The Parramatta Eels are preparing to kick off their 2018 tomorrow afternoon when they take on the Penrith Panthers at Pepper Stadium.
Speaking ahead of the sold out western derby, Blue & Gold Head Coach Brad Arthur says the signs for his Eels side all point to positive, but you can’t look too much into the trial form ahead of tomorrow’s clash for the two points.
“We are excited. Every Club has been working the same and working hard and you don’t really know where you are at until you get out there and have a run,” Arthur said.
“Our trial form was okay but it’s for real now.”
“All the signs are positive but until the blowtorch is applied to us tomorrow, we won’t really know where we are at.”
“It’s great by the NRL to have a western derby out in Penrith with a sell out crowd, and hopefully we have just as many Parramatta supporters as there is Penrith supporters.” Arthur added.
The Panthers will see new recruit James Maloney partner Nathan Cleary in the halves for the first time, and Arthur says the new look pairing will be very dangerous.
The Blue & Gold will be looking to limit the impact of the Panthers aggressive forwards to negate the impact of the experienced Maloney and the talented Cleary.
“We know what to expect from Penrith. They are going to be fired up, it’s their first game in front of a big crowd they will be coming ready to play,” Arthur said.
“They have a very experienced half in James Maloney to help out Nathan Cleary who is a very good player on the up, so we will have to make sure we are at our best defensively.”
“He will bring a bit of calmness and composure and another really good kicking option for them.” Arthur continued when asked about Maloney.
“It will take a bit more pressure off Nathan Cleary and allow him to play a bit more of a free flowing game and run the footy. “
“The focus needs to be on what we need to do. They have a very strong, aggressive forward pack so we need to limit the opportunities that they can give to those two quality halves.”
Blue & Gold centre Jarryd Hayne returns to the Eels for his first official clash this weekend whilst new recruit Kane Evans is set to make his Club debut.
“I am really happy with Jarryd. He is fit, he is healthy and he is excited to play.” Arthur said.
“We have a couple of players unavailable but we are in a pretty good place right now with how many numbers we have and how many are fresh. It has been a tough job to leave a couple out this week.”
“It is exciting for Kane and exciting for us as a Club and his teammates to see him get out there in his first real hit out for us. Our expectations aren’t high of him at the moment, as long as he does his job,” Arthur said of Evans.
“It will take him a while to blend in with the team but he is a big body and I am sure he is going to offer plenty when he carries the footy for us.”
This week also saw the Eels re-sign forwards Nathan Brown and Daniel Alvaro along with utility Will Smith and Arthur said it was positive for the Club to lock in these players.
“It’s positive for the Club [the recent re-signings].” Arthur said.
“We are in a phase at the moment where we want to retain. We know we have the right squad moving forward and we want to retain as many of them as possible.”
The Eels kick off against the Panthers at Panthers Stadium on Sunday 11 March, kick off at 4:10pm.
The clash has been officially sold out with the final tickets snapped up early on Friday morning, more than 48 hours before kick-off in the Battle of the West. Fans attending Sunday's game are encouraged to arrive early to avoid potential delays with finding parking and entering Panthers Stadium. With all three grades in action on Sunday, West Gate opens at 11.30am while North Gate and South Gate will open at 1.30pm.