Eels v Dolphins preview

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Parramatta Eels v Dolphins Friday 8:00pm at TIO Stadium, Darwin / Larrakia

How do you get a read on these teams?

Sitting down to write this preview, the form lines of these sides are perplexing. Parramatta have been all over the shop - wins over Canterbury, Manly and North Queensland tempered by losses to premiers Penrith, spooners the Wests Tigers and 2024 contenders Canberra. The latter was a signifcant thumping - 41-8 in the national capital, but the blue-and-golds' last outing against the Cowboys seemed far more representative of what we should expect of them.

It should be noted though - the Eels have been without enigmatic halfback Mitch Moses since that Round 3 win over Manly, and will be for at least another month.

After a strong start to their campaign, the Dolphins sit in the top eight, but looked very ordinary in their lost to Brisbane last Friday. Similarly to Parramatta, there are injury concerns to deal with which have decimated the Redcliffe-based club, their depth being tested also by suspension with both Kurt Donoghoe and Anthony Milford unavailable due to disciplinary infractions in past weeks. The loss of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow after Friday's game at Suncorp Stadium will make things even harder.

So what to make of this game? On paper, outside Moses the Eels are the surer bet. They still have a decent lineup with quality across the park, evidenced by a range of players stepping up to guide their side to a home win over the Cowboys last Saturday. The Dolphins on the other hand? Decimated by that injury toll, they're having to dig deep into their roster to field a decent side.

With 'Hammer', Milford and Lachlan Hubner all out of last week's side, Trai Fuller, Sean O'Sullivan and Max Plath all join the teamlist. Plath at lock displaces Ray Stone, who drops to the bench. Parramatta have just one change with Kelma Tuilagi dropping to the reserves list in favour of Blaize Talagi.

Last meeting: Round 17 2023 - Dolphins 20 Eels 48

Who to watch: For the observant among our readers, you'll notice this contest is being played in balmy Darwin, NT. That means essentially that these players will be taking the field in a sauna. It's likely to be around the 30 degree mark come kickoff on Friday night, which is going to place a lot of pressure on the forward packs of both sides. How quickly the respective hookers - Joey Lussick and Jeremy Marshall-King - tire, will be key to who gains the ascendency as the contest wears on.

Of the pair, one gets the feeling Marshall-King might have an edge - all 121 of his top-grade matches have been played in Australia across three clubs, while the bulk of Joey Lussick's career has been in the cooler climate of the United Kingdom, 111 games there compared to just 22 in the NRL. Sure, it's not a definitive guide of what to expect from their pair, but it could be illustrative as to longevity and fitness of the two key players heading into this contest. Of further concern for Parramatta will be the lack of back-up with Brendan Hands not included in the 17, while the Dolphins have Sean O'Sullivan in the side if JMK finds himself needing a breather.

Favourite: Parramatta are favourites as last-start winners.

My tip:  The Dolphins side doesn't look as high quality as the Eels at least on paper, but the conditions are probably going to suit them better given what they're used to. That and the fact that Parramatta have lost their last two Darwin matches, and I think it's Phins up on Friday night in the Top End. Dolphins by 6.

1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Morgan Harper 5. Sean Russell 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Dylan Brown 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Joey Lussick 16. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Shaun Lane 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. J'maine Hopgood 10. Junior Paulo 14. Luca Moretti 15. Ryan Matterson 17. Blaize Talagi 18. Brendan Hands

1. Trai Fuller 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Jake Averillo 4. Tesi Niu 5. Jack Bostock 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Isaiya Katoa 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Kenny Bromwich 12. Euan Aitken 13. Max Plath 14. Josh Kerr 15. Sean O'Sullivan 16. Ray Stone 18. Oryn Keeley 17. Jarrod Wallace

Referees: Todd Smith; Sideline Officials: Tyson Brough, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Peter Gough;

Match facts

HEAD TO HEAD since 2023
TIO 0 0 0 0
2023 R17 PAR 48-20 Sun. Coast 8821

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