Nathan Smith previews the semi-final encounter between the Parramatta Eels and Canberra Raiders. Here’s what we have to look forward to…
Parramatta Eels Vs Canberra Raiders
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Date: Friday 16th of September, 7:50pm (local)
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Nathan Brown 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Bryce Cartwright 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell
With Mitchell Moses having been deemed fit to play, Brad Arthur has named the same 17 that faced the Panthers.Embed from Getty Images
Raiders: 1. Xavier Savage 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Harawira-Naera 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Albert Hopoate 19. Ata Mariota 20. Matt Frawley 21. Peter Hola 22. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
The one change Ricky Stuart has had to make is the inclusion of Corey Harawira-Naera into the starting side to take the injured Adam Elliot’s spot, which also pushes Ryan Sutton onto the bench at 17.
Referee: Ashley Klein
This Friday, there are no more safety nets. If you lose, you’re gone. This probably won’t bother the Raiders too much, because they never had one, to begin with, but for the ever-shaky Eels, the dreaded semi-final encounter looms large.
Before we get into that, let’s look at how we got here. Last week, the Eels played the Panthers at home, and on the back of a multitude of simple errors, found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Despite having knocked off the Panthers twice this season, a third straight win wasn’t to be.
The Raiders, having only truly locked in their finals spot in the last round of the competition, defied anyone that considered them cannon fodder by eliminating the Storm at AAMI Park. They have the air of a side that’s playing without fear.
Coming into this Friday, the Eels have the most pressure to deal with. Since 2017, they’ve made the second round of the finals on four occasions, and have won none of them. Furthermore, they’ve only won two of their past nine finals appearances. In that same period of time, the Raiders have made and won preliminary finals matches and made a grand final in 2019. One could say they’ve done it better on the big stage than the Eels in recent years.
Compound this with the fact that the Raiders have found some of their best form late, which is perhaps the best time to find it, and you begin to build a case as to why this match is well and truly within their grasp. Their men in the middle, the likes of Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine and the possible Kangaroos bolter Hudson Young, will be instrumental in attempting to unsettle the Eels’ forwards. On their day, they are as good a forward pack as any.
It’s not hard to see where the Eels need to improve: fewer errors. Waqa Blake had perhaps his worst game of the season under the high-ball, gifting several sets of possession to the Panthers. In finals footy, especially when it becomes must-win stuff, you simply cannot gift the opposition the ball so easily. Blake can expect Jack Wighton to send him a few. As a unit, their backline was disappointing, with the likes of Dylan Brown and Clint Gutherson a lot quieter than they had been in recent weeks. They need to capitalise on their sets when the opportunities present themselves, or they will find themselves in trouble.
You can expect a packed house for the game, with the majority of the tickets all but gone. These two clubs currently have the longest-running premiership droughts, and as such, will be desperate to get themselves another round closer to potentially ending them.Embed from Getty Images
- These two sides have never played each other in a finals game.
- The Eels’ last met the Raiders earlier this year, having won that match 28-20.
- The last time these two teams met at CommBank Stadium was in 2020, which saw the Eels win by one point.
- The Raiders lead the overall head-to-head, with 32 wins of their 62 played.
Parramatta Eels 1-12
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