Round 15: Eels v Raiders preview
We're on the road again. The Eels take their annual game to Darwin against the top four Canberra Raiders to round off Super Saturday.
The Green Machine return from rep round with a spring in their step. Canberra sit fourth and coming off their rollercoaster 22-20 result against the Sharks, head to Darwin looking to extend their three-game winning streak to possibly jump over the Rabbitohs.
Much has been made of the English contingent of the Raiders side, who led by John Bateman have been impressive but the pre-season acquisition of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at custodian has given them an extra option and the elastic attacker has quickly proven a crowd favourite in the capital. Now, time to take all that goodwill and turn it into sustained success by cementing their spot in the four.
Regarding the Eels, things continue to oscillate more wildly than a bag caught in an updraft. Currently, the blue-and-gold are sat on the razors edge of the top eight, with a balanced win-loss record. In such a tight competition, a few victories strung together can vaunt them into fifth or six, and bring joy back to their long suffering fanbase.
Home has been where much of the success has come for the Eels. Can they take that form to Darwin with them despite losing Michael Jennings and their halves changing like bedsheets. The battle between the pair of forward packs is where the key for the contest will be to see which set of playmakers can stamp their mark on the contest and possibly kickstart the second half of their campaign.
Who to watch: Welcome back Josh(er)! Siliva Havilli has done a serviceable job for the Raiders at dummy half but the English international Josh Hodgson comes back into the starting side. Much of the attack goes through Hodgson through the service to their fleet of forwards and the halves, so if Hodgson is on right away, the Green Machine will roll through the Eels.
The halves hokey-pokey continues for the Eels. This week Dylan Brown returns from injury, replacing Jaemon Salmon who is benched - meaning the only constant is Mitchell Moses. In their thrashing of the Broncos, Moses controlled the side and against a Raiders side that will offer more resistance. The Eels points leader has to steer the side to avoid the Eels side turning up that gets a score put on them.