Here we go Eels fans! Another opportunity to break the long-lasting title drought. However, it won’t be easy, given their opposition has been the most consistent side of the past three seasons. That being said, these are five reasons why the Eels can get it done.
5. Eels Have The Head-to-Head AdvantageEmbed from Getty Images
Only two teams have defeated the Panthers in 2022, the Eels and the Storm. Furthermore, the Eels have done it twice (the first time at the Panthers’ home, BlueBet Stadium.) For this reason, they won’t approach this match thinking it’s mission impossible. The Eels will know it’s a job they’ve done before and take a lot of confidence from that.
4. Dylan Brown Producing MagicEmbed from Getty Images
Dylan Brown has had a breakout year in 2022. With 11 tries, 17 try assists, and a 93.3% tackle efficiency, he has demonstrated a profound impact on the Eels in both attack and defence. In addition to that, he’s been able to produce the sort of spontaneous magic that the Eels have been bereft of in years past. He is the x-factor for the Eels coming into this match, the type of player that can break the game open in an instant.
3. Eels Effective In Effort Areas
The Eels have not had the most consistent year, particularly in the regular season. One aspect of their game that has picked up at the right time is the immeasurable effort areas. For example, last week the Cowboys outplayed the Eels across nearly every statistical category. They had every right to win. Yet, in the final ten minutes, against it all, the Eels found a way. You can call it grit, determination, or the will to win… it was the difference, and the Eels will need to replicate it in spades this week when they inevitably find themselves up against it.
2. Forwards Can Match It With The PanthersEmbed from Getty Images
If there’s one area that the Eels can put an argument for matching the Panthers at, it’s their forward pack. Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard are up there as one of the form prop pairings in the game and can certainly hold their own against Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris. Further to that, Shaun Lane, and Isaiah Papali’i are in career-best form, and certainly up to their opposites in Viliame Kikau and Liam Martin. The first step towards an Eels victory is their forwards getting over the top of the Panthers.
1. They Have The Desire To Break The DroughtEmbed from Getty Images
One could read over both sides’ team sheets and objectively declare that the Panthers have stronger players in key positions. They have been the best side of the past three years and are the reigning premiers. There’s a lot going for them. If there’s something the Eels need to have more of, it’s desire. 36 years is a long time for a team to go without a premiership, compared to the Panthers who have come off of a win in 2021. If the Eels can channel that desire into an 80-minute performance, it could very well give them an edge. You don’t win games purely off of desire, plenty of other things have to go right, but it helps.
Whether they win or lose, the Eels have certainly defied expectations in 2022 by reaching their first Grand Final since 2009. However, they will be desperate to finally break the hoodoo that has long haunted them and end 36 years of agony. If they are to do so, any of the five reasons above will be a big reason why it happens.