2021 NRL Round 16 Preview, Panthers Vs Eels

Nathan Smith previews the Penrith Panthers hosting the Parramatta Eels. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith, Date: Friday, 2nd of July, Time: 7.55pm

Panthers Team

1. Charlie Staines
2. Brent Naden
3. Stephen Crichton
4. Tyrone May
5. Brian To’o
6. Matt Burton
7. Jarome Luai
8. Moses Leota
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. James Fisher-Harris
11. Viliame Kikau
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Isaah Yeo
14. Mitch Kenny
15. Scott Sorensen
16. Spencer Leniu
17. Liam Martin
18. Izack Tago
19. Jaeman Salmon
20. Matt Eisenhuth
21. Taylan May

Team Changes

IN: Jaeman Salmon, Matthew Eisenhuth, Taylan May, Tyrone May, Viliame Kikau
OUT: Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary

Eels Team

1. Clinton Gutherson
2. Maika Sivo
3. Tom Opacic
4. Waqa Blake
5. Haze Dunster
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
9. Joey Lussick
10. Junior Paulo
11. Isaiah Papali’i
12. Ryan Matterson
13. Nathan Brown
14. Marata Niukore
15. Shaun Lane
16. Oregon Kaufusi
17. Bryce Cartwright
18. Will Penisini
19. Will Smith
20. Sean Russell
21. Jakob Arthur

Team Changes

IN: Jake Arthur, Maika Sivo, Oregon Kaufusi, Will Smith, Will Penisini
OUT: Keegan Hipgrave, Nathaniel Roache

Referee: Ashley Klein


Penrith Panthers

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It was back to business as usual for the second placed Panthers in Round 15 after they ran away with a 38-12 thumping of the Sydney Roosters. Through this win, they were able to snap a two game losing streak, with their full outfit proving why they’re one of the few genuine contenders in 2021.

The big news coming into this game is that halfback Nathan Cleary will not be playing. As a result, Jarome Luai has been moved into the 7 position, while Matt Burton will wear the 6. Other changes include Charlie Staines moving into fullback for the injured Dylan Edwards, Viliame Kikau returning to the team from injury and Brent Naden playing his first game of the 2021 season. Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo, Jahrome Luai, Liam Martin and Kurt Capewell have all been named to backup from Origin 2.

Parramatta Eels

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Parramatta strung together a third straight win after dismantling the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at 36-10. Though they trailed at the break, leading some to suggest an upset was on the cards, Parramatta continued their trend of strong second halves by piling on 30 unanswered points.

Maika Sivo returns to the team after serving a two game suspension, with Sean Russell making way for him. The only other changes is the return of Oregon Kaufusi and Bryce Cartwright to the bench, who were both dropped to reserve grade for Round 15.


The Battle of the West is an encounter that never disappoints. It’s a rivalry that generates the sort of geographic passion we often talk about in the Origin arena. You have the humble, ever-growing city situated at the foot of the mountains, Penrith, and what has become the second CBD of Sydney in Parramatta. Furthermore, both fanbases are filled with your salt of the Earth diehards that are desperate to see their side reach premiership success again, and determined to see the other fall.

Both sides have been consistent throughout 2021, though Penrith’s work has been considerably more impressive than that of the Eels. In all likelihood, they would still be undefeated had they not been impacted by the amount of outs the Origin period forced them to endure. Most suggest it’s a two horse race between the Panthers and Storm for the 2021 premiership.

Parramatta picked up a big scalp in Round Two when they took down the Storm. It was a step towards proving the credibility as a premiership force, however they’ve taken several steps back after suffering a few shock losses since then. This match is their test and will measure where they are.

It will be a little bit different given the recent spike of COVID cases in Sydney. What was set to be a sold out affair will now be played behind closed doors. Undoubtedly, this pours of bit of water on the affair and, in particular, offers the Eels some relief as the ravenous Panthers fans would have been after them all night.

There’s a few mouth watering individual match ups to look forward to. It’s hard to go past Maika Sivo and Brian To’o opposing each other. With a combined weight over 200kg, one running into the other will pose the age old paradox: what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Jarome Luai will be given the reins with Nathan Cleary’s absence. A fantastic ball runner, it will be interesting to see how he goes in managing a game of rugby league. Opposite him is his possible halves pairing for the third Origin in Mitchell Moses, who will no doubt be looking to put in a huge performance to let Fittler know he’s ready to go.

And then you reach the forward pack. James Fisher-Harris versus Junior Paulo. Moses Leota up against former Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard. The ever consistent Viliame Kikau against the buy of the year prospect in Isaiah Papali’i. On paper, both sides are evenly matched right across the park, as a top four clash should be.


Both sides played two gruelling matches in last year’s season. The first saw Parramatta come out 16-10 winners, while the second was a dominant Panthers performance that saw them win 20-2. The overall head to head stat reads 58 wins to Parramatta 41 to Penrith. Furthermore, they’re 24 a piece at Bluebet Stadium, suggesting Penrith’s homeground hasn’t been overly favourable to them against the Eels. That said, Penrith are undefeated at home in 2021 and will be looking to maintain that statistic.


Expect a tight contest from start to finish. Penrith are very capable of a fast start and will probably get a bit of a lead early on. With Parramatta’s tendency to perform in the second half, they will probably claw their way back and make it close. Cleary’s absence makes it tough for Penrith, however they’ve shown they have enough class across the park in 2021 and should take this one.

Penrith by 6

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Comments (1)

  1. penrith panthers i know that Nathan Cleary is not there but Matt Burton Jarome Luai is.They will tries their best to control your side just let them do there own thing go hard make each other proud.go brian t’oo.

    EELS i am a big fan of yous.you guys have sivo back that will be a big help.it going to be a tight match between sivo and to’o.and luai and Mitchell Moses. good luck boys.

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