Eels, Titans shining despite a season of struggle
RUGBY LEAGUE: Tomorrow’s NRL game between Parramatta and the Gold Coast could easily be billed as the battle of the battlers.
Both clubs have been through an emotional wringer in the past two years but have shown amazing resilience to fight with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Parramatta’s salary cap dramas, player scandals involving drugs and sex tapes, and a disgraced board that was axed by the NRL would have brought most teams to their knees but under coach Brad Arthur it is still punching away.
“They’re going to be very dangerous with their second-phase play, which can be hard to contain,” Titans hooker Nathan Friend said.
“Given their situation (on the ladder) if we can put the game out of their reach early it might dim their confidence.”
The Titans too have endured their share of setbacks through injuries, player sackings and lost sponsors.
But, like the Eels, they have surprised critics who tipped them for the wooden spoon and are in the top eight seven weeks out from the finals.
With Corey Norman suspended for eight games by the NRL this week it would be too much to think the Eels can overcome the loss of 12 premiership points for salary cap rorting to still make the finals.
Mathematically they can still make it, but realistically they are only 80 minutes away from their season being over if they lose.
Arthur has somehow found a way for his players to continue to stay positive but without Norman, world-class player Kieran Foran, Origin hero Michael Jennings and Fijian monster Semi Radradra, you would have to think the Eels cannot keep punching above their weight.
The experiment with winger Clint Gutherson in the No.6 proved such a success he has retained the job up against Aidan Sezer.
For the Titans, bulky forward Agnatius Passi comes into the pack for the suspended Greg Bird, giving Nathaniel Peteru a seat on the bench.
Rival wingers Bevan French (Eels) and Nene Macdonald (Titans) could be match-winners.
French has blistering speed and is always in the right spot, while Macdonald produced his best form with two tries in the Titans’ 32-12 win over St George-Illawarra last weekend.