Dyldam Parramatta Eels Assistant Coach Pete Gentle says the Blue and Gold will expect a strong defensive effort from their Round 16 opponents, the St George Illawarra Dragons tonight, however despite their position on the ladder, Gentle says the Eels enter the clash with plenty of confidence.
“They have been in form for most of the year,” Gentle said of the Dragons.
“I know they have had a couple of losses recently but you can’t read a lot into that. They have been up for a long time, have freshened up a couple of weeks ago with the bye as have we, and it should be a good game.”
With the Red V holding one of the best defensive records in the NRL this season, Gentle said the Eels have studied their defence and the Blue and Gold coaching staff have high expectations.
“Their defence has been the talk of the town. We have seen enough there that we like, the boys have had a good week at training, been really positive, and we have high expectations.”
The last few weeks the Dragons have also shown they can score points, and Gentle said the Blue and Gold will need to shut down the playmakers.
“Probably the first 8-10 rounds was all about their defence but they have really worked on their attack the last 4-5 weeks and they are scoring some points,” Gentle said.
“I worked with Benji at the Tigers for quite a few years, and I know his game inside out, but you still have to be able to stop it. He is unpredictable at times, but he is holding them together with Widdop.”
Arthur has made several changes to his Round 16 side with Reece Robinson, Nathan Peats, Kaysa Pritchard and Anthony Watmough all ruled out through injury which Gentle says provides an opportunity for Cody Nelson to make his Eels debut at hooker and Corey Norman to feature at fullback.
“They bye was much needed when it did come around. We were pretty much busted with a very big injury toll at the moment but there’s no excuses there and it gives an opportunity for a few other guys to come into the team,” Gentle said.
“Cody has played hooker before, it’s not new to him, and he had a run there last week down in Canberra for the NSW Cup.”
“He has worked on it for the last few weeks, and with three hookers down, we had to manufacture someone in there and Cody was doing the job and defensively he is terrific, he won’t let us down there.”
“We need somebody to make Peatsy’s 60 tackles and Cody will have to do that but he loves that sort of stuff.” Gentle added.
“Norman is a smart footballer and he will organise our defence and will play a similar sort of attacking role that he normally does.” He continued.
Gates at Pirtek Stadium open at 5:10pm with NYC kick off scheduled for 5:15pm.
NRL kick-off is at 7:30pm.