2023 NRL Preview Round 1: Eels Vs Storm

Nathan Smith previews the very first match of the 2023 National Rugby League season. Here’s what we have to look forward to…

MATCHDAY NEWS

MATCHDAY SCHEDULE

Parramatta Eels Vs Melbourne Storm
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Date: Thursday March 2, 8:00pm

MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS

Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Matt Doorey 13. J’maine Hopgood 14. Jirah Momoisea 15. Jack Murchie 16. Wiremu Greig 17. Makahesi Makatoa 18. Jakob Arthur 19. Ky Rodwell 20. Ofahiki Ogden 21. Mitch Rein 22. Isaac Lumelume

Storm: 1. Nick Meaney 2. William Warbrick 3. Reimis Smith 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Trent Loiero 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Josh King 14. Tyran Wishart 15. Alec Macdonald 16. Chris Lewis 17. Jordan Grant 18. Grant Anderson 19. Bronson Garlick 20. Sualauvi Faalogo 21. Joe Chan 22. Jonah Pezet

Referee: Ashley Klein

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MATCHDAY PREVIEW

The season opener will prove to be a testing affair for both sides. With an array of team changes and injuries between them, there is no sure winner for Thursday night’s game.

The home team and last year’s runners-up, the Eels, will look more robust than expected. Despite some injury clouds around their backline, Brad Arthur has named it at full strength. In fact, it isn’t until you begin to look at the bottom side of their team sheet that you’ll observe a few frailties. Bryce Cartwright and Matt Doorey have both been named in place of Shaun Lane and Ryan Matterson. Neither has played a lot of first-grade in recent seasons, particularly in a starting position, so it’s interesting to see how they go. Furthermore, the bench, minus Makahesi Makatoa, is entirely brand new. After the first thirty or so minutes, when the Eels need to make a substitution, the question has to be asked whether they will offer what is needed.

Melbourne Storm isn’t in any better of a position. Beyond having lost a wealth of experience, they’ve suffered a range of key injuries including the likes of their gun fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, new signing Tariq Sims and strike centre Justin Olam. As a result, they’ve had to name a 17 that though still strong, is vastly weaker than what they’d otherwise be able to put out. Nick Meaney has the biggest responsibility in covering for Papenhuyzen, though throughout 2022 he had proven that he was more than capable of the job.

The biggest obstacle in the Eels’ way is the Storm’s infatuation with Round One games. They haven’t lost one since all the way back in 2001. However, the Eels have proven to be a thorn for the Storm in recent years, having defeated them in the past four straight matches. Both of these statistics make this an interesting first-up encounter.

The big question for the Eels is whether Josh Hodgson can come in and comfortably do his job at hooker. If he can offer clean service to his halves and direct his forwards around the park, the Eels shouldn’t miss a step. On the other side, one has to wonder whether Bellamy can lift a team missing a fair bit of cattle. Historically, he can, so don’t be surprised to see 1-17 put in what’s now become an adjective in Rugby League: a “Storm” performance.

LAST TEN MATCHES

Eels 5, Storm 5

MATCHDAY PREDICTION

Eels by 8

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