Game: NRL Round 1
Teams: Parramatta Eels v New Zealand Warriors
Time: Sunday, March 9 – 6.30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Pirtek Stadium
Broadcaster: Fox Sports
Things you need to know:
Luke Kelly has won the Eels halfback spot, with Chris Sandow to start the season in NSW Cup. Kelly will partner new signing Corey Norman in the halves, with fellow recruits Will Hopoate (centre) and Nathan Peats (hooker) also starting. English international Sam Tomkins will play at fullback for the Warriors but coach Matt Elliott has sprung a surprise by leaving out destructive centre Konrad Hurrell. Dane Nielsen and Carlos Tuimavave were preferred on the edges while former Sharks pair Chad Townsend and Jayson Bukuya both to start at five-eighth and bark-row respectively.
Reason to watch:
Will Hopoate was the up-and-coming superstar of the game a couple of years ago, helping Manly win a premiership and making his state of Origin debut as an 19-year-old in 2011. But how will go in his first competitive game in more than two years after a stint out of the game to undertake a Mormon mission? There’s no doubt he has the class and quality to fit straight back in but it will surely take time for his body to adjust to getting bashed and smashed again.
Reason to turn away:
The Eels have been the laughing stock of the NRL for the last two years, winning just 11 matches in that time on the way to back-to-back wooden spoons. While there is a renewed feeling around the club since Brad Arthur’s arrival, there is still every chance will could see the same fumbling and bumbling Eels from the last couple of seasons. And depending on which Warriors side turns up as well, it could either be an encouraging start for the home side or a bloodbath.
“I want them to back themselves. That is how we have trained in the off-season. There is a fine line there and an error will bring consequences. That being having to defend a set. We need to complete our sets and build pressure but you don’t get many opportunities so, when you do, you have to take them. I don’t want them being nervous or baulk. If they execute well, there shouldn’t be a problem.’ We don’t want to be flicking balls out of their backsides but we have worked hard on our skills,” – Eels coach Brad Arthur
The first glimpse at Arthur’s Eels revolution should make for intriguing viewing. A quick glance at the Parramatta line-up and there is already a sense they look much stronger than last season but can they translate that onto the field. You’re never quite sure exactly what the Warriors will dish up. On their day there is no better side to watch in the NRL but if they are ‘off’ they’d be lucky to beat a park footy side. The Eels crushed the Kiwi’s in last year’s season-opener and while we’re not expecting a repeat, the home side should still get the money. Eels by 8.