Eels duo happy with the 'right' move
It might have been one of the most potent attacking combinations in the NRL last year, but no one at the Eels is regretting the move to break up the Brad Takairangi and Semi Radradra tag team.
Playing on the left edge, Takairangi set up his winger for 10 tries in the 13 matches they played together, but the arrival of superstar centre Michael Jennings from the Roosters forced the prized pairing to go their separate ways.
Now on the right hand side of the field, Takairangi joked that the 'Semi Trailer' - who has scored three tries this year - was missing his former centre partner's influence in 2016.
Radradra's loss was Clint Gutherson's gain, with the former Sea Eagle settling in nicely at his new club.
"Last year we had a lot of success down the left-hand side and I think the whole purpose of me moving to the right was to even out the balance of our attack and I think we're doing that," Takairangi told NRL.com.
"I did the whole pre-season on the right, even before 'Jenko' [Michael Jennings] came here. It was something me and Brad (Eels coach Brad Arthur) talked about. I've always preferred playing on that side, and now that I'm over there, I'm pretty happy."
The new-look right-edge defence didn’t get off to best of the starts conceding three tries against the Broncos in Round 1, but given what we've seen from Brisbane's attack, that might have been an achievement in itself.
"It probably wasn't the best way to start off the season but people forget 'Gutho' had only played about five games before the season started. We've worked really hard at that and we still are," Takairangi said.
"It's been seven rounds and we're starting to understand each other's games a lot more and hopefully we can show that this week again.
"I think that whole side is building together. We're still learning off 'Foz' (Kieran Foran) and 'Beauy' (Beau Scott), but I think our combinations are getting better each week."
Takairangi's partner-in-crime has also relished the opportunity to shift over to the right-hand side of the field, with Clint Gutherson telling NRL.com that's where he feels most at home.
"I played on the left at Manly when I was on the wing, but I'd have to say the right side is my preferred side. I can play either, but I do all my better things on the right side," Gutherson said.
Gutherson was limited to just one game in 2015 after suffering a season-ending knee injury - incidentally against the Eels in Round 1 - and linked up with Parramatta ahead of the 2016 season after his contract at Manly fell through.
"I think it's been a good move for me personally. They sort of came to me and spoke to my manager and he told me that we had a couple of options here at the Eels."
Still living on Sydney's northern beaches, Gutherson described the daily 30-40 minute commute as an "absolute pleasure" and said it felt good to come up against his former Manly teammates at Brookvale Oval last week.
"There was a bit of friendly banter throughout the week with a few texts sent. I had to get it out of the way eventually, so playing them so early was good."
The Eels winger defused six kicks against his former club last weekend in what was his best showing of the season, and expects that trend to continue for the rest of the year.
With Radradra regarded as one of the most damaging kick returners in the game, the 21-year-old is bracing himself for a Johnathan Thurston aerial barrage on Saturday night and is thoroughly looking forward to the challenge.
"No one's going to kick to Semi so I'm just going to expect all the kicks to come my way every week. If I drop a couple then I'll just forget about it and move on. Not everyone expects you to catch them all but you've just got to do your best," the NSW under-20s State of Origin representative said.
"I'm just getting more and more confident week in week out. I just want to focus on playing footy because I haven’t played this many NRL games in a row in my career."
Gutherson hasn't scored since the Round 1 clash against the Broncos, but is confident that will change once the newly developed combination clicks.
"You saw what 'Takas' could do all throughout his career, but especially last year. He set up Semi for hundreds of tries," the Parramatta winger said.
"We're getting a good combination going now and we're getting the gist of what we can both do, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can really gel and put some tries together."