The Parramatta Eels are preparing to face the Newcastle Knights in Round Nine of the NRL Telstra Premiership, after coming off a 42-4 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys last week.
Entering this clash with a 7-1 record, the Blue & Gold will face the Knights who are coming off a gritty 14-12 victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles last week.
Here are five things you need to know about the game.
Match: Knights v Eels
Round 9 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Gower’s 100th game for the Club
Eels forward David Gower will play his 100th Eels game this weekend, after being named on the bench for just his second game this season.
A career that has been revolved around ‘pure gutsiness and perseverance’ according to Gower, the forward brings plenty of experience onto the Eels bench.
Stefano to make his NRL debut
Young prop Stefano Utoikamanu will make his long-awaited NRL debut this weekend, set to become Blue & Gold player 807 after being named on the bench.
A young prop with a big engine, Utoikamanu gets his chance to show what he has to offer after injuries ruled out Oregon Kaufusi and Ray Stone.
At 191 centimetres and 115-kilograms, Utoikamanu has represented NSW in the Under 18’s and Under 20’s Origin series.
Gower's gutsy journey to 100th Eels game
The Eels welcome back lock Nathan Brown in the starting side, who returns after a two week suspension, seeing Marata Niukore shift back to the bench.
Brown brings plenty of aggression and skill to the Eels pack and is a great link to the Eels backline movements.
The Knights also face their own team changes, with Head Coach Adam O’Brien confirming Connor Watson won’t be making his return this week, whilst Sione Mata’utia is out due to a head knock suffered last week with Aidan Guerra named in the back row.
Edrick Lee suffered a broken arm last week, seeing young Tex Hoy named in his place on the wing. Young winger Starford To’a is waiting in the reserves.
First trip away from Bankwest Stadium since season resuming
The trip up the M1 will be the first trip away from Bankwest Stadium for the Blue & Gold since the season resumed following the COVID-19 break.
The Eels have played their past five games at Bankwest Stadium, and hold just a 30% win record at this venue.
The Knights have won four of their past five games against the Eels.
Second phase play
The Eels have loved their success with second phase play, leading the competition charts with 135 offloads, a massive 40 ahead of the second placed Roosters.
After eight matches, Eels prop Junior Paulo tops the NRL with 26 off-loads, whilst Ryan Matterson (22) sits third on the ladder.
Knights prop David Klemmer is one of the toughest, hardest working forwards and a real leader in the Knights forward pack. He has also proved handy with the ball, sitting with 25 offloads to start the year, one behind Paulo.