Nathan Smith previews the Friday night encounter between the Parramatta Eels and North Queensland Cowboys. This is what we have to look forward to.
Parramatta continued their strong run in 2020 after taking down the 2019 runners-up, the Canberra Raiders, by one point last Saturday night. The week before, they put up an admirable fight against the 2019 premiers the Sydney Roosters. With only one loss to their name, and an undefeated run at home, the Eels are flying at the moment and will be confident coming into this match.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys haven’t had the best 2020 thus far; however, their round seven victory over the Newcastle Knights might indicate that things are starting to turn around. They were dominant throughout the match, with key members of their spine Jake Clifford and Reece Robson really stepping up. They will see Friday night’s match against the competition leaders as the perfect opportunity to truly turn their season around and gun for the top eight.
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jai Field 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Marata Niukore 14. Ray Stone 15. David Gower 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Brad Takairangi 18. Stefano Utoikamanu 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. George Jennings 21. Will Smith
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Tom Opacic 4. Esan Marsters 5. Justin O’Neill 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Shane Wright 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Gavin Cooper 16. Peter Hola 17. Francis Molo 18. Reuben Cotter 19. Valentine Holmes 20. Corey Jensen 21. Jake Granville
These two teams have played 39 times in total, with the Cowboys winning 20, Parramatta 18 and one draw. The Cowboys have won their last two encounters against the Eels: 17-10 in 2019, and 44-6 in 2018. They haven’t played each other at Bankwest Stadium, though Parramatta’s form there, especially as a home venue, has been quite strong.
The most important stats, however, are the form of both sides in 2020: Parramatta have won 6/7 at a winning percentage of 86%, while the Cowboys have won 3/7 at a winning percentage of 43%. This vast gulf in success, even this early on in the season, demonstrates that Parramatta are playing far better footy going into Friday night’s game.
BATTLE TO WATCH
The Battle of the Props: Reagan Campbell-Gillard v Josh McGuire
Campbell-Gillard came to the Parramatta Eels with lots of questions marks over his playing ability, with many suggesting his best years were already long gone. Many suggested his past injuries, particularly his broken jaw, had lessened the aggression in his hit-ups.
His performance last week suggested he can still perform at his best: 238 running metres, 114 post-contact metres, 49 tackles and 78 minutes. The numbers are superb for a prop and comparable to what he was achieving when he last played for the last Blues in 2018.
McGuire’s ability goes without saying: he’s a Queensland and Australian rep for a reason. He’s uncompromising in the way he approaches the game and he’s tough to play against. It’s a style of footy that has rubbed some the wrong way.
Following the Cowboys’ loss to the Tigers, McGuire was the first to put his hand up and say it wasn’t good enough. There was no sugar coating it, and he knew it. So it’s no surprise they turned it around the following week. McGuire brings a great deal of experience and leadership to the Cowboys’ roster and holds himself accountable for his performances. He will be instrumental in working with the Cowboys’ forward pack to get over the Eels’ frontrowers and give themselves every chance of winning.
The Cowboys won’t be easy-beats by any means, particularly coming off of a big win against Newcastle. However, Parramatta may prove a little too strong, particularly at home, and should chalk up their seventh win of the year.
Parramatta by 10.
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 7:55pm (local)