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2021 NRL Round Three Preview, Eels Vs Sharks

Nathan Smith previews the Parramatta Eels hosting the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks on Saturday night. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta, Date: Saturday 27th of March, Time: 7.35pm

Eels

  1. Clinton Gutherson
  2. Maika Sivo
  3. Tom Opacic
  4. Marata Niukore
  5. Blake Ferguson
  6. Dylan Brown
  7. Mitchell Moses
  8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  9. Reed Mahoney
  10. Junior Paulo
  11. Shaun Lane
  12. Isaiah Papali’i
  13. Nathan Brown
  14. Oregon Kaufusi
  15. Keegan Hipgrave
  16. Will Smith
  17. Ray Stone
  18. Jordan Rankin
  19. Haze Dunster
  20. David Hollis
  21. Joey Lussick

Team Changes

IN: David Hollis, Haze Dunster, Joey Lussick, Jordan Rankin, Ray Stone


OUT: Ryan Matterson

Sharks

  1. Will Kennedy
  2. Sione Katoa
  3. Josh Dugan
  4. Connor Tracey
  5. Ronaldo Mulitalo
  6. Matt Moylan
  7. Chad Townsend
  8. Braden Hamlin-Uele
  9. Blayke Brailey
  10. Aaron Woods
  11. Briton Nikora
  12. Wade Graham
  13. Toby Rudolf
  14. Teig Wilton
  15. Aiden Tolman
  16. Jack Williams
  17. Billy Magoulias
  18. Mawene Hiroti
  19. Nene MacDonald
  20. Andrew Fifita
  21. Braydon Trindall

Team Changes

IN: Andrew Fifita, Braydon Trindall, Nene Macdonald, Teig Wilton


OUT:

Referee: Adam Gee

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Eels

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Last week, Parramatta were able to put together one of their most consistent 80 minute performances in recent years against the reigning champions the Melbourne Storm. That was their second win from as many matches this year and they’ll be keen to continue their run this week.

Ryan Matterson is the key out, having gone off the field with a concussion. Parramatta isn’t risking playing him this week given his history of head knocks, but lose very little with the popular signing Isaiah Papali’i starting in his place. This brings Ray Stone to the bench, who has proven himself in past years as a no-nonsense, uncompromising sort of player who won’t take anything from the opposition.

Sharks

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Cronulla were left to lament what could have been after last week’s game. Up against the Raiders (a team many predict to go close to the premiership this year), they were never expected to make it close. However, the game was ultimately the Sharks’ to lose, and lose they did, with several missed kicks by the usually reliable Chad Townsend the difference.

The Sharks have made no changes to their team that ran around last week, which most would suggest is the right call given the players that ran around were well and truly in the game. This is the second chance to have a crack at a team expected to be around the top six of the competition.

PREVIEW

Parramatta toughed it out on a heavy track at home. It was the type of game most suspected they couldn’t win, where flashy attack had to be substituted for grit and determination. Mitchell Moses in particular has been criticised for not being able to lift his side and kick them out of trouble. Well, Parramatta were able to prove a point to themselves, as well as the detractors, and the entirety of their roster will get a boost from that.

They will have a dry track to run around on this Saturday, which allows for a bit more footy to be played around the park. The key for a Parramatta victory will be to build on the platform established last week. Moses will need to continue to demonstrate maturity in his game, which means resisting the urge for the miracle cut-out pass and instead playing the percentages. They will be well aware that Cronulla have been competitive in their opening two games.

Cronulla don’t have to improve too much to pick up a win. Only a few kicks away from a perfect start to the year, Townsend would have likely been practising his goal-kicking from all angles throughout the week. Matt Moylan will be the key to their attack and will be looking to improve on what has been a consistent two games thus far.

A lot of the Sharks’ efforts come from their captain, Wade Graham. Certainly, their chances of victory will be lifted if he puts in a blinder, which he does more often than not. With his 250th game last week finishing just short, he’ll be looking to snag a win this week to make up for it. The dry track will suit speedsters such as William Kennedy and Ronaldo Mulitalo, so look for them to get plenty of early ball from their inside players.

KEY STAT

Their past six encounters have been a back-and-forth affair, with neither side stringing two straight victories against the other since 2018. The last time they met, Parramatta managed to scrape a win in torrential rain in unconvincing fashion. In 2019, the Sharks were able to put the Eels away convincingly (42-22). Overall, there’s no stat that identifies a consistent pattern between the two sides, so one that the Eels will have to lean on is their continued consistent form at Bankwest Stadium. This will be the Sharks’ first game at the new stadium however, so there will be no fear for them walking into this one.

PREDICTION

In front of what should be a capacity crowd on a dry Saturday night, Parramatta will be looking to build on last week’s win with a victory against the Sharks. The weather should enable both sides to attack, and score, so this could be a high-scoring one. 

Parramatta by eight.

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