The Parramatta Eels will clash with the Newcastle Knights in their pre-season trial at Maitland No.1 Sports Ground this Saturday 24 February and Blue & Gold five-eighth Corey Norman says the side will be throwing everything they have been working on over the pre-season at their opposition this weekend.
With a long pre-season that didn’t feature an Auckland Nines campaign in 2018, Norman says the Blue & Gold are excited to get back out onto the field and put their training into practice.
“It will be good to be back out there on the weekend and running around. We didn’t have the Nines this year so our pre-season felt a bit longer but our first trial is around the corner but everyone is excited,” Norman said.
“Pre-season is pretty long and you get over versing your teammates. You want to go and get out there and start playing for keeps so it should be good this weekend.”
“We will be focusing on working on the things we have been working on all pre-season. I think our defence is a massive one, for us, our attack has never been an issue and if we can really knuckle down on our defence this year it will go a long way” Norman added.
“I think we will be trying everything we have been working on over the pre-season.”
With Norman and halfback Mitch Moses having their first pre-season together under their belt heading into the 2018 season, the five-eighth predicted the combination has only continued to improve and will only get better.
The pair became one of the most relentless kicking halves partnerships of any team in the competition, with their long kicks frequently finding the turf and their short, attacking kicks landing with precision.
The pair also co-led the Club for try assists with 10 each in 2017.
“My combination with Mitch is coming along well! I feel like I have been playing alongside Mitch for ages now and that’s a good thing,” Norman said.
“I think when he first came to the Club, our first game was a bit rusty but after that we kept getting better and better each week.”
“He is a quality footballer and our combination now is even better than it was last year so I am really excited to get out there and play some good footy.”
This weekend’s pre-season trial will see Jarryd Hayne return to the backline for the first time and Norman had nothing but praise for his teammate.
With less pressure on the footballer, who was once relied on to win the game, Norman says the depth and balance in the Eels side will see Hayne have a ‘massive year’.
“Haynze' has been outstanding in our football stuff. I think he is going to have a massive year. He doesn’t have the pressure of what he used to have of carrying a team,” Norman said of his teammate.
“We have a very good strong balance throughout the whole team and he just has to worry about his job and not everyone else’s.” he added.
“He wont have the pressure of coming up and winning every game for Parramatta so I think he will have a massive year and I’m looking forward to watching 'Haynze' at his best again.”
Another change to the backline sees former centre Brad Takairangi join the Eels forward pack and Norman says that Takairangi has made the seamless transition.
“Takaz hasn’t whinged or moaned about the move into the back row,” Norman said.
“He has taken that back rower position, or wherever he is going to play, on board.”
“He is a smart footballer who has played there before and he is going to be exciting for us. He has plenty of football in him and he is going to be good for us there.”
The Eels will clash with the Newcastle Knights, who are coming off a pre-season trial victory over the Melbourne Storm and Norman predicts opposition halfback Mitchell Pearce to guide around the very dangerous outfit with plenty of young talent and quality experience.
“I think the Knights are only going to get better again this year. They have picked up some quality players and they have some really good young talent as well. They are going to be solid and definitely better than what they were last year so it should be a good trial,” Norman said.
“Pearce is a quality player and not too much is going to change for him. He is a dominant half and I am tipping the ball will be in his hands a lot and he is going to play the way he has always played, and that will give them a bit more direction and classy finishes to their sets,” he added.
“His combination with the likes of Kenny-Dowell and Guerra, plus Ponga out the back, he is an exciting young talent and a real weapon.”
“I think him and Pearce are going to come up with a real good combination this year but even somebody like Connor Watson, if they go with him, he is electric too.”
The Eels pre-season trial clash kicks off at 7pm with the clash live streamed on parraeels.com.au.