenly, some improved attack.

The ever-dangerous Josh Addo-Carr is missing through injury, giving Blake Wilson a run, while common sense prevailed a while back and Connor Tracey moved to fullback and Jacob Kiraz to the wing. Stephen Crichton remains at centre, but sadly the Bulldogs have figured out that their best player probably should touch the ball a bit more; it is unlikely he has another 14 touch, 60 metre day like he did in round one.

Viliami Kikau is also out through injury, but Jacob Preston has returned to the starting side and honestly, is a more consistently dangerous player. Converted back rowers Jaemon Salmon and Kurt Mann both start, but a real back rower in Josh Curran has been playing big bench minutes and is in good touch. I have absolutely nothing on bench players Bailey Hayward and Lipoi Hopoi. Given the Eels are still feeling the Oryn Keeley burn from the last time I said that, I’ll refrain from digging any deeper.

Hard Nuts to Crack

We’ll need a Carty Party to win this one

If the Bulldogs can hold the Eels to 6 points, they officially become the best defensive team in the competition. The 26 points that Parramatta ran past them in round one remains the highest score they have conceded this year. They’ve held the Panthers and Storm to 16 points each, ultimately in losses, and done a good job shutting down inferior attacking sides. There will be no easy points on offer for the Eels, and given how freely the Parramatta defence can offer passage to the tryline, every chance is going to need to be converted.

In a game where everybody is looking to analyse why the old metrics don’t matter, that run metres aren’t as important as being able to spread and split a team on the edge, that possession doesn’t matter as much as what you do with it, the Bulldogs are thoroughly old school. They’re best in the NRL at restricting metres, both in total and per run, indicating a focus on line speed that the Eels will struggle to match. While Reed Mahoney is among the NRL leaders in missed tackles (joined by his now missing teammates Kikau and Hutchison), it is a sacrifice the Bulldogs will make for line speed. They concede the fewest line breaks in the NRL, so these missed tackles aren’t coming in crucial situations.

It’s the opposite on the opposition side. The Eels don’t miss that many tackles really, but they make their misses count on the scoreboard. They concede a near-NRL worst number of line breaks, and they barely break a tackle themselves. Our best tackle breaker outside of Maika Sivo is now on the sideline, too. In the absence of Mitchell Moses, the Eels are among the worst in the league in kick metres, though some of that is not getting to your kick, because we’ve made plenty of errors too.

History Repeating

The Eels have won their three matches against the Ciraldo Bulldogs by an average margin of 22 points, with middle dominance and a steamrolling burst of point scoring that blows the game open often being the feature. Unfortunately for the Eels, they are usually the ones being dominated in 2024, unable to maintain the fire and the fitness to execute their gameplan. The improved Canterbury defence will outlast the Eels middle, so Parramatta is going to need to find a new way to crack this Bulldogs side.

Effectively using offloads will be a key; the Bulldogs love to concede them and rely on elite scramble to cover, and Parramatta haven’t found effective ways to attack off the back of a league leading offload count. Mitchell Moses will improve some of that, especially with more dynamic attackers around him in Talagi and occasionally Penisini, who can beat defenders one on one. Finding size mismatches will be another key; watch for RCG and Junior to be targeting Mann, Salmon and of course, Mahoney, close to the line. It has long proven an effective attacking plan against the Bulldogs for our big men, and at least one middle is a chance to get on the scoresheet.

The Bulldogs also lead the NRL in total metres, that is including kick metres. The boot of Matt Burton accounts for a decent chunk of that, and you would expect Parramatta to have to do a lot of rucking out for grinding, tiring hard yards. With Moses back, the Eels will similarly be able to match the dogs in the field position battle, but I don’t back them to be as fit or committed for a long term defensive grind. They’ll need to flip the play, look for some mid-field attacking chances. Offloads in the middle of park from Hopgood, Cartwright and Paulo, with Gutherson, Brown, Moses and Talagi in support. Daring short side raids from Moses are a certainty.

That is one thing about the Eels; they’ve managed to find ways through elite defences. The Parramatta record against Penrith in recent years suggests that elite defensive structures don’t hold so strong against our best attacking moments, and Ciraldo’s defence is built to that Penrith blueprint he first schemed up back at the foot of the mountains. You’ll need some confidence to play footy like that, but the return of Moses and Gutherson plus the change of coach seemed to wipe the slate clean for the Eels players, hopefully the mental baggage of basically every moment of football from rounds 4 through 12 has been left on the side of the road.

The Game

Happy 200th King

Last week was a moment for the believers, and I’m going to ride that high for at least one more round. The Eels are 3-1 with Mitchell Moses in 2024 and are frankly a different team with their halfback on the park. Fans look at the depth of clubs like Penrith and the Roosters and think “next man up” should be the norm, but for decades the absence of a key half has been a valid excuse for the failings of a footy side. Sure, it doesn’t excuse all of the malaise we saw from the men in Blue and Gold this year, but holding yourself up to the benchmark of a team in the Panthers that is probably going to go down as the best in modern history (unfortunately those 80s Eels sides are now relics of ancient footy history) is a sure-fire recipe for disappointment.

The Bulldogs have had absolutely no answer for Parramatta in the last two years, as big men trample Reed Mahoney over and over, immune to his niggles and taunts like a big brother who just threw his sibling into the hedge with a fend can laugh off the threats coming from the bushes. No taunt has ever emerged victorious over “look at the scoreboard”. Taking the captain out of the game has been key to every win, and I can’t see the team going easier on Reed this time around.

From there it is up to Moses, Gutherson and Brown to manufacture points against a tough defensive side. They’ll do it by exploiting the matchups. A strong defensive system and fitness drilled in a wrestling room still can’t counter a big man running at a little man. The Eels need to manufacture ways to exploit smaller defenders like Mann and Salmon, target them in the line and find ways to pounce when they are isolated. That will need repeated attacking field position, won with mistake free footy.

It’s the King’s Parramatta birthday, with Clint Gutherson celebrating 200 first grade games. I’m not one for milestone game curses, I expect the Eels to go hard today for their captain. Maybe that will be the extra 1% they need in a season where those 1% plays have been disappointingly lacking. The Bulldogs will once again get closer, as an improving team should, but the Eels will have too much for them.

Go you Eels!

Prediction: Parramatta 28 d Canterbury 14

Man of the Match: Dylan Brown


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39 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 14, 2024: Eels vs Bulldogs

  1. pwte

    Thanks Gol,
    Always hated the Bulldogs. If we lose its Always worse if the Bulldogs beat us.

    Bulldogs have improved this year and it hurts to see them above us on the table.

    I would have liked Blaize to play wing. It would allow him to have a higher involvement and not expose his defensive skills as much. Watchingall the tries scored on the weekend by wingers. Blaize, could get a trebble. I hope he has a great game all the same.

    Anyway, I hope Barrett gets the win against his old club.

      1. pete

        Just saw Blaize to wing!
        DJ centre and Lussick for Makatoa.

        Glad Blaize playing wing I think it’s a better position for him now.

  2. Noel Beddoe

    I can’t understand our favouritism. The Canterbury recent form has been far stronger than ours. This is a major test of where we are, whether we need a massive rebuild or just a bit of tinkerng – that question should be answered by 6.00 p.m. Congratulations Clint Gutherson, one of our finest-ever warriors.

  3. Milo

    Tbh v unsure abt this one; our defence needs to be good all game. And concentration for the game. Do that and a wi .

    1. Spark

      You play reserve grade players against NRL standard players you get .. well you get what we got.
      Maybe with a new coach we will start to move on players like Asi and Russell and recognise that there just must be better out there.
      We really have some passengers in this club – looking forward to a clean out.

      1. Ron

        Yep – far too many reserve graders that consistently play in this team – but it’s not just the backs. The forwards aswell are stacked with slow and ineffective reserve graders (or players such as lane who now play reserve grade level)

      2. Brett Allen

        I think we can be agree Asi is not a centre, but he’s a capable backup half and Russell is also a capable backup outside back, what we lack is speed, real footy speed. Woujdnt have mattered given how much ball we turned over, and let’s remember the Dogs aren’t exactly brimming with players who’d be starters elsewhere either. The rot started when Mann went to the bin, Mitch got frantic for whatever reason.

        1. Ron

          It’s just such poor and negligent roster construction. No agility in middle and no speed out wide (same problem for years). No real or consistent impact off bench (same problem for years). Poor service and no threat from hooker (same problem as last year). Same inconsistent players getting picked week in and week out – no real threat to their position (as yet). I can only imagine how frustrated Moses, gutho, dyl, rcg etc are. At least blaize, simmo and others have crack. Others just are hanging for dear life to get through an opposition set of 6 let alone contributing to a win.

          1. Muz

            Ron, Hey mate.

            You just said something that really hit a nail on the head.

            You are right, it looks like our players are hanging on for dear life just to finish defending a set of 6.

            I’ve never heard someone say it before like you did – but that’s what it looked like.

            And now that you’ve said it, it looks like that every week.

            Is it because our players are too big and not agile?

            I would of never admitted it before to myself.

            But I’m convinced now it doesn’t seem like we have a true top 8 team even at full strength.

            Even if we had a different coach.

            Our bash & power roster that had been constructed doesn’t look to be effective anymore.

            The strategy may still work?..

            Maybe our key players are just older.

            I don’t know if it is a combination of ageing players or the game speeding up.

            But it’s hard to imagine a team who leaks line breaks & tries like we do making the finals.

            Even if we had a better coach.

            You can’t replace speed and our edge defence for years has (probably)

            Been the worst in the comp for a lot of the time?

            I wonder if that’s due to us never really investing into quality backs.

            Or the lack of a mobile roster overall.

            Very interesting to ponder what direction a new coach would go in.,.

  4. Ron

    We got what we deserved – worst collection of backs in the comp and worst hooker rotation in comp. Can’t win against any half decent team with such a lack of quality in so many positions of squad. How Trent picked asi is beyond me. Bloke can’t tackle or make defensive reads to save his life and we have known this for years now. It’s pretty clear we are a bottom 4 side in the modern game and it will remain that way this year and into future if big changes aren’t made

      1. Ron

        Depends when sivo went down. If it was before team lists then I would defs have gone morgan Harper had to be picked at centre before asi. Or I would have kept russel at centre to ensure we didn’t have a notoriously bad defensive player in asi against an origin player and three time premiership winner. And once I saw the first two dogs shifts score tries I would have either swapped russel and asi sides or moved dyl to centre and asi to 5/8.

        1. Brett Allen

          Easy to say that in hindsight, but if Baz does that and Asi has a shocker at 5/8 then I guarantee you’d be into him for making that decision. In any event it wouldn’t have mattered had we dropped as much ball as we did.

          1. Ron

            Not hindsight – you don’t need hindsight to tell you asi will not be able to defend a 3x premiership winning centre and current origin player. You don’t need hindsight after two dogs linebreaks through him in first 10 mins to tell you swap him and dyl or get to half time and swap russel over to be opposite chriton. You don’t need hindsight – you need to react to the game and plug the gaping hole on the left. It might not have worked but my personal view is it would have been better than what we saw. And yes – dropping ball doesn’t help but we can’t use that as an excuse when lose. Other teams drop balls but defend and have resilience. We go to water time and time again

          2. Ron

            And place it in context – who in their right mind trots out a left edge of kelma (a notoriously lazy and bad defender), asi (a terrible defender) and Russell (a reserve grader on the end of two bad defenders). It’s close to the worst defensive group of 3 I’ve seen on an edge in a long time.

        2. Muz

          Harper all day as a defender over Asi.

          Everyone could see it was coming but that edge our defence was so weak it even suprised those who expected it.

          Whatever happens over the next few years with new coaching.

          No good coach will want to take over our club without permission to re-build the team.

          (Let’s say)

          It Hannay and Ryles were coached.

          They would likely be both looking to deploy a roster structure similar to Melbourne storm or qld Maroon.

          Faster backs + mobile players who can defend with great line speed.

          If you are Jason Ryles or Hannay…

          You would tread very carefully into the role of head coach at the eels.

          If I was them I would not even accept the role unless you’ve got permission to sign a lot of new players like the bulldogs have.

          The Eels head office will likely say no because of tight pockets & lack of accountability.

          And my gut feeling is we may not get the coach they really want.

          Because a good coach knows it may be suicide for their coaching career unless this current Parramatta roster is severely overhauled, with faster & quicker players who can actually defend.

          Just my 2 cents. ^

          Remember Jason Ryles also said no to the Dragons?

          It was largely because he could see with their roster and lack of accountability to want to change it he could probably see it would be potential suicide for his coaching career.

          To me the Eels seem stubborn and likely won’t just do a roster clean out and completely change their player recruiting habits over night.

          A new coach may optimise our defensive structures better or improve some areas.

          But it’s hard to imagine a big slow ageing roster like ours to become a defensive power house.

          With those same players on the field.

          Bulldogs are a perfect example – they’ve done a complete 180 with a clean out of their roster.

          People hate on Gus guild but the players he’s gone after are players we should have chased.

          No doubt our club was too tight or lacked insight that those players bulldogs recruited would have significantly improved our eels team in many aspects.

          I would swap sivo, lane, and Sean russel for 1 Crichton any day of the week.

          Conor Tracy is also seemingly a good fast asset that we could have purchased.

          1. Longfin Eel

            Ryles and Hannay are on the record saying they are keen for the job. I would say the club has told them there would be some serious discussions about the roster. As you say nobody would be interested in the job unless the roster is fixed, but I don’t read the situation to be like that. I reckon there will be key changes coming.

          2. Muz

            Hey Longfin, I agree with you mate and seen both are interested.

            I just mean those coaches would need it in writing what type of changes they could influence in terms of player recruitment and a potential clean out.

            The eels are known to hire slow and fire slower than most successful clubs.

            They would be interested no doubt as they mentioned in the head coach position.

            But they’ll be likely treading carefully with their own management and inner circle to ensure the Eels club is truly open to a large roster overhaul.

            BA hasn’t been ever able to achieve a true roster overhaul.

            Many blame MON and the others and said BA wanted good players but never got them.

            This is no doubt an issue the new coaches would be doing their die diligences on before signing the dotted line.

            Because a coach is judged upon their results – even if the roster stinks.

            One or two bad year at the eels with a stale roster and it’s possible they may never get another head coach job in the NRL.

            Whatever happens – let’s hope the club is open to new ideas…

    1. Muz

      The new coach will likely determine our middle players are either too large & slow and ageing.

      It looks like teams backs are making a lot of easy line breaks with their fast backs against our big forwards especially on kick returns.

  5. Muz

    What a interesting game – here was the takeaways we saw:

    – Our team of “big bobbers” is why our team leaks too many line breaks.

    – Our large power game type roster is simply too slow for the modern game to win a comp.

    – Mitchel moses may of played well last week but he may of been over playing trying to get picked for origin game 2 today.

    – We didn’t try to get through our sets and kick long like last week which wasn’t as effective.

    – We leaked tries as soon as lussick came on (could be a coincidence) but wanted to see what you guys thought.

    – We don’t have any fast backs without Simmonson and we severely MISSED him today in the scramble & edge defence!

    – Asi is not a bad player but obviously lacks the defence or speed to be a effective centre.

    – Our edge defence still looks like some of the worst in the NRL which seems to be the case now (for many years?) I dunno 🤷‍♂️

    – I felt like we didn’t play direct up the middle enough in the dogs half.

    – The Parra side looks like a team who can still win games but our team is dramatically missing fast electric players to ignite playing off Mitchel Moses & brown.

    – Gutho and moses clearly aren’t back to match fitness yet after their injuries & may take a few weeks off o get back to full match fitness.

    – The Eels simply made so many mistakes tonight and shocking mistakes near the dogs try line (they probably didn’t deserve to win?)

    – The Bulldogs could of put 30-40 on US if things had of gone their way (with all those blown tries).

    P.s we did see some very good signs early – maybe with less errors or not passing short balls to lane, we may have snagged that win.


      1. Muz

        Morgan Harper has proven to be a better Defender than Asi and he is a specialist centre.

        Asi isn’t a bad player – just not a experienced centre who plays there every week.

      2. Muz

        Brett likely Harper will be back in there next week if he is healthy. Harper isn’t too bad defensively tbh.

        Parra could of still won today though – even though in my opinion we played mediocre.

        Let’s see how the boys brush up and do it again next week…

        1 weeks a long time in NRL. 🤞

        1. Brett Allen

          I agree we could’ve won, but we simply cannot afford to turn over possession like that.

    1. Spark

      I say well done to the Bulldogs. They lost 3 players and had a stack of penalties and adversity against them and still won. Their coach would be so very proud of them. I would say it would rank as one of the best wins for years.
      As for us.. look both Asi and Sean Russell would not get a spot on any other team in the NRL. They are just simply not good enough. They try hard but the talent isn’t there.
      Stephen Crichton, probably the best centre in the game at the moment had a field day. It was a complete mismatch.
      How Shaun Lane continues to be picked in first grade is one of life’s mysteries.
      Wirimu and Lussick should be banished and never seen again.
      I feel sorry for Baz, he can only work with what he has but he is witnessing his application to coach the team next year fall away.
      Perhaps now that finals is all over , he just throws caution to the wind ?
      It’s the only way he would get a look in for the job.

      1. Brett Allen

        I thought Lane had his best game in two years today, I don’t know what Greig did wrong.
        You say Baz should throw caution to the wind, what could he do differently ?

        1. Spark

          Look the finals are gone. It’s time for the club to take stock and look at the kids. It’s sink or swim time. Promote players like Arthur, Guymer and the like. In the backs, give Tago a run. See how they go. They may just surprise everyone in better company and at least we will know if they are ready. The worst thing we can do is just go through the motions with players that will no doubt be kicked to the curb by the next coach.

          1. Muz

            Good points,

            Why do you personally think that are holding Matt Arthur back still ? And guymer?

            if the season is done.. get Young Boods on, try out Tago. Guymer too, Matt Doorey is playing well also.

            If the new coach is going to likely try clean out a lot of players.

            I can’t see any reason why they should not promote them.

            My only thought is the club probably sees the short term.

            They will want to win as many games as possible to keep Sponsor’s happy + keep the media off the backs.

            The eels are unfortunately known as a having a short term thinking front office.

            But ideally they should start thinking about 25’

            Get those young guns gaining experience.

            We will need them dearly next year.

      2. Ron

        Wiremu is everything we don’t need in this team – a slow, unfit and lazy middle. Yet we pick him. Ditto for lane. I can’t blame Trent as he didn’t put this team together but geez moretti or guymer or someone with some semblance of agility and line speed would be nice

    2. Brett Allen

      Agree on points 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13
      Disagree on points 3, Mitch was always going to be picked for game 2, he just needs to stay healthy, 5, Lussick didn’t come on till the last 15 and the problems were entrenched well before then, 9, we definitely did in the first half, not as well in the second, 11, I didn’t see anything to suggest that either Mitch or Gutho were struggling,
      14, who knows ?

  6. BDon

    So damn frustrating. The 3 major influences on loss were the Bulldogs defence, our left side defence and the bumbling effort during the sin bin. We still managed to pick the Dogs apart a few times, probably enough times but our wide defence (speed and organisation) was poor. The 10 minute sin bin period was a big dictator of result, we totally messed it up. I didn’t really watch this to be certain, but I also reckon the Dogs scored all tries after we stuffed something up.

  7. pete

    Apparently Connor Tracey isn’t good enough for our recruitment team.

    Full credit to Bulldogs who signed Crichton. Without Crichton they lose that game. The way he coached his players to attack our weak left edge. He is a match winner.

    Our lack of speed is negligent. A new coach will not be enough to turn this around. The football department has already killed off BA. Surely they cannot be allowed to continue.

  8. Jon Collins

    Why not use a faster centre ? Other than Daejarn Asi?

    There are three other players that l consider may do the job in the Knock-out Cup team.

    Zac Cini is my choice. Then Morgan Harper or put Sean Russell at centre and use lower grade winger.

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