2023 NRL Preview Round 9: Eels Vs Knights

Nathan Smith previews the Friday night match between the Eels and Knights. Here’s what we have to look forward to…



Parramatta Eels Vs Newcastle Knights
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Date: Friday 28th April, 6:00pm (local)


Parramatta Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Sean Russell 5. Haze Dunster 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Wiremu Greig 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. J’maine Hopgood 14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Brendan Hands 16. Matt Doorey 17. Makahesi Makatoa 18. Jakob Arthur 19. Jack Murchie 20. Ofahiki Ogden 21. Daejarn Asi 22. Isaac Lumelume

Newcastle Knights: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Phoenix Crossland 10. Leo Thompson 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Tyson Gamble 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Mathew Croker 17. Jack Hetherington 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Hymel Hunt 20. Jack Johns 21. Dylan Lucas 22. Adam Clune

Referee: Chris Sutton

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This week’s match between the Parramatta Eels and Newcastle Knights shapes as an important one for both. Now precisely a quarter through the season, the ladder (though still congested) is starting to sort itself out. A win for either side puts them near the top eight, while a loss leaves them languishing in the bottom half.

The Eels broke a two-game winning run last week after losing to the Broncos. It was a mistake-riddled match that left players and fans frustrated alike. The biggest occurrence to come from that game is Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s long-term groin injury, which will seem him out for two months. The ever-improving Wiremu Greig fills his spot this week and will be looking to impose himself as a rising star in the prop ranks. They will have identified this game as a must-win. They are favourites and at home, and with two wins over the next two weeks, would find themselves at a 50% winning rate for the first ten rounds. Not amazing, nor terrible. Just enough to try and improve on moving into the middle of the year.

The Knights came painfully close against a desperate Cowboys side. This was only one week after coming similarly, painfully close against the Panthers. One thing that is clear is that the 2023 Knights side has a toughness about it that they may have seemed to lack in the past. Their players compete for 80 minutes and never give in. Kalyn Ponga will start for the first time since Round 2 and will be the man to watch. The team has played well with Gamble serving at five-eighth but is unquestionably better with Ponga, who is arguably one of the game’s best talents.

For the Eels, winning comes from a simple rugby league philosophy: complete your sets. This year, their set completions have been abysmal. Last week, it was 68%, while the week before (which they won comfortably), it was still only 70%. At times, they can be accused of trying to find shortcuts to scoring points, with forced offloads causing lots of dropped balls. If they continue this trend into this week, their errors will be punished with points.

The Knights will benefit from Ponga’s inclusion not only because of his skill but also his goal-kicking. There are many instances this year (such as their game against the Panthers) where their goal-kicking has cost them. Lachlan Miller, their game-breaking fullback, has struggled with the responsibility, having kicked at around 61%. This is miserable when compared to Ponga’s 80% last season. Teams can afford to miss one, however, when they start to pile up, games can be decided purely on this. Ponga will kick more than he misses.


Eels 6, Knights 4


Eels by 12

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