Full Time
7:35pm Sat July 9, 2022
Round 17 - Leichhardt Oval, Lilyfield / Wanngal - Crowd: 13214

Round 17: Wests Tigers v Eels preview

Sleepy Tigers look to pounce on jaded Eels

Wests' ambush of the Parramatta Eels back in Round 6 was supposed to be the turning point of the Tigers' season, and in many ways it was. It's just that with the appointment of an interim coach and only two wins since, it's clear the bus veered the wrong way.

Now on Saturday they face their western rival at Leichhardt Oval for the first time since 2013. And despite sitting at opposite ends of the table, the clash for both sides represents another fork in the road.

For the 15th placed Tigers, while their loss to the Warriors in their long overdue homecoming satisfied the majority of the code's fans, the sad reality is, the good deed did little more than edge the joint venture club closer to its first wooden spoon.

And with the Panthers and Cowboys to follow in the coming rounds, a repeat of their 21-20 CommBank Stadium miracle will go a long way to appeasing their loyal fans.

Having lost their past four by an average margin of 24 points, the problem for Brett Kimmorley is that there aren't many new alternatives left at his disposal. With only 18 points scored in the last three weeks, centre James Roberts has been axed while Adam Doueihi joins the run-on side for the first time in 2021.

Apart from the loss of Junior Paulo to Origin, the Eels are at full strength in a contest they simply must win to reignite their top four aspirations. Now sixth following recent below par efforts against Canterbury and South Sydney, the Jekyll and Hyde Eels can ill afford another slip-up against a lower ranked opponent.

Marata Niukore joins the front row while Ryan Matterson returns to lock the pack. Skipper Clint Gutherson will leave the Blues camp to fulfill his regular fullback duties.

The stats show that aside from this year's hiccup, Parramatta has a stranglehold over the Tigers with wins in seven of the last eight. And with three home games to follow, a victory in Tigertown could start a much needed surge up the ladder.

Last meeting: Round 6 2022 - Eels 20 Wests Tigers 21

Who to watch: Eels coach Brad Arthur didn't name names when he questioned his side's individual accountability after last week's loss, but you can bet Reagan Campbell-Gillard was in the cross hairs. While the prop's 145 metres against the Rabbitohs sounds good, they paled in comparison to the 215 metres he put on the Roosters a week earlier.

Ranked second last for total run metres, the Tigers should be stronger with the return of powerful bookend James Tamou. But they'll be even better if rookie prop Stefano Utoikamanu can recapture last year's form. In an injury plagued season the boom youngster is averaging just 71 metres a week. In 2021, his 97 metres and routine ability to bust tackles earned him a place in Brad Fittler's extended Blues squad.

The favourite: Parramatta are odds-on favourite, and despite their split personality, it shouldn't be a factor against a popgun Tigers line-up.

My tip: Everything here points towards a Parramatta victory. For Brad Arthur, it must be his worst nightmare. Nevermind the players, anything else but an Eels victory will raise questions over the coach's own individual accountability. Parramatta by 14.