Schick Hyrdo Preview: Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels
The Parramatta Eels' season is hanging by a thread. With their salary cap punishment hanging over their head they cannot afford to lose many if any more games if they're to remain in finals contention.
Newcastle haven't won a game since Round 5 and if the Eels are serious about football past the first week of the September they should do a number on the depleted Knights.
Not only are the Knights set to miss Dane Gagai to Queensland Origin, they'll also be without young half Brock Lamb (ankle) who has been ruled out for eight weeks.
Jaelen Feeney is the only fit half available to partner Trent Hodkinson and will be joined in the team by the returning Sam Mataora (hamstring).
The Eels have lost their past two games but are sticking solid with the same team minus New South Wales' Michael Jennings. He's been replaced by Vai Toutai in the centres.
Watch out Knights: Beau Scott left the Knights on good terms last season but it doesn't mean he won't enact pain on his old side. Scott has been in sensational form as the Eels' defensive cornerstone in 2016 despite being overlooked for NSW Origin duties. While a slither of doubt remains over his fitness, if he does play then watch out Newcastle.
Watch out Eels: Feeney may be the only available half left for the Knights to utilise – other than Hodkinson – but he'll be out to prove he's every bit deserving of the call up. Feeney will return to his favoured position in the halves against Parramatta after his early-season stint at fullback. A bigger body than usual playmakers in the NRL, Feeney has speed to boot and will prove a worthy opponent for Corey Norman.
Key Match-Up: Akuila Uate v Semi Radradra – Arguably two of the greatest Fijian rugby league players of all-time will come face to face on Monday night. Radradra has never shied away from his sensational form since his 2013 NRL debut and was duly rewarded with Australia Test selection earlier this month. Uate hasn't hit the heights he was accustomed to earlier in his career of late but if any opponent is going to motivate him it may as well be his former countryman.
The History: Played 47; Knights 26, Eels 20, Drawn 1. The last time Parramatta played the Knights in Round 7 last year they produced a rare 28-22 victory – rare because prior to that Newcastle had won their past seven against the Eels, dating back to 2010.
What are the Odds: The Eels are raging hot favourites with Sportsbet and the punters are keen on including them in their multis. Parramatta 13-plus is the most popular however those who are brave enough to back the Knights are taking them with the big start offered at the line. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline Officials: Rick MacFarlane and Jon Stone.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live Coverage from 6:30pm.
The way we see it: The Eels' season is on the line in this one, and you'd think a loss to the Knights would be the final nail in their coffin for season 2016. Fitness clouds over Scott (cork) and Kieran Foran (shoulder) should disintegrate throughout the week with Parramatta surely possessing enough firepower to beat the injury-ravaged Knights. Eels by 10 points.