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3 days ago
So I've just gotten over the excitement of last Friday night's clash between the Rabbitohs and the Broncos. Puddles! John Lang belly sliding! Splashing! Did I mention John Lang belly sliding?
The wet spectacle in Perth took away the whole professional, cutthroat world that is the NRL for a few hours and gently reminded us that Rugby League is still just a game. There was something thoroughly joyful about watching it, and it seems that Langy thought so too.
It's highly doubtful that tonight's solo Friday match will be played in similar conditions, but that doesn't mean that it will be less enjoyable.
PARRAMATTA EELS VS
Speaking of joy, Parramatta needs some soon. After a disappointing start to the season, the Eels have begun to regain a bit of rhythm. A draw against the Dragons was followed up (albeit 17 days later) by losses to Manly and Canberra. Things are starting to click on the field but unfortunately not on the scoreboard.
They have a good opportunity to rectify that against an understrength Broncos outfit. Luke Burt, slotting into fullback, and promising rookie Mitch Allgood being elevated to the front row covers the losses of Jarryd Hayne and Tim Mannah to Origin duty.
Brisbane's last game without their Origin stars was their 25-24 golden point victory against the Raiders and that victory will give them a lot of belief in their ability to win without Darren Lockyer, whose absence generally leaves a void in their team structure.
Expect Parramatta to play a very structured and simple game plan without the attacking input of Hayne. In round one they surprised many by playing in a similar fashion and beating the Warriors. If they want to beat the inexperience of the Broncos they will have to roll their sleeves up and get into the grind.
Against the Raiders the Broncos gave away a 24-point lead, and almost the game as well. Without Lockyer at the helm the Broncos seemed unsure how to close the game out. If they eventually lost the game then doubts would be rightfully raised about their self-belief without Locky, but they didn't. They will have learned a lot from the victory. If the Broncos get out to a similar lead tonight, they should be able to hold onto it this time around.
The winning formula is simple for both teams.
For the Eels, they must dictate terms to their opponents, set the tempo of the game and build and maintain pressure in the hope that the Broncos' inexperience becomes their biggest weakness.
For the Broncos, it is to repeat the dominant display that they put on in the first half against the Raiders and not give up the lead. Parramatta does not look like a team with the free-flowing gameplay that can run a team down like Canberra can.
A special mention should be given to Josh McGuire, who returns to the Broncos lineup after detaching the retina in his left eye. It was potentially a career-ending injury, so to see the 21-year-old forward running back out onto the paddock tonight is going to be a great sight. It's a shame that injuries can stop a player doing what they love. It's always a heartwarming story when someone like McGuire can overcome the odds and triumph.
Both the Eels and the Broncos have the potential to overcome the odds of player absences and triumph. The question is now, who will it be?