Nathan Smith previews the knock out finals match between the Parramatta Eels and Brisbane Broncos.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Eels capped off the regular season with a convincing 32-16 win against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Overall, they’ve had a mostly consistent past month, with only two losses, and come into the first round of the finals full of confidence.
Brisbane were very disappointing last week. They went down 30-14 against the Bulldogs and copped a well deserved serving from their coach in the post-match conference. The week before, they defeated the Eels in extra time, which will give them some confidence coming into this match.
Kane Evans has been announced to start, but may miss a week dependent on his judiciary hearing. Peni Terepo may come into the side should he be found guilty. Nathan Brown is the big return for Parramatta and will add some grunt to the forward pack.
Parramatta Eels squad: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 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. Brad Takairangi 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Ray Stone 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa 19. Will Smith 20. Peni Terepo 21. Josh Hoffman.
Brisbane are bolstered by the return of Joe Ofahengaue who complements their already huge forward pack. Patty Carrigan has been pushed to the bench as a result of his return. Gehemat Shibasaki will start on the bench.
Brisbane Broncos squad: 1. Anthony Milford 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Gehamat Shibasaki 17. Patty Carrigan 18. Rhys Kennedy 19. Izaia Perese 20. Shaun Fensom 21. Cory Paix.
HEAD TO HEAD
These teams met two weeks ago. In that match, Parramatta scored more tries, but lost 17-16 in Golden Point. The Eels’ goal kicking was subpar and led to their ultimate demise, while the Broncos found themselves winners in the very first set of Golden Point on the back of some strong forward runs. Prior to that, the Eels defeated the Broncos 38-10 at Bankwest Stadium, which is a result they’d be hoping to repeat. Overall, the head-to-head stats favour the Broncos, who have won 58.9 per cent of their encounters.
Blake Ferguson vs Anthony Milford
Finals footy is a brand new competition. The desperation is greater, the fans are more vocal and the stakes are higher. It’s for that reason that one of the greatest advantages a team can have is a player with finals experience in their squad.
Blake Ferguson was a part of the premiership-winning Roosters side in 2018 and will offer an immense boost of confidence to a mostly inexperienced, finals-starved team. He knows what finals success looks like and has been returning to his best form since making a comeback following an extended break due to illness. The last thing any Broncos player will want is a barnstorming Fergo tip-toeing up the line.
Anthony Milford has seen plenty of finals football during his time at Brisbane, 2015 would come to mind for most, when his side came painfully close to winning the premiership. However, he’s been there every year since. This will certainly aid the Broncos, with a wide range of players at the very early stages of their career who’ve played very little first grade, let alone finals footy. Beyond this, Milford’s swap to fullback has been a well-considered decision, as his involvement has been up and his form has risen since making the move. Expect him to send a couple of tactical bombs Ferguson’s way to remove his strong running from the Eels’ sets.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday, the 15th of September
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Kick-off: 4pm (local)
Referee: Ben Cummins, Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
It will be an explosive encounter. Brisbane’s forward pack, when firing, are very hard to stop. Parramatta has a knack for piling on quick points when their backline is firing. With a vocal Parramatta crowd behind them, the Eels will just win in a high-scoring, close encounter.
Parramatta by eight.