Round 20 in the NRL kicks off on Thursday night as the Sydney Roosters host the Parramatta Eels from up in Mackay. As usual, Greg Davis is on deck with his full preview and NRL betting tips for the round opening game below.
But before you get to Greg's preview, why not check out our new weekly NRL podcast hosted by Scooby! He previews all of the Round 20 NRL action for you here:
Sydney Roosters v Parramatta Eels
BB Print Stadium, Mackay – Thursday 29th July, 7.50pm
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Adam Keighran 5. Joseph Manu 6. Drew Hutchison 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Angus Crichton 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Victor Radley. Interchange: 14. Lachlan Lam 15. Nat Butcher 16. Egan Butcher 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho. Reserves: 18. Ben Marschke 19. Fletcher Baker 20. Moala Graham-Taufa 21. Naufahu Whyte
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Tom Opacic 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. Bryce Cartwright 15. Shaun Lane 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Will Smith. Reserves: 18. Haze Dunster 19. Ray Stone 20. Viliami Penisini 21. Joey Lussick
DESPERATION can do things to a man.
And Parramatta coach Brad Arthur will be hoping that the Eels can dig deep for a much-needed victory against the Sydney Roosters in Mackay this Thursday night.
The Eels are going to make the top eight and play finals but if they want to make some serious noise in September, they need to finish in the top four to earn that all-important double chance.
Parramatta are currently in fourth spot after 19 rounds with the Roosters just two points away and the fast-finishing Manly two wins back.
The Eels lost a classic grind fest against Canberra last week with the Green Machine claiming a 12-10 win which cut down Parramatta’s breathing room.
So, beating a battered, bruised and patched-up Roosters in a must for the Eels with Souths, Manly, Melbourne and Penrith waiting for Parramatta in the run home to the semi-finals.
With the entire NRL competition now residing in the Sunshine State, some matches are heading out to the regions this weekend and Mackay’s BB Print Stadium will play host to what is the match of the round with fourth playing fifth.
Mackay is rugby league heartland. The southern end of North Queensland loves its footy. The Cowboys play pre-season trials there on a regular basis in front of packed crowds and the odd premiership match has been taken to Mackay in the past.
A shop in Mackay was once selling busts of Elvis Presley with the line on the price tag saying, ”The King – no, not Wally Lewis”. So, you get the picture.
With the players in a COVID bubble they won’t be able to get to the Austral Hotel for their award-winning mushrooms and gravy on hot chips while the famous Blue Moose nightclub – which once played host to bands like Midnight Oil – will be out of bounds as well.
But it should be all about business anyway for both the Chooks and Eels.
The Roosters claimed a James Tedesco-inspired 28-8 win over Newcastle last week but lost centre Billy Smith and winger Matt Ikuvalu to ankle injuries to add more names to the club’s bulging casualty ward.
Josh Morris returns to the team with Adam Keighran joining him in the centres and the versatile Joey Manu shifting out to the wing. Prop Siosiua Taukeiaho also comes back for the Roosters after overcoming a hamstring issue.
The Eels welcome back centre Tom Opacic with the enigmatic Bryce Cartwright coming onto the bench for Marata Niukore.
Parramatta are still finding their feet in attack with halfback Mitchell Moses out injured but they will be better for the run against the Raiders.
Even with their injury concerns, the Roosters squad contains plenty of class while even the most passionate haters of the Tri-colours would have to give the under-manned club credit for how they have battled on in 2021.
This should be tight and tough with the sort of footy we have been craving for in 2021.
The Eels have a slightly more settled side and plenty to pay for so Parramatta might just edge out the gallant Roosters in this one.
It should be a finals-like contest in front of a passionate footy crowd. What’s not to love.
First Try Blake Ferguson ($10 at Sportsbet)
Total Points Under 49.5 ($1.90 at Sportsbet)
Try Anytime Ryan Matterson ($3.25 at Sportsbet)