Andrew Pelechaty previews Parramatta’s home game in Darwin against Canberra.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Parramatta’s 7-7 record (just hanging onto eighth place) sums up their frustratingly inconsistent season. They’ve had two big wins at Bankwest Stadium (against Wests 51-6 and Brisbane 38-10), offset by bad losses to Melbourne, Cronulla-Sutherland, South Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Penrith (at Bankwest), and North Queensland. At their best, they’re a top eight team. At their worst, well, who knows…
They’ll enjoy returning to Darwin’s TIO Stadium, where they have a 4-1 record. They beat Canberra 18-10 there in 2014. The likely hot temperatures in Darwin – alien to a Canberra side used to freezing nights at Bruce – works in Parramatta’s favour.
Sitting at a tenuous 6-5, Canberra rescued their season with three straight wins against Canterbury, Wests Tigers and Cronulla-Sutherland, regaining fourth spot from Newcastle. The Sharks’ win epitomised the Raiders’ new attitude and ability to grind it out. In a dirty, spiteful game, Canberra lead 20-0 in the first half, the Sharks levelled the scores in the second half before a Jarrod Croker penalty gave Canberra a 22-20 lead with 18 minutes left. Amazingly, that was enough as Canberra backed their defence to win.
Dylan Brown returns for the first time since round three, with Jaeman Salmon moving to the bench. Brad Takairangi plays centre with Michael Jennings still injured.
Parramatta squad: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Brad Takairangi 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitch Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Jaeman Salmon 15. Peni Terepo 16. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore 18. Daniel Alvaro 19. Tepai Moeroa 20. George Jennings 21 Will Smith
A huge in for Canberra, with Josh Hodgson returning after breaking his thumb against North Queensland. Siliva Havili (after playing for Tonga last weekend) drops to the bench and Tom Starling misses out. Sebastian Kris replaces the injured Nick Cotric, while Corey Horsburgh returns on the bench. Mercurial fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is named despite not playing for the Cook Islands last weekend.
Canberra squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Corey Horsburgh 16. Sia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Sam Williams 19. Emre Guler 20. Royce Hunt 21. Michael Oldfield
HEAD TO HEAD
Canberra last played Parramatta at GIO Stadium in round five. With both sides on three wins and one loss, it shaped as an early blockbuster. Like Super Nintendo Chalmers yelling at Principal Skinner, Canberra were ruthless, winning 19-0 (tries to Josh Papalii, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton). Since 1998, the record is 32-12 to Canberra
Reed Mahoney vs Josh Hodgson. Hodgson’s return is vital, with the Raiders looking to consolidate a vital top four spot. While he hasn’t been at his best, his experience in and around the ruck will help against an inconsistent Eels. Mahoney has played all 14 games for Parramatta, scoring 4 tries, averaging 45 kicking metres, totalling 448 running metres and an 88 per cent tackling efficiency. Only 21, Mahoney will need to summon all his youthful exubrance to match Hodgson’s guile.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday June 29.
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin.
WHO WILL WIN?
With a two-point lead over fifth-placed Newcastle, Canberra will be desperate to keep winning and gain ground on Melbourne, South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters. While Parramatta will enjoy returning to Darwin, it’s hard to predict which Eels team will turn up. Canberra will have fond memories of their Bruce Stadium shutout earlier this year, so expect the Green Machine to grind out another win.
Canberra by four