Dyldam Parramatta Eels halfback Luke Kelly says there will be a few surprises in store for the Eels when they arrive in Alice Springs in February.
Aside from the weather, Kelly says the level of support for rugby league in the Northern Territory will impress the players and fans visiting the Territory for the first time.
“I think you’ll be surprised in Alice Springs and later in the year in Darwin,” Kelly said.
“I think there’ll be really big crowd.”
“Rugby league is very popular in the Northern Territory: it has a huge amount of support and hopefully our partnership can bring some more Eels supporters.”
“It’s also going to be interesting to see how we fare in our first game; I think it’s going to be as hot as it is here in Parramatta, but it’ll be a real shock. It’s a different kind of heat up there in Alice Springs in the desert.”
And as the February 8 match date draws closer, the Eels’ focus in pre-season training has shifted slightly from fitness and strength to the combinations between the club's key playmakers, including newly-returned fullback Jarryd Hayne.
“Before Christmas it’s always a hard slog with the running and that sort of stuff,” Kelly said.
“We have been doing a bit of attack stuff, but now that Haynesy’s back he obviously plays a massive role in our game, and I’m looking forward to working with Jarryd over the next few weeks before we start playing.”
“I think everyone’s excited,” he added.
“Now that the game’s in sight I think everyone sort of grows an extra leg and starts really looking forward to getting the boots on.”
“There’s a lot of healthy competition [for positions] this year and everyone’s doing their best to put their case forward, and we’ll all get a shot in Alice Springs.”