Full Time
80:00
7:35pm Sat July 2, 2022
Round 16 - Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park - Crowd: 10012

Round 16: Rabbitohs v Eels preview

Mitchell returns to tame mixed bag Eels

Parramatta head to Homebush on Saturday to face a Rabbitohs side teetering on the edge of the eight. But for the sixth placed Eels, still on target for a fourth consecutive finals campaign, a loss threatens their place among the leading pack.

Coming off a horrid Round 14 hiding to the Bulldogs, the Eels rebounded in a last start pounding of the Roosters that included arguably the most complete first half performance of the season. Now adrift of the top-four on points differential, this is the type of game the higher ranked Eels can ill afford to let slip.

By contrast, South Sydney are coming off arguably the worst first half performance of the season. Simply woeful in conceding 32 unanswered points against the Dragons in Wollongong, if anything, Rabbitohs fans will be hoping Latrell Mitchell's return for the first time since Round 5 can at least lift the club's flagging spirits.

Another loss could squeeze Jason Demetriou's side out of the top eight, but with a host of Origin hopefuls including Mitchell ready to make a statement and with the Knights and Bulldogs to follow, a reversal of form this week could transform their season.

Damien Cook, Cameron Murray and Jai Arrow have all been named to backup following the trip to Perth. For Brad Arthur it should sound the alarm bells. The last time his side topped Souths was back in 2019, and since then it has all been red and green. Parramatta has been smashed in the last four contests by an average margin of 24.5 points including losses in the last three at the Olympic venue.

Rep-round fatigue might be a factor this weekend and it may just prove to be Arthur's saviour. The freshness of Parramatta's four Origin wannabes could prove decisive. Clinton Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson didn't lace a boot last week and will be desperate to dish up more of what they served the Roosters. And with the battling Tigers and Warriors to follow, the Eels should be focused on a return to the four inside the next month.

Last meeting: Round 21 2021 - Eels 12 Rabbitohs 40

Who to watch: Cody Walker and Dylan Brown - hold your stare like a nosey neighbour.

Without his best mates, for the bulk of the season Walker has been like an aimless kid in the playground. Now with the return of Mitchell's havoc, the No.6 not only has another hole running target but with Eels eyes drawn towards the No.1, expect the playmaker to sniff out additional try scoring avenues.

Dylan Brown has always had a running game, but only now are we seeing it every week. Averaging just under one-hundred metres a week last season, the Kiwi five-eighth has since ditched the Dunlop Volleys for top shelf speedsters. Now at 129m a game he's only a bushy beard shy of Forrest Gump. Although statistics don't tell the full story of his impact. Without a try-assist since Round 6, the numbers say he's passive, but it's his 10 linebreaks that has opened doors for Parramatta.

The favourite: Parramatta are the favourite, and that's despite recording just one victory over the Rabbitohs in the past seven contests since 2018.

My tip: Latrell might be back, but is Lachlan Ilias? It can't have been easy for the young halfback to look his teammates in the eye after being dragged during the Dragons debacle. How he picks up the pieces will be central to Souths' revival. By comparison, Parramatta should be in a better headspace and with most of their big names on fresh legs they should run away with it. Eels by 14.