If reports are to be believed, the beleaguered Eels and under-siege head coach Brad Arthur have a week or two left to salvage the gaffer’s time at the club and that could well be on the mark given the raft of changes Arthur has rung in for their week 12 clash with the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
It’ll be slightly unusual territory for the Broncos, shifting from their traditional Friday slot to a prime-time Thursday night game, but they run into an Eels side bereft of ideas and ready for the taking.
Wayne Bennett’s men got things back on track with a gutsy win over the Sydney Roosters in their last start, but backing that up with a home win against the side sitting dead last will be paramount in their continued charge for finals footy and a possible top-four berth come seasons end.
On the flip-side, the Eels are really left fighting just for pride now as their finals hopes have been wiped away comprehensively.
2017 – Parramatta Eels 52 def. Brisbane Broncos 34 at Suncorp Stadium
2017 – Parramatta Eels 28 def. Brisbane Broncos 14 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Brisbane Broncos 38 def. Parramatta Eels 16 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 – Brisbane Broncos 17 def. Parramatta Eels 4 at Parramatta Stadium
2015 – Brisbane Broncos 28 def. Parramatta Eels 16 at Suncorp Stadium
While the Eels managed to triumph in both clashes with the Broncos in 2017, it’s fair to say that the blue and golds are a very different side to the one that blew the doors off the competition early and ended a finals drought this season.
The Broncos to have been unimpressive overall and find themselves outside the top eight. Prior to last season, however, they had beaten the Eels on three consecutive occasions and four of the last five.
The pair first met back in 1988 when the new, flashy, upstart Broncos burst onto the scene. The Brisbane side triumphed in a Round 5 affair 24-18 courtesy of tries to Michael Hancock, Allan Langer, Wally Lewis and Gene Miles. Peter Wynn managed a try for the Eels on the day.
Both sides could do with that sort of quality on the field on Thursday night.
|Brisbane Broncos||Parramatta Eels|
|1||Darius Boyd||Corey Norman|
|2||Corey Oates||Bevan French|
|3||James Roberts||Michael Jennings|
|4||Jordan Kahu||Brad Takairangi|
|5||Jamayne Isaako||George Jennings|
|6||Anthony Milford||Clint Gutherson|
|7||Kodi Nikorima||Mitchell Moses|
|8||< Player name redacted >||Daniel Alvaro|
|9||Andrew McCullough||Cameron King|
|10||Sam Thaiday||Siosaia Vave|
|11||Tevita Pangai Junior||Manu Ma’u|
|12||Jaydn Su’A||Tepai Moeroa|
|13||Joe Ofahengaue||Peni Terepo|
|14||Sam Tagataese||Will Smith|
|15||George Fai||Suaia Matagi|
|16||Kotoni Staggs||David Gower|
|17||Patrick Mago||Marata Niukore|
|18||Tom Opacic||Ray Stone|
|19||Troy Dargan||Jaeman Salmon|
|20||Josh McGuire||Kane Evans|
|21||David Fifita||Josh Hoffman|
The facts that matter
The Broncos put together a tough, gritty effort last week as they outlasted the Sydney Roosters and banked a vital pair of competition points but they face a desperate and dogged Eels side in a must-win clash on home soil this Thursday night.
While things on the field took a turn for the better last week, off-field dramas and speculation around the future of coach Wayne Bennett, so lovingly adored anywhere north of the Tweed and ‘secret talks’ between the club and Craig Bellamy should make for an interesting build up.
That the game is actually Bennett’s 800th game as a coach at the highest level of the club game is seemingly fading into the background more and more by the day.
Avoiding underestimating the Eels looms as the key to approaching this game in the right frame of mind and with their own struggles and a sluggish mid-table position, there is every incentive for the Broncos to put on a show and win big.
On the team sheet, centre Jordan Kahu makes a long-awaited return from a broken jaw, replacing Tom Opacic who falls all the way to the reserves list after the strong debut showing of youngster Kotoni Staggs against the Roosters.
Staggs remains on the bench while George Fai joins him after replacing Korbin Sims who suffered a broken jaw in a controversial incident with Dylan Napa.
2018 is pretty much a writeoff for the Parramatta Eels at this point. 11 rounds into the season and the Eels sit dead last with just two wins to show for their efforts.
Talk of coach sackings or major changes have been brewing for a few weeks now and while Brad Arthur has seemingly received the dreaded vote of confidence from the board and management of the club, on-field changes are beginning to take place.
In their favour, the Eels travel to Brisbane to tackle a Broncos side that has yet to find any genuine consistency in 2018 and have looked fragile at times.
The halves partnership of Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman, so enigmatic and exciting at the back-end of 2017 has failed to fire in dramatic circumstances so far this year and Arthur has made the call to switch things up.
Clint Gutherson shifts into the halves alongside Moses while Norman moves back to fullback. Keen observers of Norman’s career would remember it was a move to fullback that eventually precipitated his departure from the Broncos some years ago.
While a more thorough rebuild of the squad could have been undertaken, Arthur has rung in other changes, with Beau Scott’s season-ending ACL injury bringing Manu Ma’u into the back-row, Peni Terepo to lock-forward and Siosaia Vave into the starting side at prop.
Sure, the Broncos have been hot and cold, but if you think I could possibly back the Eels given what they’ve dished up this season, you’re kidding me! Brisbane by a cricket score as guys like James Roberts look to do everything they can to squeeze into Origin contention.
Can the Eels upset the Broncos in Brisbane, or will Wayne’s bad week end with a win on home soil? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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