Sharks no match as Roosters prove they're still contenders
7 hours ago | Josh Robertson
Contenders or pretenders? Sydney rivals put credentials to the test
The Sydney Roosters and the Parramatta Eels find themselves in strange positions among the current NRL hierarchy.
Establishing a reputation as one of the best teams of the past decade, the Roosters have underperformed over the opening third of the season, while being impossible to write off given their history.
In contrast, the Eels have claimed the two biggest scalps in the premiership - away from home - yet questions remain over their ability to perform at the business end of the season.
The Saturday night encounter between Melbourne and Penrith may be the showpiece of Magic Round, however the Sunday afternoon meeting of Sydney's East and West should give rival teams plenty to ponder in the weeks to come.
Coming into the contest with an above average record to sit in sixth on the premiership ladder, the Sydney Roosters will be hoping to break away from the pack of teams on ten competition points and overtake their opponents into the top four.
Returning to form with a dominant 44-16 win over the Titans at their home away from home in Mackay last Saturday, coach Trent Robinson has enjoyed a 75 per cent success rate over the Eels with nine wins from 12 clashes since taking the helm in 2013.
Recalling utility Connor Watson in place of injured hooker Sam Verrills, Daniel Suluka-Fifita is the new man on the bench after Lindsay Collins accepted a one-match ban.
Holding the distinction as one of four teams alongside the Tigers, Rabbitohs and Storm to boast a 100 per cent success rate in Magic Round, captain James Tedesco will bring up a century of appearances for the club on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off a major high after becoming the first team in three years to leave the foot of the mountains with two points, the Parramatta Eels will be out to consolidate their standing as a premiership heavyweight.
Rising to the occasion last Friday to down the Panthers 22-20 in one of games of the season, coach Brad Arthur will be hoping his players can continue a strong record in the pandemic era at Suncorp Stadium following four wins from five visits.
Sticking with the same group of players that got the job done last week, the Eels have experienced mixed fortunes during Magic Round with the Storm flexing their attacking muscles in 2019 before making amends in Jake Arthur's debut against the Warriors last year.
Last meeting: Round 20 2021 - Roosters 28 Eels 0
Who to watch: Holding the distinction as one of a select group of active players with three premierships to their name, Roosters playmaker Luke Keary has yet to recapture his past heights upon returning from major knee surgery. Missing all bar three matches last season due to a dreaded ACL tear, the 30-year-old has managed nine try-assists and seven forced drop outs alongside Sam Walker in a partnership pundits expected to challenge for the title. Gaining a reputation as a big game specialist for his feats in the 2018 decider, the Roosters will need Keary to step up and guide the side to victory against the highly credentialed Eels.
Pressing his case for a representative recall four years on from his sole appearance for NSW, Eels front-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard will be determined to make his presence known against the Roosters pack. Producing strong numbers with over 150 running metres on average to go with a 94 per cent tackle efficency rate, the Rooty Hill junior has ranked among the top forwards in the league over the first third of the season for run metres. Last experiencing the Origin arena, without making an appearance, as part of the Blues bubble in 2020, Campbell-Gillard will give himself every chance of going from blue and gold to sky blue with another strong showing on Sunday.
The favourite: Despite winning a paltry one time against their poultry opponents in the past five years, the Eels are fancied to get the job done in Magic Round.
My tip: If historical precedents mean anything, the Roosters are in trouble after going win-loss in their past nine appearances at Suncorp Stadium. On the other hand, people can come up with statistics to prove anything… forfty per cent of all people know that. Eels by 2.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Joseph Manu 5. Joseph Suaalii 6. Sam Walker 7. Luke Keary 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 14. Drew Hutchison 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Angus Crichton 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Victor Radley 9. Connor Watson 15. Fletcher Baker 16. Nat Butcher 17. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 18. Lachlan Lam
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Hayze Perham 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali'i 13. Nathan Brown 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Ryan Matterson 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Bryce Cartwright 19. Jakob Arthur
Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;