Matt Attard previews the opening game of round 23 at Bankwest Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
A huge win over the Titans has filled the blue and golds with confidence leading into a clash they won’t want to take lightly. They’re on a run of four straight wins, sitting in sixth place on the ladder with a strong for and against.
Also on a streak which extended to three last weekend, the Bulldogs are hitting their straps at the wrong end of the season. They sit 13th and clear of the wooden spoon. They have a problem scoring points, but no problem repelling them over the past month of football.
Blake Ferguson is still recovering and has not been named. Junior Paulo returns up front seeing Daniel Alvaro drop to the bench. Tepai Moeroa is the unlucky man to drop out of the 17.
Parramatta Eels’ squad: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Brad Takairangi 6.Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Peni Terepo 15. David Gower 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Marata Niukore | 18. Tepai Moeroa 19. George Jennings 20. Stefano Utoikamanu 21.Jaeman Salmon
No changes here for Dean Pay, who has stuck loyal to last weekend’s team. Raymond Faitala-Mariner was unstoppable off the bench last weekend in his return from exile, clearly with a point to prove, meaning Danny Fualalo will play reserve grade once again.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ squad: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jack Cogger 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Chris Smith | 19. Danny Fualalo 20. Morgan Harper 21. Michael Lichaa 22. Ofahiki Ogden
HEAD TO HEAD
These two teams faced off in round two and the Eels piled on the points, winning 36-16. In fact, Parramatta have won six of the past seven clashes between these sides dating back to 2015. Up the middle, the Bulldogs lack the punch that the Eels offer with Alvaro, Paulo, Niukore and especially Manu Ma’u – who is a man on a mission and has made himself a menace out wide in recent weeks. He was missing when the two teams last played. Back in round two, Blake Ferguson ran for almost 300 metres and although he’s missing again this week, Gutherson, Sivo and Takairangi have all excelled when it comes to making the hard yards and creating opportunities.
Kieran Foran vs Mitchell Moses.
Foran returned last week and made an instant impact, creating two tries and popping up everywhere for the Bulldogs. Moses has been doing the same for the Eels and created two tries himself in their big win over the Titans, and hasn’t had the same injury battles as his counterpart. Both men steer the ship for their team and as such have an expectation to perform. Foran must continue to have a positive mindset, while Moses must do the same and block out the critics in this run of form that has seen them looking finals-bound.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday August 22nd, 2019
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins, Peter Gough; sideline officials: Belinda Sharpe, Todd Smith; Video referees: Ashley Klein, Bryan Norrie.
WHO WILL WIN?
Two teams in red-hot form with a rich rivalry and in front of what should be a packed Bankwest Stadium. This game has all the makings of a classic, despite the lowly position of the visitors. While Parramatta are buoyed by their recent form, so are the Bulldogs. They held the Roosters to just three tries and have since gone on a run of wins which included knocking the Rabbitohs out of the top eight and keeping them try-less. I expect their form to continue, with defence leading to a fourth win on the trot.
Tip: Bulldogs by one.