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Eels v Rabbitohs
ANZ Stadium
Sunday 3pm

Is this the week? Is this the week Parramatta actually turn up to compete and play like we know they can, and like Nathan Hindmarsh deserves as he becomes the most-capped Eel in history?

Or is this a week where the Rabbitohs continue their resurgence, heaping more and more pressure on the sinking ship that is Parramatta’s season thus far?

One thing is for sure, despite the Eels’ woes, this match deserves a bumper crowd, so if you are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon and the weather is as it has been in Sydney all week, this is surely a great option.

Hindmarsh hits game 266 for the Eels this week and has been given the honour of co-captaincy for the match. This pushes him past Brett Kenny’s club record and considering the blood and sweat the man has given for the cause, every single Eels fan should make their way to Homebush.

The Rabbitohs’ faithful have no excuses, either. Although an Eels home game, it is being played at South Sydney’s home ground and with 80,000 seats available in this fortress, the potential is there for a real blockbuster and incredible atmosphere.

After falling to Canberra last Monday night the Eels have dropped to 13th on the NRL ladder having won just one of five games.

Joel Reddy has taken an early plea and is suspended, meaning Krisnan Inu will play centre, while Brendan Oake has been added as an 18th man.

The Rabbitohs took care of the Knights last weekend to make it three wins on the trot, moving them into the top eight in seventh spot.

They too have a suspended player in Ben Lowe, which sees Luke Stuart move from prop to lock, Scott Geddes start in the front row and Queensland Origin enforcer Michael Crocker come onto the bench.

Watch out Eels: Beau Champion is living up to his name now he has found a permanent home in the centres for the Rabbitohs.

While his metres are down compared to some other big name centres (average just 76 a game) he has made the most of his touches, scoring seven tries already this season to be equal leading try-scorer with Dragon Brett Morris.

He has six line-breaks (three clean, two via a bust and one from a kick-return) plus three try assists and three line-break assists. With 12 tries being scored by the Rabbitohs on Champion’s side of the field, and the fact the Eels have given up eight tries in the same area, this could be another game where he adds to his tally.

Watch out Rabbitohs: The Eels only need to ramp up their impressive second-phase game to create headaches.

Although they are already averaging three offloads more per game than the Rabbitohs, the Eels are down on their 2009 output; should they get back into their rhythm it could be a long afternoon for the Bunnies.

The importance for South Sydney is wrapping up the ball carrier to prevent the pass. With just 14 line-breaks for the Eels, it is obvious they are struggling to penetrate but second-phase play could be the catalyst to lifting those figures.  

Where it will be won: Good old-fashioned desire and determination.

The Eels have the talent to win games – all fans know as much – and the Rabbitohs have the ability to play like ‘busteds’ – we’ve seen that enough times as well. Form is usually a good guide; however, one gets the feeling it can be thrown out the window in this clash.

The Parramatta boys have really been under the pump for a few weeks now and the ‘don’t worry, she’ll be right’ attitude doesn’t cut it any more. They need to find some ticker and heart from somewhere – if not for their own sakes, for that of Hindy and his special day.

To win football games you have to want to compete. You have to dive on every loose ball, make up for every error, run that little bit stronger and tackle that little bit harder. The Rabbitohs have shown they can do as much, but also they have shown a tendency to lack consistency week to week and during games.

When they get bustled they sometimes play ‘panic’ football, particularly in the halves. If they continue with the aggression and skill from the past three weeks in a controlled manner, they will get this done. But if they think this match will be handed to them on a platter, they could play the Eels right back into form.

The history: Played 110; Eels 49, Rabbitohs 58, drawn 3. The last time these two sides met they fought out a 16-16 draw at this very venue. Having played each other four times at ANZ Stadium the Rabbitohs have a slight edge with two wins to Parramatta’s one, with the above-mentioned draw. Before the draw, Parramatta had won four of the past six matches between the teams.  

The head definitely says Rabbitohs here, but you have got to think the Eels will eventually lift and what better occasion than Hindy’s big day?

Rugby league fairytales happen a lot and this factor alone has the tipping finger a little shaky. Smart pick is South Sydney, but if you are feeling a little risky, this is one match to look at.
Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Grant Atkins; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.
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