Parramatta Eels Vs St George Illawarra Dragons at Pirtek Stadium, Monday 7pm
Disappointing season’s come to a head on Monday Night Football
The Parramatta Eels and St George Illawarra Dragons meet in one of the more underwhelming MNF matches of 2016. Both sides won’t be playing finals football and this has been evident of their lack of passion and performance in recent weeks. It’s been an unfortunate season for the Eels with the salary cap issues, suspensions and injuries curtailing what was looking like being a watershed year. Their recent performances haven’t been a true indication of this football side and they would be willing 2016 to end so they can concentrate on a successful and drama free 2017.
The Dragons season was over about 6 weeks ago. They agonisingly kept their fans interested with a nice win against neighbours Cronulla a fortnight ago, only to serve up one of their worst performances of 2016 last Sunday against a rampant Sydney Roosters side. Their constant side to side play is incredibly hard to watch and does not threaten opposition teams. Paul McGregor realises the pressure he is under and has finally dropped Benji Marshall (something that should have happened about 8 weeks ago) and has Brought in talented half Drew Hutchinson who has been doing good things with the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Intrust Super Premiership. The Dragons need some kind of confidence to show that 2016 actually meant something to them but feel they will again struggle to get up for this game against the Eels. It’s worrying to view the lack of motivation that the Dragons have each week. If you can’t get motivated for the NRL what can you get motivated for?
Last Meeting: Parramatta Eels 16 Defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 12 at Pirtek Stadium, Round 16, 2015.
Parramatta have won the last 3 against the Dragons (which have all been at Pirtek) and the Red V haven’t won at Pirtek Stadium since 2010. Overall the Dragons have won just 3 times in 13 visits to Parramatta dating back to 1999.
There will be added impetus for Parramatta to win this clash as its their last home game at Parramatta before the stadium is demolished and rebuilt.
Who To Watch: For the home side, Danny Wicks has been a consistent performer for the blue and golds. Starting the season off the bench, the constant injuries and off the field issues has seen him elevated to the starting side and he has taken it with both hands. He runs with real passion and aggression which is intimidating. His defence has also been very good with a tackle efficiency of 93% from 637 tackles. His metres in the early exchanges against the Dragons will be vital for the Eels to ensure they get on top and control the middle of the field.
The Red V need a lot more from their forwards and the player we are focusing on here is birthday boy Joel Thompson. Thompson has had a mixed year with the Dragons and has spent a few weeks this year on the sideline with injuries and as a result of suspension.
When fit and used effectively, Thompson can be one of the most effective edge back rowers. Displaying quick footwork, a vicious fend along with pace and strength. Unfortunately the Dragons haven’t been utilising him well at all this year and he has just 1 try and 1 try assist in 20 games. This is partly on the back of their halves who have been moving side wards and unable to create meaningful chances for their mobile forward pack. The Dragons could cause the Eels all sorts of dramas on the edges if they isolate Thompson with a smaller defender eg Jeff Robson and let him run hard and straight. Let’s see if that the case.
The Favourite: Parramatta back at home are warm favourites in this game.
My tip: almost impossible to go past the Eels at home in their last home game before Pirtek is demolished. They’ll be fired up for this and considering how poor St George Illawarra have been over the last two months it could be a canter. Starting to think the Dragons spirit animal is a bear, because they have gone into hibernation.
Eels by 20