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2021 NRL Round 13 Preview, Knights Vs Eels

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

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, Date: Sunday 6th June, Time: 4:05pm

Knights Team

1. Tex Hoy
2. Starford To’a
3. Enari Tuala
4. Bradman Best
5. Brayden Musgrove
6. Connor Watson
7. Phoenix Crossland
8. Sauaso Sue
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Jacob Saifiti
11. Brodie Jones
12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
13. Mitchell Barnett
14. Kurt Mann
15. Josh King
16. Jack Johns
17. Simi Sasagi
18. Jake Clifford
19. Jirah Momoisea
20. Matt Croker
21. Gehamat Shibasaki

Team Changes

IN: Gehamat Shibasaki, Jack Johns, Jake Clifford, Jirah Momoisea, Kurt Mann, Matt Croker
OUT: Daniel Saifiti, David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell

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. Reed Mahoney
10. Marata Niukore
11. Isaiah Papali’i
12. Ryan Matterson
13. Nathan Brown
14. Will Smith
15. Shaun Lane
16. Oregon Kaufusi
17. Bryce Cartwright
18. Joey Lussick
19. Makahesi Makatoa
20. Jakob Arthur
21. Will Penisini

Team Changes

IN: Dylan Brown, Haze Dunster, Makahesi Makatoa, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Will Smith
OUT: Blake Ferguson, Junior Paulo

Referee: Adam Gee

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Knights

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Newcastle chalked up their fifth win of the year with a spirited victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. It was a win they needed after a disappointing few weeks. They will come into this match with confidence knowing they were capable of defeating a Sea Eagles outfit that had put a score on the Parramatta Eels a couple of weeks ago.

Newcastle’s forward pack has taken a significant hit this week, with Saifiti out for Origin duty, Frizell out to injury and Klemmer suspended for two games. This bring Sauaso Sue, Brodie Jones, and Jacob Saifiti into the starting side, while Kurt Mann, Jack Johns and Simi Sasagi will come onto the bench.

Eels

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The Parramatta Eels lost their second straight match in a disappointing encounter against the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Similar to their match against the Sea Eagles, they struggled to defend and leaked far too many points to be competitive.

Brad Arthur has swung the axe this week, having had enough of his team’s fragile edge defence. Blake Ferguson is the one to go, with youngster Haze Dunster to take his place. Furthermore, Dylan Brown comes back in after serving a three game suspension. Reagan Campbell-Gillard returns to the starting side while the reliable Marata Niukore fills in for Junior Paulo, who will be out on Origin duty. Finally, utility Will Smith returns to the bench.

PREVIEW

Newcastle were able to scrap together a win last week that they would want to build on. Their victory over an in form Manly team would have filled the entire squad with confidence. Another game at home in front of what will be a back McDonalds Jones Stadium is bound to have them ready to go.

Parramatta are in a dangerous place form wise; another loss could lead to a downward spiral that will undo a lot of the good work done in the earlier stages of the season. It’s not only that they’ve lost their past two matches, but they’ve lost both convincingly. The big fix is obvious: their defence.

Newcastle’s forward pack will have a big job. Sue, J. Saifiti and Brodie Jones are filling the spots of three players who have participated at all levels of rugby league, from state to international. Though it’s a huge loss of experience up front, they will want to view this as an opportunity to stand up and demonstrate their abilities.

Parramatta’s edges are on high alert. Dunster comes in for Ferguson, who has been dropped after a string of poor defensive games. It will be interesting to note that if young Dunster plays well enough, it may spell the end of Ferguson’s time in the Eels team, as he is off contract for 2022. However, the likes of Waqa Blake, Maika Sivo and Tom Opacic will want to improve their own work, as last week’s game was a poor showing overall from both sides of the field.

KEY STAT

The last time these two teams met was in 2020, which saw the Eels won a close game at 10-4. Overall, Newcastle has won slightly more with 30 of their 54 matches. More importantly, they’ve won 19 of their 28 games played in Newcastle. It’s also noteworthy to note that the Knights are celebrating their 20th anniversary of the upset 2001 grand final, which is a match that burns in the mind of every Eels fan.

PREDICTION

Newcastle are looking to finally string together some consistent performances, while Parramatta is battling to put an end to a few poor performances. There’s no question that packed stadium in Newcastle on a Sunday afternoon poses a huge advantage to the home side, as does their record up there. Parramatta have a slightly stronger team on paper, with Newcastle missing key forwards to Origin, injury and suspension. Ultimately, Newcastle showed enough last week to suggest they should keep it close. Assuming the Eels are able to fix their defensive woes, which may happen with Ferguson’s axing, they should be winning.

Eels by 8

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