Eels v Broncos: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos
It is a tale of two fullbacks in the lead-up to this Round 21 clash as one side is gifted with the return of the current Australian Test No.1, while the other has lost the form fullback of the competition to a season-ending ACL injury.
Captain Darius Boyd makes his return for the Brisbane Broncos this week after missing four matches due to a broken thumb he suffered in Game Two of the State of Origin series.
The 30-year-old's return cannot be understated, with his experience a huge factor as the Broncos begin their run to the finals.
On the flipside, the Parramatta Eels will be without fan favourite Clint Gutherson after the 22-year-old fell awkwardly in a tackle and ruptured his ACL against the Wests Tigers last start.
It is a devastating end to the season for Gutherson who was having a breakout year and was firmly in contention for a late push towards the top of the Dally M leaderboard.
But the Eels must now plan for life without Gutherson and it begins this week with Bevan French moving to fullback and Josh Hoffman joining the side on the wing.
Following Boyd's inclusion, Kodi Nikorima (hip) drops out of an otherwise unchanged Broncos 17.
Why the Eels can win: Parramatta are in sublime form after putting together four wins in a row. Even more impressive is the fact the Eels have only lost once in their past seven games. Wins bring confidence and this Parramatta side believe they can beat anyone in the competition through the rock-solid defence that has seen them keep their last four opponents to 16 points or less. If they can keep the Broncos to a similar score they will go a long way towards winning their fifth in a row.
Why the Broncos can win: Darius Boyd's inclusion is a huge plus for the Broncos, with the playmaking fullback a key cog in Brisbane's attack. Despite missing the past month of football and having played only 13 games for the season, Boyd ranks third in try assists for the Broncos with six. His combination with Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt has been missed in recent weeks and there is no doubt he will bring a great deal of organisation and leadership to the Broncos on Friday night.
 Telstra Premiership: Corey Norman vs Anthony Milford
Try Assists, Line Break Assists, Line Breaks, Tries.
The history: Played 51; Eels 19; Broncos 31; Drawn 1. Brisbane have a strong record against Parramatta in recent times, winning their last three matches by at least 12 points. The Broncos have not lost to the Eels in Sydney since a 19-18 win to Parramatta in 2013. Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford has four tries in his last three games against the Eels, scoring in all three of the Broncos' recent wins.
What are the odds: Brisbane by 13+ is the way Sportsbet customers are going in this one, with more money on that option than all of the other winning margins combined. The money that has been bet on Parramatta is in handicap betting, where they're getting the start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall; Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman & Jeff Younis; Review Official: Bernard Sutton; Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.30pm. Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Eels have been in great form lately but the loss of Gutherson is a huge blow to their chances of mounting a successful charge towards finals football. On the other hand, the Broncos just keep getting stronger, with only winger Corey Oates to return before they are back to full strength. It is the time of the season where the contenders separate from the pretenders and Brisbane should do just that. Broncos by 12.