When I initially worte this week’s preview, I included all of the usual clichés associated with a game like this one.
You know the ones – the Eels will be playing for pride, it’s a danger game, Penrith can’t lose their concentration etc etc.
I even found a stat that showed just one team who has had 50 points put on them this year has lost the following week.
But let’s be honest here: The Eels are a bloody awful football team in 2013 and couldn’t win the meat tray at Parramatta Leagues Club at the moment.
In fact, if the Panthers team bus broke down on the M4 and I had to run out at halfback, I still think the Eels would find a way to lose this game.
Fans, players and officials have every right to feel confident going into this one, especially after the Panthers decimated the Titans in Darwin last Saturday, producing a stunning first 20 minutes of the second half to put the game away and announce themselves as true force in the competition.
The Panthers are currently 7th on the ladder and it’s a far cry from where Penrith sat the last time they faced Parramatta.
Before that round seven clash on a Monday night in April, Penrith had won just one game from six, and were looking more like wooden spoon contenders than a finals threat. But that 44-12 win over the Eels helped spark something, and since then, the Panthers have looked a much sharper, more complete football team. The Eels, meanwhile, have continued to slide.
Parramatta’s one guiding light in these dull times, Jarryd Hayne, won’t be taking the field on Saturday, further adding to the Eels’ woes.
Hayne is certainly the most dangerous player the Eels have and without him, it’s hard to find any sort of real threat in Parramatta’s backline.
The Eels have been further hurt by the actions of Mitchell Allgood, whose brain explosion against Manly on Monday night really summed up just how dumb Parramatta are playing at the moment.
At the end of the day, the Eels are playing without creativity, without belief and without anything resembling good defence.
They are the worst team in the competition by far, and that’s saying something considering how the Dragons are playing at the moment.
Penrith, on the other hand, have everything going for them at the moment and boast a host of players in scintillating form.
After a shaky performance against the Dragons, James Roberts announced himself in a big way during the second half of last week’s demolition of the Titans.
He scored three tries, and for one of them, produced a spectacular leap that not only showed off his speed but his great agility in the air. It’ll most certainly feature on plenty of highlights reels over the years to come.
After a background that has a bit of drama and controversy associated with it, Roberts has been given a big opportunity at Penrith and if he stays on the straight and narrow, he could be anything at the Panthers and be a big part of the club’s future plans.
Nigel Plum and Adam Docker have a real opportunity to dominate an Eels forward pack that is going nowhere fast, and if they do, they’ll lay the platform for Penrith to put some points on at the back end of the first half and put it out of reach by the break.
Tim Grant was far better last weekend than against the Dragons and if he, Plum and Docker turn up to play, it’ll be a pretty battered and bruised Eels dressing room after the game.
Forget pride, passion and all the other buzz words. After all, the Eels have none of that at the moment.
Penrith will beat Parramatta on sheer ability and confidence. The Panthers are by far the better football team of the two.