The Eels and Raiders will get Round 19 of the NRL season underway on Thursday night from, you guessed it, Cbus Super Stadium! As always, Greg Davis has you covered with a full preview and betting tips for the Thursday night fixture below.
Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Thursday 7.50pm
EELS: 1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Will Penisini, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jake Arthur, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Marata Niukore, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Oregon Kaufusi, 17. Will Smith. Reserves: 18. Haze Dunster, 19. Bryce Cartwright, 20. Makahesi Makatoa, 21. Joey Lussick
RAIDERS: 1. Jordan Rapana, 2. Harley Smith-Shields, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Sebastian Kris, 5. Semi Valemei, 6. Matt Frawley, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Emre Guler, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Hudson Young, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Tom Starling, 15. Matthew Timoko, 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Joseph Tapine. Reserves: 18. Caleb Aekins, 19. Ryan James, 20. Siliva Havili, 21. Trey Mooney
WINTER is coming for Parramatta, so they need to make hay while the sun shines on the Gold Coast this Thursday.
The Eels – without Origin III halfback Mitchell Moses - take on the revitalised Canberra Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium and go in as justifiable short-priced favourites.
Parramatta is sitting pretty in fourth spot on the ladder after 18 rounds, two wins clear of the fifth-placed Roosters and three wins ahead of the six-placed Manly.
But the Eels have a devilish run home to the finals. The toughest of any team in the competition with five of the top six teams waiting for Parramatta.
In the remaining six rounds of the home-and-away season, the Eels will take on the three teams above them on the ladder – Melbourne, Penrith and Souths – as well as the two sides directly below them – the Roosters and Manly.
The only match that is not a top six showdown is the Round 23 encounter with North Queensland.
So, the Eels need to bank the two points on offer when they meet the Raiders as their finals series starts early.
This six-week period will define their season. They will look like real contenders or pretenders to the crown.
Moses and prop Junior Paulo were rested last weekend after playing in Origin III and only Paulo will return for the clash with the Raiders.
The Eels beat the Titans 26-8 on the Gold Coast without their NSW representatives as hooker Reed Mahoney made a successful comeback from injury.
Mahoney is such an important part of the Eels set-up, and he will get better with every start after injury robbed him of an Origin debut with Queensland.
Even without Moses calling the shots, Parra’s back three of Clint Gutherson, Maika Sivo and the recalled Blake Ferguson will still terrorise Canberra’s defensive line.
The Raiders will certainly be no pushover here. The Eels do not have sole rights to motivation here.
Since being embarrassed by the Titans with a 44-6 thumping in Round 16, Canberra have breathed life into their season with wins over an under-manned Manly and Cronulla to be in ninth spot on the ladder - only out of the top eight on for-and-against.
Of the teams clambering for the last couple of spots in the finals series, the Raiders have the most talent at their disposal and the most big game experience after their deep runs into the finals the past two seasons.
If they get going, they loom as a genuine darkhorse. In a blow to the Raiders, Jack Wighton will be sidelined by a rib injury while young gun Xavier Savage (shoulder) is also out after starring last weekend.
Both teams will be desperate for different reasons, but the Eels have been a top four quality side all year so Parramatta might edge out an improving Raiders.
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