Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Return of the not-so-prodigal son.
It's been 13 rounds in the making - Kieran Foran making his way back to Sydney to face the side he so dramatically walked away from in 2016. Struggling deeply with personal issues, Foran walked away from the blue and gold around a year ago, leaving another dent in what is considered the darkest year in Parramatta's 70-year history.
His return will no doubt be met with mixed emotions around ANZ Stadium. Having already helped his new club dominate his former, Foran's task is simple - help a rejuvenated Warriors side continue their predictable yet impressive Origin-period surge.
The NZ boys were near-clinical in disposing of an Origin-ravaged Broncos side last week and it's that form they'll need to carry through the next two months as they look to propel themselves up the table after another patchy opening eleven rounds of the premiership. Parramatta meanwhile are on the hunt for back-to-back wins after an early blitz kept South Sydney at bay last Friday.
In terms of the lineups, there are a few interesting propositions at the Eels with former Warriors prop Suaia Matagi returning to the blue and gold starting side, while Tim Mannah and Siosaia Vave have been ruled out. Nathan Brown is back as well. The Warriors welcome back Solomone Kata, unseating Nicoll-Klokstad from his impressive time on the wing.
Last meeting: Round 6 2017 - Warriors 22 Eels 10
This is the second meeting for this pair in 2017, after the Warriors were the dominant side seven rounds ago. Overall the sides have met 37 times with the Eels slightly ahead with 20 wins to 17. However it will be the first occasion they've met at ANZ Stadium, with Parramatta Stadium now demolished awaiting rebuild.
Who to watch: Parramatta's two returning forwards will be key on Friday night, especially with the late withdrawal of captain Tim Mannah. Matagi will rely on a procession of utility forwards to pair up with him in the middle of the park. They'll all need to step up to have an impact but it's going to be the returning prop himself needing to spearhead that go-forward.
If the Warriors play it smart and let the focus be trained on Foran, it could allow Johnson - who hit some undeniable form last Saturday - to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Top of the visitors' heap for try assists this season with 9 from 12 games, he's scored 4 himself and it wouldn't be a shock if he added to that tally with a crafty individual showing in this one.
The favourite: The Eels being at home has them as favourites but they're not expected to run away with it.
My tip: Something tells me the Eels will try to hard to prove the Foran factor isn't a distraction - but just like Round 6, it will be. Warriors by 8.
1. Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Kirisome Auva'a 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Clint Gutherson 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 15. Daniel Alvaro 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown 14. Beau Scott 16. Kenny Edwards 18. David Gower 19. Will Smith
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 14. Nathaniel Roache 15. Sam Lisone 16. Albert Vete 18. Jacob Lillyman
Referees: Ashley Klein, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;