The 2015 season kicks off for the Dyldam Parramatta Eels this Friday night at Pirtek Stadium (March 6, 2015) against their old rivals Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, and the clash is set to be the game of the round.
There will be plenty of expectations heading into the game and fans are expecting it to be a fiery one.
Anthony Watmough returns to play against his old team, the Blue and Gold Army will see a new fullback in Will Hopoate, and both teams halves will be looking to impress.
Both teams will want to begin their seasons with a victory and with the media hype around the game adding fuel to the fire, the crowd will be expecting fireworks.
The last time the two teams clashed, the Eels put in a superb second-half performance for a memorable comeback victory. Halfback Chris Sandow led the fightback, as the Eels scored four unanswered tries in the second half to topple the Sea Eagles 22-12.
Returning from injury, Sandow will be looking for another dominant performance, continuing his strong form shown in the 2015 Auckland Nines.
“Chris has trained really well this week and he will be really excited to play in front of a parochial and packed home crowd here on Friday night so the boys are excited now and they have done all the hard work and now we get to put the things we practiced onto the playing pitch,” said assistant coach Steve Murphy.
The Eels backline has a new look in 2015, with the centre pairing of Brad Takairangi and Beau Champion making their first appearance in the NRL in Blue and Gold, Reece Robinson on the wing, and Will Hopoate filling the number one jersey.
With the clash expected to be physical, the Eels have named an extended bench that includes Isaac De Gois, Joseph Paulo, Junior Paulo, David Gower, Danny Wicks and Pauli Pauli.
“One thing we have in the forwards this year is great depth. Guys that have played long minutes in the past like Peni Terepo are missing out for us at the moment and that’s a good sign for us moving forward,” Murphy said.
Manly have named a few new faces for their opening clash of 2015 with Willie Mason, Feleti Mateo, Luke Burgess and Blake Leary set to make their club debuts. The Sea Eagles have early season injury concerns with Josh Starling, Steve Matai, Jorge Taufua all missing through injury whilst Jamie Lyon, Tom Symonds and Brenton Lawrence have all been named despite injury clouds.
Match Details: Friday 6 March 2015. Kickoff at 7:45pm. Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta.
Televised: Channel Nine, Live, 7.30pm.
The History: Played 131; Eels 46, Sea Eagles 81, Drawn 4. The last eight games at Pirtek Stadium are split four a piece and the Eels have been victorious in their past two encounters in Round 24 of the 2015 season and the recent 2015 Auckland Nines
1. William Hopoate 2. Semi Radradra 3. Beau Champion 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Reece Robinson 6. Corey Norman 7. Chris Sandow 8. Darcy Lussick 9. Nathan Peats 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Anthony Watmough
14. Isaac De Gois 15. Joseph Paulo 16. Junior Paulo 17. David Gower 18. Danny Wicks 19. Pauli Pauli
1. Brett Stewart 2. Cheyse Blair 3. Jamie Lyon 4. Clinton Gutherson 5. Peta Hiku 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Willie Mason 9. Matt Ballin 10. Brenton Lawrence 11. Feleti Mateo 12. Tom Symonds 13. Dunamis Lui
14. Jesse Sene-Lefao 15. Blake Leary 16. James Hasson 17. Luke Burgess 18. Justin Hour
The Eels ran in five tries in their recent trial match victory, with new recruit Reece Robinson scoring a hat-trick of tries and the Eels will be confident of putting points on the board in their season opener. Chris Sandow returns to the footy field in the fittest shape of his life and a motivated Anthony Watmough, coming up against his former side, will be looking to put in a strong performance and spearhead the Eels forwards.
Manly enter the clash with plenty of doubt hanging over their heads, but historically, that is when the Sea Eagles play their best. Halves pairing Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran will be looking to put in a strong performance and lead their team around the park and fullback Brett Stewart will be looking to get himself involved, playing without brother Glenn Stewart in the squad.
Match Officials: Matt Cecchin & Henry Perenara; touch judges: Brett Suttor & Nick Beashel; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton & Luke Patten.