Will Bankwest Stadium prove to be Parramatta's X-factor once again?
The hot-and-cold Eels have been near invincible on their new home patch this year, easily accounting for Brisbane 38-10 back in round 14. Brisbane clawed back a one-point extra-time win just a fortnight ago to square the ledger.
Nathan Brown's return from suspension is a timely boost for Parramatta after Kane Evans was banned for one match on a careless high tackle charge, while Brisbane will hope lock Joe Ofahengaue can return from a calf injury.
The Maroons representative was missed in a dire loss to Canterbury last-start, particularly given Tevita Pangai jnr's long-term suspension.
Match: Eels v Broncos
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Eels: Kane Evans was named to start but coach Brad Arthur had to rejig things after Evans was unsuccessful in having a careless high tackle downgraded at the judiciary. Daniel Alvaro is the new starter, Nathan Brown returns at lock after a two-week suspension for a shoulder charge, while Tepai Moeroa has been recalled to the bench. Peni Terepo and Josh Hoffman dropped out of the playng squad on game day, while Will Smith was cut from the reserves on Saturday.
Broncos:The Broncos are 1-17, with Rhyse Kennedy and Izaia Perese dropping off the extended bench an hour before kick-off. Joe Ofahengaue returns after missing two games with a calf injury so Patrick Carrigan goes back to the bench and Rhys Kennedy drops to the reserves. Centre Gehamat Shibasaki has been named on the bench for his 12th game of 2019 at the expense of Izaia Perese. Shaun Fensom and Cory Paix were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton GuthersonFullback for Broncos is number 1 Anthony Milford
Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Broncos is number 2 Corey Oates
Centre for Eels is number 3 Michael JenningsCentre for Broncos is number 3 Kotoni Staggs
Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa BlakeCentre for Broncos is number 4 Alex Glenn
Winger for Eels is number 5 Blake FergusonWinger for Broncos is number 5 Jamayne Isaako
Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan BrownFive-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Darius Boyd
Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Broncos is number 7 Jake Turpin
Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior PauloProp for Broncos is number 8 Matthew Lodge
Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed MahoneyHooker for Broncos is number 9 Andrew McCullough
Prop for Eels is number 15 Daniel AlvaroProp for Broncos is number 10 Payne Haas
2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 David Fifita
2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Manu Ma'u2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 Matt Gillett
Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan BrownLock for Broncos is number 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange for Eels is number 14 Brad TakairangiInterchange for Broncos is number 14 James Segeyaro
Interchange for Eels is number 16 Ray StoneInterchange for Broncos is number 15 Thomas Flegler
Interchange for Eels is number 17 Marata NiukoreInterchange for Broncos is number 16 Gehamat Shibasaki
Interchange for Eels is number 18 Tepai MoeroaInterchange for Broncos is number 17 Patrick Carrigan
- Referee: Ben Cummins
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Video Referee: Bryan Norrie
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
Each of these sides relies heavily for points on their main attacking strike weapon. For the Eels it is halfback Mitch Moses, who boasts an NRL-high 24 try assists. Anthony Milford has arguably improved his form since switching from the halves to fullback and leads the way for Brisbane with 13 assists.
For the Eels to win
The Eels are one of the most expansive teams in the competition and the free-flowing style that has netted them some big wins, particularly at home. They need to test the Brisbane flanks early and often to ensure danger-men Maika Sivo on the left and Blake Ferguson on the right get plenty of clean early ball.
For the Broncos to win
Brisbane's entire game plan revolves around the powerful young pack getting a roll on. Payne Haas has made over 200 metres eight times in his past nine starts while David Fifita's try, two line breaks and 15 busts proved the difference against the Eels two weeks ago. They need to pin the Eels on the back foot to limit their opportunities for ball movement.
Brett Kimmorley says
I think Parramatta will win this. What will hurt the Broncos will be their lack of game management and kicking game. They've got the best young crop of forwards in the country and some amazing outside backs, but in semifinals in key moments it's about managing games and building pressure and calling the right plays. The Broncos unfortunately are lacking in the nine, seven and six area, and that means Parramatta have to tackle extremely well to stop the Broncos forwards. If they tackle well and have lots of energy they'll provide space for Mitchell Moses to create a bit of havoc with his running game or his kicking game to two wingers who have had amazing seasons in 2019. Eels by 4
The Eels are averaging 1750 run metres over their past five games and have gained more metres than their opponents in seven straight games dating back to their Lottoland loss in round 18. Brisbane are averaging 1570 metres over their past five and have out-run their opponents just once in the past month.
And another thing ...
Brisbane finished the regular season with 11 wins and 12 losses, just the third time since the NRL became a 16-team competition that a team made the finals with a losing record. The Broncos already did it in 2007 while the 2016 Titans are the other side.