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NRL: Eels attempt to overcome finals hoodoo

It is semi-finals time in the NRL this week and the Parramatta Eels and Canberra Raiders will get things under way at CommBank Stadium on Friday night.

The Penrith Panthers and North Queensland Cowboys can sit back and enjoy the action after already booking their place in the Preliminary Final and now the Eels and Raiders will battle it out to join them.

This a second chance for the Eels after they lost to Penrith last week, but another defeat will see their season come to an end and the pressure is on.

Not so much the Raiders, who just squeezed into finals in the last round of the regular season before shocking the Melbourne Storm in last week’s elimination final.

This is a tough one to call as Parrmatta have been very much a Jekyll and Hyde team this season and much depends on which side pitches up of Friday night. The good or the bad.

One thing is for certain both sides will be giving their absolute all and it could be a classic finals encounter.

So let’s take a closer look at the both teams with kick-off fast approaching.

What: Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders
Where: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
When: 19:50 (AEST) Friday 16th September 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: Eels 14/25, Raiders 29/20

The Eels did well to book their place in the top four with a win over Melbourne Storm but came crashing back down to earth when they were well beaten by Penrith last week.

Brad Arthur’s side need to pick themselves up and be ready to go again because all is not lost. They have another chance but need to make it count.

Penrith were in the same position last season after losing the qualifying final before going on to win the grand final, so it can be done. But the Eels need to find their top form and that has been an issue this season.

They have been inconsistent and need to string a run of results together right now.

Parramatta also have to be mentally prepared and not think about the hoodoo that has haunted them in recent seasons.

In four of the last five years they have fallen at the very same hurdle they face on Friday night. They have always been there or thereabouts but have been unable to kick on and win the premiership.

Many believe with a number of star players leaving at the end of the season, this could be their last chance. Which brings even more pressure.

However they have a side packed with quality and have shown they can beat the best after seeing off Penrith on two occasions this season.

The good news for the Eels is star playmaker Mitch Moses has been passed fit to play. He has 26 assists to his name this season and will be crucial to Parramatta’s chances of going through.

The halves battle will be an intriguing one as Moses will be up against Raiders star Jack Wighton, who was outstanding in the win over the Melbourne Storm.

That match-up will be a big one, but so too will the one in the forwards. Joseph Tapine has been a revelation for the Raiders this season and he will be up against one of the best in the shape of Eels ace Junior Paulo.

That battle could decide who wins the game.

The Raiders have been flying. They will be the underdogs once again when they take on Parramatta but Ricky Stuart’s men are on fire and can cause another upset.

The Raiders have now won eight of the last nine games and momentum is crucial. The Eels go into the game on the back of a loss and have been turned over by so-called lesser opposition on a number of occasions in 2022.

Canberra will fancy their chances for sure, but they have been hit by some bad news on the injury front as the in-form Adam Elliott has been ruled out by a hip injury.

However they do have quality cover. Corey Harawira-Naera has been named as his replacement with Ryan Sutton returning from hand surgery to take his place on the bench.

Albert Hopoate has been named as 18th man so coach Stuart will be happy with the players available to him.

Strap yourselves in for this one it could be a classic that could go either way. Canberra have the feel-good factor and that could count for a lot.

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