The Panthers might need a little 'Dreamtime' spiritual luck to help lift them out of the doldrums in this Indigenous Round clash with the Eels.
Six losses in a row, with four clubs scoring 30 points or more, means defence has not been uppermost within the Panthers den. Ivan Cleary's men have scored 88 points in the last six rounds but conceded 166.
The Eels are on a five-day turnaround after a disappointing seven-point loss to the Cowboys in Townsville. Hooker Reed Mahoney might need a little more time to recover after he made 61 tackles in the tropics.
Match: Eels v Panthers
Round 11 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Eels: Parramatta are 1-17, with Kane Evans and Jaeman Salmon dropping off the extended bench on Thursday. Tim Mannah is back in the starting lineup, as is Maika Sivo. Blake Ferguson has been named in the centres, while George Jennings moves from right to left wing. Tepai Moeroa will miss a week due to concussion protocol. David Gower is a new face on the bench. Bevan French and Oregon Kaufusi were the players to drop out of the squad on Wednesday night.
Panthers: Tim Grant starts at prop with Reagan Campbell-Gillard to come off the bench, while Mitchell Kenny will make his debut via the interchange in place of Liam Martin. Josh Mansour is back on the right wing, while Brian To'o switches to the left wing in place of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Jarome Luai comes in for suspended five-eighth James Maloney, Frank Winterstein will start in the back-row, while James Fisher-Harris moves from back-rower to lock. Hame Sele and Kaide Ellis dropped off the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off.
Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton GuthersonFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
Centre for Eels is number 3 Josh HoffmanCentre for Panthers is number 3 Dean Whare
Centre for Eels is number 4 Blake FergusonCentre for Panthers is number 4 Waqa Blake
Winger for Eels is number 5 George JenningsWinger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Will SmithFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Eels is number 8 Junior PauloProp for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed MahoneyHooker for Panthers is number 9 Sione Katoa
Prop for Eels is number 10 Tim MannahProp for Panthers is number 16 Tim Grant
2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Marata Niukore2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Frank Winterstein
Lock for Eels is number 13 Manu Ma'uLock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-Harris
Interchange for Eels is number 14 Peni TerepoInterchange for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Interchange for Eels is number 15 Daniel AlvaroInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Tyrell Fuimaono
Interchange for Eels is number 16 Brad TakairangiInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Moses Leota
Interchange for Eels is number 17 David GowerInterchange for Panthers is number 18 Mitchell Kenny
Props James Tamou and Junior Paulo bring too vastly different body shapes but a wealth of power and velocity. Tamou has 14 tackle breaks this year, Paulo has 11, and they are both averaging 12 hit-ups a game. The starts by these two will go a long way to determining which team gets the upper hand early.
For the Eels to win
They need to firm up that defensive line. Certainly the 54-point loss to Storm in round nine was not pretty with 12 line-breaks and 51 tackle-busts to Craig Bellamy's men. But against the more lowly Cowboys, at least in terms of NRL ladder position, the Eels still made just 12 tackle breaks to the Cowboys 29.
For the Panthers to win
They need to find the shop that sells 'confidence' and buy the family-size packet for each of their players to consume. They are the worst in the NRL for missed tackles - 402 after 10 rounds. But in contrast, the Panthers lead the competition in engaging the line. So they need their middles and edges to penetrate it, to give their outside backs the chance to do their stuff.
Brett Kimmorley says
The Penrith Panthers have probably hit rock bottom and it'll be interesting to see what team Ivan Cleary puts together and how they perform. The battle of the west should inspire them this week. It'll be interesting to see how Nathan Cleary plays with the NSW No.7 jersey up for grabs. Parramatta have to learn to play a little smarter. They played well last week but couldn't get the result, and there will be pressure on Mitchell Moses to manage the game plan, when the contest is on the line. Eels by 6.
The Eels are running third in the NRL, behind the Roosters and Rabbitohs, in terms of try assists, and they're also equal third with South Sydney in line break assists.
And another thing ...
Parramatta forwards Manu Ma'u and Tepai Moeroa are on track to both play their 100th games, but Moeroa will need to pass concussion protocols after a head knock against the Cowboys.