Dyldam Parramatta Eels centre Brad Takairangi is predicting a strong showing from the wounded Panthers in Sunday’s Battle of the West at Pirtek Stadium.
The Panthers are smarting from a last-minute 14-12 loss to the St George-Illawarra Dragons in Wollongong, while the Eels posted an 8-0 win over the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday, making it three straight victories for the Blue and Gold.
“It’s going to be a cracker,” Takairangi said.
“It’s the Battle of the West and they’re going to be coming out here firing trying to knock us off at home.”
“That was a Tigers home game yesterday and the [Blue and Gold Army] were outstanding, so hopefully we can get a packed house there at Pirtek [Stadium] on Sunday.”
2016 has seen Head Coach Brad Arthur move Takairangi from his familiar left side position to line up next to winger Clint Gutherson on the right edge, and the centre says their combination - like the Eels’ full team attack - remains a work in progress.
But while the Blue and Gold may see room for improvement in their attack, the Eels boast the best defensive record of the league so far in the 2016 season, conceding just 39 points in the first three rounds, and none in their Round 4 win.
“Our pre-season was based around a lot of hard work and mostly our defence,” Takairangi said.
“We’ve always been able to attack, but defence has been the key [this season]. The last couple of weeks we should have kept them to zero, so it was good to keep the Tigers to zero yesterday.”
“That’s what we pride ourselves over, if we can keep teams to zero then we’re doing our jobs.”
“[Attack] is not too much of a worry for us, with new combinations … it’s only Round 4 and every game hopefully we can keep getting better and better.”
“It has been a change [moving to the right edge], and having ‘Foz’ there, he’s such a cool head and calm customer.”
“Every week we’re still building.”