A grand final rematch, that feels somewhat of an anti-climax after the Eels' dismal 0-3 start; their third-worst start in NRL history. Rightfully so, the Panthers are hot favourites at $1.35 to $3.25. Can the Eels stay in the game and finally find a way to win, against all odds, or will the floodgates open and they receive a shellacking?
The Eels are one of the worst defensive units in the competition, statistically hitherto, and coupled with their self-destruct buttons have found ways to lose games they could have won. Matterson's return from his self-imposed staycation will help, but he's just one man.
Interestingly the worst defensive teams in the comp these first few rounds are:
The Storm, Eels, Cowboys and Sharks have all had points coming thick and fast, but have had zero defence. So our F/A is in tact. Given the Eels, Storm, Sharks, Cowboys were 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the ladder last year either there's been a massive regression / spreading of talent, or that these teams have prioritised slick attack to start the season knowing that they can tune their defence over the rounds.
There has definitely been some levelling of talent, this year is already an abberation with Top 8 sides starting worse on aggregate than any recent year. It's hard what to make of this year so far. Are the Broncos, the Dolphins, Warriors and Titans the real deal? Or will the cream rise to the top in the form of last years top 6.
Time will tell. But for the Eels, it really has to start over these next 2 weeks, we can't end up 5-0 and hope to salvage much of a season. It has been the opening draw from hell so some "bad luck" element can explain our predicament...but if we can't beat all the teams (good and bad) and find our cohesiveness with the new players then this season will get away from us pretty quickly.
It'sa bit like last year when we ambushed them. Same feeling in the air. I hope history repeats.