NRL TEAMS - 2021 Round 21
2 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Holy Moses, are the Eels in trouble? And Savage times for Canberra...
Both sides come into Thursday night's clash at Cbus Super Stadium with plenty at stake, and plenty to adapt to.
The Parramatta Eels are staring down several weeks without halfback Mitchell Moses, who seemed to be rested last round after Origin III, but it has since been revealed broke his back in the third interstate clash of the season. The Raiders' fullback curse means they're also staring down another player missing for the rest of the season - having already lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad for the season and stand-in Bailey Simonsson to a shorter-term injury, the Green Machine have now lost rookie Xavier Savage after just two (electrifying) NRL games, the exciting new talent having sustained a season-ending shoulder injury.
Elsewhere across the lineups, news is mixed. The Eels get Junior Paulo back and Blake Ferguson earns a recall, but Tom Opacic is out of the side, along with Haze Dunster. Will Penisini - whose name has appeared in the Parramatta reserves list several times and has been 18th man previously - finally gets a starting gig in the starting backline.
Canberra, meanwhile, are scrambling. Savage's omission pushes Rapana to fullback, with rookie Harley Smith-Shields coming in on the wing. Moses' Origin halves partner Jack Wighton is out of the side as well with a rib injury, so Matt Frawley comes back into the halves. Experienced prop Ryan James drops to the reserves.
As for what's at stake - for Parramatta, it's all about consolidating the top four finish. As the 16 clubs round the final turn and surge toward the finals, the Eels have the benefit of being four points clear of the fifth-placed Roosters. With seven rounds left, there's plenty of scope to slip out of that top eight for the Eels - particularly without their star half for the next couple of weeks - so a win over a floundering Raiders side is super important.
The Raiders on the other hand? Ooooh boy. They're right on the edge of the top eight after last week's surprise win over Cronulla. In fact - they trail that team by just -14 differential - close that gap and they're over the top and into the eight. The other thing to combat - an up-and-down Knights right on their heels.
Last time these sides met - Round 6 this year - was a comfortable 35-10 victory for Parramatta at a packed GIO Stadium. The Eels' win was their first in the Nation's Capital since 2006 and helped them correct the ship after a surprise loss to the Dragons a week earlier.
Last meeting: Round 6 2021 - Raiders 10 Eels 35
Who to watch: It's a weekend for understudies in the halves for both clubs. Jakob Arthur returns to the lineup after lighting up Magic Round just two months ago. At the time he partnered Moses, and as such had the benefit of great experience with his scrumbase partner. This time around he's partnered with a less-experienced Dylan Brown at five-eighth, so even as a two-game rookie, he'll need to step up and take a greater leadership role.
Matt Frawley is the five-eighth replacement for the Green Machine and pulls on a first-grade jersey for just the second time this season. The 33-game journeyman has enjoyed quiet a ride in the five seasons he's played at the top level - first in a two-season stint at Canterbury, before a UK sojourn to Huddersfield in 2019. He's only made two appearances since a switch to Canberra last year, and will be keen to impress.
The favourite: Ladder position gives the Eels the edge with the bookies quite comfortably.
My tip: On its face, this is an Eels win. They have enough star-power across the park (even with a couple of key men missing), they're arguably in better form, and they're a top four team. Realistically - Canberra shouldn't get a look in here. But they did surprise us in that win over Cronulla on Saturday and there's every chance there's something in the air. I'm going to stick with the Eels, but not by much. Parramatta by 4.
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jakob Arthur 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Isaiah Papali'i 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Marata Niukore 15. Shaun Lane 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Will Smith 18. Haze Dunster
1. Jordan Rapana 2. Harley Smith-Shields 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Semi Valemei 6. Matt Frawley 7. Sam Williams 17. Joseph Tapine 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Emre Guler 11. Corey Harawira-Naera 12. Hudson Young 13. Ryan Sutton 8. Josh Papali'i 14. Tom Starling 15. Matthew Timoko 16. Iosia Soliola 19. Ryan James
Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Peter Gough; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;