2021 NRL Round 23 Preview, Eels Vs Cowboys

Joshua Knox previews the Saturday night clash between Parramatta and North Queensland. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Date: 21/8, Time: 7:35pm

Eels Team

1. Clinton Gutherson
2. Maika Sivo
3. Will Penisini
4. Waqa Blake
5. Haze Dunster
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Isaiah Papali’i
9. Joey Lussick
10. Junior Paulo
11. Shaun Lane
12. Marata Niukore
13. Nathan Brown
14. Will Smith
15. Bryce Cartwright
16. Oregon Kaufusi
17. Makahesi Makatoa
18. Ray Stone
19. Keegan Hipgrave
20. Sean Russell
21. Jake Arthur

Team Changes

IN: Haze Dunster, Jake Arthur, Keegan Hipgrave, Oregon Kaufusi, Sean Russell, Will Penisini
OUT: Michael Oldfield, Ryan Matterson, Tom Opacic

Cowboys Team

1. Valentine Holmes
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Daejarn Asi
4. Jake Granville
5. Ben Hampton
6. Scott Drinkwater
7. Tom Dearden
8. Francis Molo
9. Reece Robson
10. Jordan McLean
11. Ben Condon
12. Heilum Luki
13. Coen Hess
14. Reuben Cotter
15. Jeremiah Nanai
16. Mitchell Dunn
17. Tom Gilbert
18. Jason Taumalolo
19. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
20. Peter Hola
21. Laitia Moceidreke

Team Changes

IN: Hamiso Tabuai Fidow, Jason Taumalolo, Laitia Moceidreke, Peter Hola, Reuben Cotter
OUT: Connelly Lemuelu, Griffin Neame

Referee: Ashley Klein



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The Parramatta Eels season is in free fall following four straight defeats which has seen Brad Arthur’s men slide to sixth position on the ladder, after sitting comfortably in the top four for the majority of the season. Losses to fellow top eight sides the Roosters, Rabbitohs and the latest loss 56-10 to the Sea Eagles has left the Eels in a precarious position with a big hit to the sides points differential. To make it worse for Parramatta, they will finish the season with clashes against each of last seasons Grand Finalists, the Storm and the Panthers in rounds 24 and 25 respectively.

The Eels have made a number of changes with winger Michael Oldfield paying the price for last weeks disaster by losing his spot to youngster Haze Dunster who earns a recall. Tom Opacic misses out due to injury with Will Penisini taking his spot for his second NRL match. The blows continue with enforcer Ryan Matterson suspended for the rest of the regular season following a sickening high shot on Manly’s Brad Parker.


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North Queensland are running out of answers following a ninth straight loss after falling to the Wests Tigers 24-16 last weekend. The Cowboys were sitting in and around the top eight for the majority of the first half of the season but since having the bye in round 13, have not been able to sing the team song. A concerning side note to the streak of losses is that the team has not scored greater than 18 points since round 15 when they scored 24 in a loss against Cronulla.

Todd Payton has only made the one change to his lineup with Mitchell Dunn returning to the lineup to replace Griffin Neame. What will excite Cowboys fans is the extended bench with Jason Taumalolo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow a chance to return from injury.


Its a tale of two stories. The Eels enter this clash with everything to play for as they look to return to form before the finals series. Adversely the Cowboys come into this one with nothing to lose and will be looking to play some expansive footy to cause an upset.

The Eels key to victory will be on the edges. With Matterson out for the remainder of the regular season and Reagan Campbell-Gillard out also, the forward pack is looking lighter than it has all season. Shaun Lane and Marata Niukore are the new look back row pair and it will be them dictating how this game eventuates. Running at Cowboys halves Scott Drinkwater and Tom Dearden should see these big men either scoring tries, or running solid decoys to allow overlaps on the outside.

The Cowboys key to victory will be their energy and early points. The Eels have looked flat at the best of times over the last month. If the Cowboys can score early points that will give them a huge morale boost and will see the Eels fall into a position they have been in a number of times over the past four rounds, behind. Like a number of the bottom eight sides, North Queensland are a confidence team and when they’re full of it, they can match it with some of the best. Exhibit A being a narrow four point loss to the Storm a few rounds ago.

Expect the team who scores first to dictate this match from the start. The Eels will be desperate to show that they are still a force to be reckoned with and the Cowboys could be their test subject. The Cowboys will want to begin building for next years campaign and with clashes against the Dragons and Sea Eagles to finish, will fancy winning one if not more of their remaining matches.


The last clash between these two was a lopsided affair in round eight of last season, with Paramatta trouncing to a 42-4 win at Bankwest Stadium. Maika Sivo scored a whopping four tries and the damage was all done without star half Mitchell Moses.


The Cowboys will want to continue the Eels demise and grab their first win since the 28th of May. Expect the Eels to overpower the Cowboys with much more on the line for them. They will want to make a statement.

Eels by 18. 

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