Wests Tigers v Eels: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels
The 'battle of the west' is always a heated and passionate encounter but in 2017 it holds even greater significance: an important cause off the paddock and a mouthwatering new rivalry on it.
In conjunction with the NRL, both the Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels have joined forces with the Thomas Kelly Foundation to use rugby league as a platform for raising awareness on an extremely important subject – suicide.
Sunday will be the first 'Stay Kind' day in Australia and both clubs will be playing for the inaugural trophy.
The clash on the field is expected to be a fiery one. Mitchell Moses takes on his old club for the first time up against former teammates and current housemates James Tedesco and Luke Brooks.
Moses's exit at Concord was a sour one and Wests Tigers supporters could be forgiven for feeling as though he jumped off the bus at a time when the side needed him the most.
There is no doubting the Eels have been the real beneficiaries out of the situation though, winning five from their last seven games with the 22-year-old in the No.7 jersey.
Parramatta are in a comfortable position on the Telstra Premiership ladder in seventh and if their winning form continues, could push for a top-four position with seven rounds remaining.
It hasn't been as smooth sailing for the Tigers, who after pushing clear of the Knights on the bottom of the table, couldn't back it up with a victory over the Sea Eagles on the weekend.
You just get the feeling with this one though that it won't matter where these two sides are on the ladder.
The Eels have been boosted by the return of Manu Ma'u from an ankle injury with Kenny Edwards shifting back to the bench.
For the Wests Tigers, they've lost Jacob Liddle to a shoulder injury and Sauaso Sue through suspension. Chris Lawrence moves into the starting back-row with Tim Grant and Michael Chee-Kam added to the bench. Matt McIlwrick will start in the No.9 jersey.
Why the Tigers can win: Without pointing out the obvious that the side will want to spoil Moses's return party, Ivan Cleary's men match it with Parramatta in possession, runs and metres gained this season and have been building in recent weeks for another strong performance. Their loss to the Sea Eagles on the weekend came down to a second-half slump after leading early, a real area where the side has struggled this season. Between the 40th and 70th minute they have conceded 37 tries compared to the Eels' 21 this season. If that can be matched on the weekend they're a chance because Brad Arthur's side traditionally like to lead from the front early – scoring 40 of their 54 tries before the 50th-minute mark in 2017.
Why the Eels can win: As mentioned the Eels are on par with Wests Tigers for yardage and possession, yet are eight positions higher on the Telstra Premiership ladder. Why? They've turned their territory into points and are finding ways to grind out games. In a competition where fundamentals are key, the Eels aren't fantastic but they're giving themselves every chance of competing by holding the ball and making their tackles. They rank behind Melbourne and St George Illawarra in the top eight for least missed and have scored 11 extra tries over their opposition on the back the fourth best error rate in the Telstra Premiership after 19 rounds.
 Telstra Premiership: Luke Brooks vs Mitchell Moses
Try Assists, Line Break Assists, Total Kicks, Line Breaks.
The history: Played 34, Wests Tigers 14, Eels 19, Drawn 1. Parramatta hold an overall record over the Wests Tigers and have won three of their last four between the two including their Easter Monday victory back in Round 7. Semi Radradra has scored four tries from four games against the joint venture and 17 from 19 overall at ANZ Stadium. Eels teammate Bevan French has 25 tries from 25 games in the Telstra Premiership, but he is yet to get over the line against the Wests Tigers.
What are the odds: Nearly twice as many individual bets have been placed on Parramatta, however 50 per cent more money is with the Wests Tigers in Sportsbet's head-to-head market. Punters clearly think the Tigers' price is generous, and they're backing them at the line as well. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee; Assistant referee: Chris Sutton; Touch judges: Rohan Best and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Review Officials: Luke Patten and Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 and Fox League – Live from 4:00pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Tigers showed plenty of fight against Manly and will be up for the challenge of Moses' return early, however whether they can go with Parramatta for the entire 80 minutes is what leaves us asking questions. With a top-four finish still in sight, the visitors cannot afford to lose this one and you get the feeling Moses may lift in front of the Tigers faithful. Despite sitting in seventh position, Parramatta isn't that far off the Wests Tigers in the statistical aspect of the game, but should get home just same. Eels by 8.