Schick Hydro Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Parramatta Eels
An 80th-minute Adam Reynolds conversion is all that separated these teams when they met on Friday the 13th a month ago as the Eels were still coming to terms with their salary cap punishments.
While that matter is yet to be resolved, the fate of both the Eels and Rabbitohs is still very much up in the air.
The Rabbitohs sit down in 13th spot on the NRL Telstra Premiership but are only three wins behind Parramatta who currently sit in equal third spot on 18 competition points.
Both teams have been affected by next week's State of Origin Game Two in Brisbane but there will still be plenty of firepower on show at ANZ Stadium this Friday night.
The absence of NSW halfback Adam Reynolds and Queensland's Greg Inglis means Cody Walker and Luke Keary are the Rabbitohs' new halves partnership. With Bryson Goodwin out with a broken arm, Siosifa Talakai starts at centre while Kyle Turner starts in the back row with Jack Gosiewski and Damien Cook joining the bench.
The Eels have only made one change from the side that won in Darwin last week with Vai Toutai replacing Michael Jennings (Origin) in the centres.
Watch out Rabbitohs: The most worrying aspect of South Sydney's 2016 form has been their work without the ball. The Bunnies have conceded 20 or more points in their past seven matches and it seems to be a case of one try leading to several in quick succession. The Tigers piled on three tries in the space of eight minutes against them last week while the Eels ran in three in just seven minutes when they met earlier this year.
Watch out Eels: The last time the Rabbitohs tinkered with their backline was back in Round 10. The result? A 22-20 win over the Eels. Alex Johnston was shifted to fullback on that occasion, just the sixth time in his career that he had started with the No.1 on his back. Johnston has registered just two wins when starting at the back – both of those against the blue and golds. Fresh from his two-try haul last week against the Tigers, he looms as one to watch on Friday night.
Key match-up: Luke Keary v Corey Norman. Two off-contract halves playing under lights on Friday night at the Olympic Stadium; does it get any better? Luke Keary gets his shot in the No.7 jersey with Adam Reynolds on Origin duty and will be hoping to provide the same impact he did when these two sides met five weeks ago when he came on with 26 minutes to go and changed the complexion of the game. Injury to Kieran Foran means Norman will play the role of on field general for the rest of 2016 and it's a challenge he seems keen to embrace. Norman's left foot has been the most used lower limb by any player in the NRL with 169 kicks in 2016 for 4,349 metres. Both players possess explosive running games and have the ability to blow a game open.
The history: Played 121; Rabbitohs 67, Eels 51, Drawn 3. It's been one-way traffic in favour of the Bunnies in recent years with South Sydney winning nine of the past 10 meetings between the two sides.
What are the odds: South Sydney have gone from favourites to outsiders on the back of results over last weekend. Three quarters of the money has gone on Parramatta in the head to head market according to Sportsbet and Eels 13+ is the most popular in margin betting. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Gavin Badger. Sideline officials: Jeff Younis and Ricky MacFarlane.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7:30pm. Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7pm.
The way we see it: With a tough trip to Penrith next week followed by back-to-back home games against the 2015 grand finalists on the horizon, Friday night's game looms as a must-win proposition for a Rabbitohs side still aiming to play finals footy. The Eels appear to have found form, and even though history is against him, they should be able to exact revenge from their earlier season meeting. Eels by 10.