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2021 NRL Round Six Preview, Raiders Vs Eels

Nathan Smith previews the Canberra Raiders up against the Parramatta Eels. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra, Date: 17th of April, Saturday, Time: 7.35 pm

Raiders Team

1. Caleb Aekins
2. Bailey Simonsson
3. Jarrod Croker
4. Curtis Scott
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Jack Wighton
7. George Williams
8. Josh Papalii
9. Josh Hodgson
10. Iosia Soliola
11. Hudson Young
12. Elliott Whitehead
13. Joseph Tapine
14. Tom Starling
15. Ryan Sutton
16. Siliva Havili
17. Emre Guler
18. Sebsatina Kris
19. Matt Frawley
20. Corey Harawira-Naera
21. Dunamis Lui

Team Changes

IN: Caleb Aekins, Curtis Scott, Dunamis Lui, Emre Guler, Matt Frawley
OUT: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Ryan James

Eels Team

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

Team Changes

IN: Joey Lussick, Jordan Rankin, Keegan Hipgrave, Ryan Matterson, Wiremu Greig
OUT: Dylan Brown, Ray Stone

Referee: Ben Cummins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Raiders

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The Raiders went down to the Panthers last week in a tightly fought contest, with the 30-10 scoreline not completely reflective of the match. They’re unlucky not to be on four wins, after their dramatic round three loss to the Warriors – which the NRL conceded was decided by an incorrect call – and further to that, they’ve had a few injuries that have disrupted their ability to field a full strength team. Despite this, they have been competitive throughout the season thus far and will look to regain their winning form this week against the Eels.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is a big out for the Raiders, with Caleb Aekins named to replace him at fullback. However, the talented Curtis Scott comes back into the centres, replacing Sebastian Kris. The only other changes are Joseph Tapine moving into lock, with Ryan James not named, and Emre Guler getting his first run of the year off the bench.

Eels

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The Eels’ scrappy footy throughout the season finally caught up to them last week. The Dragons, despite being the underdogs, put in a tough performance which saw them overcome the Eels at home. Parramatta’s attack, worryingly, looked flat, and was unable to crack the Dragons’ defence even after they’d received a sin binning. It doesn’t get any easier this week, with the road trip down to Canberra one of the tougher assignments on an NRL calendar.

The big change for the Eels is the inclusion of Will Smith at five-eighth, with Dylan Brown missing this game. Though he’s proven to be a tough competitor, the Eels will miss Brown’s running game. Ryan Matterson is back after a few weeks off, while Keegan Hipgrave comes onto the bench for Ray Stone. Bryce Cartwright gets another week to prove his worth, despite a lacklustre debut for the Eels last week.

PREVIEW

This is an interesting game for both teams. They’re both responding to losses, though the context behind each is entirely different. The Raiders genuinely competed against last year’s grand finalists (Penrith) and nearly looked like staging a comeback victory. As such, there were plenty of positives to take from their efforts. For Canberra, they don’t need to change too much of their footy to win this one; should they put in an effort similar to last week’s, they’ll go pretty close to getting the result.

Parramatta, quite frankly, were terrible. To date, they’ve been sloppy against most sides they’ve faced, and as such, are not building a huge case to feature deep in the finals. They will need to channel the mental toughness that saw them upset the Storm to win this one, because if they perform similarly to how they did last week, they will find it very difficult to come up with a victory.

There are a few exciting match-ups on the field, however none more than that of the hookers in Josh Hodgson and Reed Mahoney. Both players have been an essential ingredient to their respective side, with 460 tackles between them across five games. Hodgson, as always, has proven why he’s one of the premier hookers in the game, with his smart work in the middle of the field a big part of the Raiders’ game plans. However, there will be a question over the minutes he plays, having suffered a minor hip injury last week.

Mahoney has been in career-best form, possibly spurred on by the fact that the Queensland number nine jersey seems to be locked up by Harry Grant. In particular, his ability to identify a lazy marker and dart out of dummy-half is a much improved aspect of his game. Further, he has been tackling his guts out in every match to date; however, as it nears winter, and the Canberra nights get colder, it can be a lot less fun tackling and getting belted by the opposition.

KEY STAT

Their overall head-to-head form is relatively close, with the Raiders having the slight edge at 31 wins from their 59 games. However, the Eels’ history at GIO Stadium is dire; with only four wins from 22 appearances. As such, one would suggest they don’t handle the intimidating atmosphere or the blistering cold of Canberra very well. The last time these two teams met, the Eels snagged a Golden Point win at home. If their form at home holds true, the Raiders should find victory a very probable outcome.

PREDICTION

With both sides looking to get back to their winning ways, expect them to leave nothing on the field. The Eels will be sure to fix up many of the basic errors and haphazard attack of weeks gone by, while the Raiders will be looking to give their home crowd a good night out. Given their form against Parramatta at GIO Stadium, the Raiders might just be too strong for them this week.

Raiders by eight.

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