OPINION

Slippery Eels need to go back to basics

The Eels need to implement a simple game plan. Photo: Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Eels need to implement a simple game plan. Photo: Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

IN a season when some teams in the NRL are struggling simply to be competitive, it seems strange that there is so much scrutiny on a side entrenched in the top four all year.

But that, unfortunately, is the position Parramatta finds itself in. Again.

There is a real sense of deja vu as the Eels prepare for the business end of their campaign.

Last year, Parramatta finished third but then bowed out in straight sets in the play-offs. The previous season it finished fifth, then slaughtered Brisbane 58-0 in the first final before copping a 32-0 reality check against Melbourne.

There is no doubt that the Eels have played some great football over the past three years and have looked like genuine contenders early in the season.

They won nine of their first 10 games this year, including a 16-10 upset against premiers Melbourne in round two.

But we all know premierships aren't won in March or April.

Parra has now lost three of its past four games and faces a daunting battle with Manly on Saturday that might ultimately decide who finishes in the top four.

The Sea Eagles have been in devastating form and Parra will need to improve dramatically to have any hope.

But I'm not ready to write the Eels off just yet. They've got a wonderful forward pack and I think they need to go back to a really simple game plan.

Just power running and defending aggressively, and eventually they can build on that.

They've been riding a rollercoaster for the past few weeks and have a tough draw.

But a win against Manly might be just the confidence boost needed to kick on and make an impact in the post-season.

OTHER GAMES

DRAGONS v PANTHERS

Nathan Cleary is named in jersey No. 21 for Penrith, so it will be interesting to see if he plays.

With or without their captain, the Panthers should be too good for the Dragons, who are coming off four straight losses and are rapidly sliding down the ladder.

BRONCOS v ROOSTERS

They've had a truckload of bad luck this year with injuries and retirements, but I like what I'm seeing from the Roosters.

They just seem to handle adversity and turn up every week ready to play. I can't see the Broncos troubling them too much.

Brisbane has won a few games this year, but has also copped its share of floggings from the gun teams.

RABBITOHS v TITANS

The Titans are an unpredictable mob who can trouble any team when they are in the mood.

They have plenty to play for after climbing into the top eight last week, so the Bunnies should not be underestimating them.

In saying that, Souths are really gaining momentum after nine straight wins.

They have perhaps the best left edge in the NRL and I can't see the Titans containing them for 80 minutes.

COWBOYS v TIGERS

The Cowboys are without inspirational Jason Taumalolo and have bowed out of the finals race.

The Tigers also look long shots to make the play-offs but they are not dead and buried yet. A win in Townsville could potentially lift the Tigers to within two points of the eight.

If that's not enough for them to fire up, coach Michael Maguire really does have some problems.

SEA EAGLES v EELS

The big worry for Parramatta is that Tommy Trbojevic was comparatively quiet in last week's loss to Melbourne.

Keeping "Turbo" quiet has been mission impossible for most teams.

Parra will need to keep a close eye on him all game, because he can strike from anywhere on the field.

WARRIORS v BULLDOGS

The Bulldogs have been bolstered by the signing of Ryan James and Corey Horsburgh from Canberra on short-term loan deals.

It might not be enough against the Warriors, who showed real grit in last week's win against Cronulla.

Nathan Brown's team is making good progress and could be a force to be reckoned with next year. The end of the season can't come soon enough for Trent Barrett and the Bulldogs.

SHARKS v KNIGHTS

Both teams are still on the cusp of the eight, but Newcastle appears to be heading up, while the Sharks are sliding.

I reckon the Knights will win this, which will give them three wins in a row.

With Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best back on deck, they look close to full strength. I think they'll make the finals. And they should do, too, because the squad they have is more than capable.

This story Slippery Eels need to go back to basics | Laurie Daley first appeared on The Canberra Times.