Manly are back to life without Tom Trbojevic (pectoral tear) as they head to Bankwest Stadium to battle the Eels.
Both clubs are finals-bound so there's no immediate squeeze on this result. But the Sea Eagles' progress through September might have a shorter shelf life now that 'Turbo' has had his engines switched off.
Manly won four of the 10 matches Trbojevic missed earlier in the season through two separate hamstring tears, as further evidence of his value to the side.
The Eels would enjoy ironing out a few wrinkles that have caused a minor drop in form. They followed four straight wins with back-to-back losses to the Bulldogs and Broncos over the past fortnight.
Match: Eels v Sea Eagles
Round 25 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Eels: Marata Niukore drops back to the bench with Daniel Alvaro named in his place at lock but otherwise Parramatta's line-up is 1-17 for kick-off. Tepai Moeroa and Ray Stone replace David Gower and Peni Terepo on the bench. Will Smith and Terepo dropped off the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off. The Eels have won seven of their past nine games against the Sea Eagles.
Sea Eagles: Taniela Paseka has been elevated to the starting side with Corey Waddell dropping back to the bench but otherwise Manly's line-up is also 1-17. Brendan Elliot starts at fullback with superstar Tom Trbojevic gone for the remainder of the campaign following surgery on a ruptured pectoral. Tevita Funa and Cade Cust were trimmed from the extended bench on Thursday. The Sea Eagles have only won one of their past five games without Trbojevic's services in the No.1 jersey.
Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton GuthersonFullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Brendan Elliot
Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Jorge Taufua
Centre for Eels is number 3 Michael JenningsCentre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Brad Parker
Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa BlakeCentre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Moses Suli
Winger for Eels is number 5 Blake FergusonWinger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Reuben Garrick
Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan BrownFive-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Dylan Walker
Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Prop for Eels is number 8 Kane EvansProp for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed MahoneyHooker for Sea Eagles is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior PauloProp for Sea Eagles is number 10 Martin Taupau
2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Curtis Sironen
2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Manu Ma'u2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 17 Taniela Paseka
Lock for Eels is number 15 Daniel AlvaroLock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange for Eels is number 13 Marata NiukoreInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 11 Corey Waddell
Interchange for Eels is number 14 Brad TakairangiInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 14 Manase Fainu
Interchange for Eels is number 16 Ray StoneInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Sean Keppie
Interchange for Eels is number 17 Tepai MoeroaInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 16 Lloyd Perrett
The way opposing halfbacks Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) and Mitch Moses (Eels) choose to end their sets will be a feature of this game. The Eels failed to complete 11 of their 38 sets in the loss to the Broncos and the Manly didn't finish off 10 of their 31 sets going down to Storm. Both these No.7s pride themselves on not only controlling their game plans, but getting to their kicks. So whoever impresses more on the fifth tackle options will go a long way to securing a win. They are also in top-three in the NRL for try assists this year.
For the Eels to win
Getting the back five back to ignite more often. Both centre Michael Jennings and winger Blake Ferguson have been out injured recently, which has disrupted the flow a little. Jennings and Maika Sivo are a powerful combination but Ferguson and mid-season Penrith recruit Waqa Blake could be equally as dangerous - they just need time. Last week was their first game together.
For the Sea Eagles to win
Cherry-Evans, his two hookers in Api Koroisau and Manase Fainu, and five-eighth Dylan Walker have to make sure they continue to keep the attack flowing without Trbojevic. Engaging the ball-playing skills of the other Trbojevic brother, Jake, will go a long way towards that. TT's likely replacement Brendan Elliot also knows the drill as he's played 11 of his 15 games this year at No.1. So he won't need a lot of tutoring from Cherry-Evans - he just needs to pick up where he left off the last time Turbo was absent.
Brett Kimmorley says
The great old rivalry is back again. The unfortunate thing for Manly is that Tom Trbojevic is gone. His absence takes so much away from the team and will put a lot of pressure on DCE to be the main creator in attack outside of the forwards. Blake Ferguson’s return was a huge in for Parramatta last week. They want to get on a winning note before the finals and I think Brad Arthur will have them absolutely primed for this. Eels by 2
Cherry-Evans leads the NRL in 40/20s and he loves to turn the momentum of a game by catching the opposition off guard.
And another thing ...
Former Roosters and Fiji international prop Kane Evans is looking to celebrate his 100th NRL game by playing in Eels colours. He's run over 110 metres per game for the past four weeks so another effort like that will warrant popping a champagne cork or two.