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Origin period Parramatta's time to shine

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/06/2017 Steve Zemek
<span style="font-size:13px;">Parramatta have been handed a favourable draw over the State of Origin period and have a chance to make their mark on the NRL.</span> © AAP Parramatta have been handed a favourable draw over the State of Origin period and have a chance to make their mark on the NRL.

After being given a massive leg-up by Rugby League Central, Parramatta are targeting the State of Origin period as their chance to entrench themselves as NRL finals contenders.

Other clubs have been hit hard by the representative player drain however the Eels will be unaffected when they take on fourth-placed St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

The scales have been tipped in Parramatta's favour with the Dragons to be without enforcer Tyson Frizell and star fullback Josh Dugan.

The Eels will also take on a depleted Melbourne ahead of Origin III, a golden opportunity to steal two points against a Storm side who will be missing Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Will Chambers.

Despite copping some hard lessons in their 32-6 loss to North Queensland last week, they only sit outside the top eight on for-and-against and the next few weeks shape as vital to their finals aspirations.

"We've got the Dragons with a few of their Origin players out and we've got the Storm when Origin is on as well," Eels fullback Bevan French said.

"Then we've got two byes in between there. It's a big period for us these next few weeks, we can get quite a few points with the draw we have."

The Dragons, meanwhile, are bracing for an Origin slump.

After shooting out of the blocks to sit in the top four going into round 15, they face a battle to stay in touch with the ladder leaders.

Since 2010, they have been the second-worst performed team during the representative period, winning just three of their past 12 Origin-affected matches, according to Fox Sports.

Paul McGregor's team have lost five of their past eight without Dugan and three of their past five when Frizell is sidelined.

"I'm never comfortable during the Origin period, it's a distraction across the club, and every club," McGregor said.

"We had the bye during that period and we gave the guys a bit of time off during the bye. We had a nice win over there against the Warriors, and then we came back and gave them some time off to refresh. We haven't come back the same team.

"But possession is everything. When we were at our best, we were doing the simple things really well."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Eels have won the past five straight matches against the Dragons.

* Parramatta are tackled inside their own 20 metre zone 21.7 times per game, the least in the NRL.

* The Dragons are missing the least tackles (22.6) and have the best completion rate in the NRL (79.5 per cent) per game.

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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