The final game in the opening round of this year’s premiership will see Manly Sea Eagles host traditional rivals Parramatta Eels at Lottoland Stadium on Sunday.

LAST TIME OUT

Parramatta ended their turbulent 2016 season with victory over New Zealand Warriors at a wet Mount Smart Stadium.  Bevan French was the star scoring a hat-trick with the Eels scoring eighteen unanswered second half points to finish outright fourteenth.  Had the twelve competition points not been stripped, Parramatta would have finished eighth.

Manly’s final round match was at Pepper Stadium against a white-hot, semi-final bound Penrith Panthers.  The Sea Eagles were blown off the park by half-time with the home side ahead 30-0.  Jake Trbojevic’s second half try the only success for his side with the final score in Penrith’s favour 36-6.  Trent Barrett’s first season as a NRL coach saw his side finish thirteenth.

KEY BATTLE

How good does the battle at fullback look with two up and coming superstars of the game in Tom Trbojevic and Bevan French.  With the possible medical retirement of Brett Stewart still to be finalised, it would be hard for Barrett to justify not selecting Trbojevic ahead of the veteran.  We saw the best Trbojevic in the Eagles 44-30 loss to Canberra late last season where he scored a hat-trick.  His opponent Bevan French plays for the fourth time at fullback in his short fourteen game NRL career.  He’s on a two game hat-trick scoring streak with nineteen tries to date.  These two fullbacks are electrifying and certain to battle for representative honours for their chosen state of New South Wales in the future.  Both sides will be keen to shut down each of the talented number ones.

PREDICTION

There’s not too much between these two sides on paper and in their last clash in August 2016 it was the Eels winning by a point.  However it looks like Parramatta has the edge over Manly having won their last five clashes, so it has to be the visitors in this one.

Eels by 6.

SQUADS

Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels at Lottoland, 4pm (AEDT) Sunday

Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic 2 Jorge Taufua 3 Dylan Walker 4 Brian Kelly 5 Akuila Uate 6 Blake Green 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 8 Brenton Lawrence 9 Api Koroisau 10 Martin Taupau 11 Frank Winterstein 12 Curtis Sironen 13 Jake Trbojevic 14 Lewis Brown 15 Nate Myles 16 Addin Fonua-Blake 17 Lloyd Perrett 18 Jarrad Kennedy 19 Cameron Cullen 20 Matthew Wright 21 Jonathan Wright 22 Jackson Hastings

Eels: 1. Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Clint Gutherson 7. Corey Norman 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah (c) 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott Interchange 14. Nathan Brown 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Rory O’Brien 17. Frank Pritchard 18. Jamal Fogarty 19. Cameron King 20. David Gower 21. Scott Schulte