Ahead of the Parramatta Eels season opener against the Penrith Panthers at Panthers Stadium, we take a look at five key points ahead of the upcoming Battle of the West.
Young half Dylan Brown will make his NRL debut this weekend following an impressive pre-season and pre-season trial form against the Raiders and Panthers.
A talented 18 year old who was recently promoted into the Eels Top 30, Brown has been with the Blue & Gold since the age of 15. A natural ball runner with plenty of skill and composure, Brown doesn’t mind the tough, physical side of the game as well.
As he settles into the physical and mental challenges of his first full season in the halves, there will be no pressure on Brown as he finds his feet and settles into his first season in the NRL, but Blue & Gold Members and fans will be excited to watch his development in 2019.
Whilst Blue & Gold Members and fans were expecting Dylan Brown to make his debut in Round One, many would have been excited to see another new face, Maika Sivo named in place of an injured George Jennings for the season opener.
An unfortunately injury to Jennings sees Sivo given an opportunity, and Blue & Gold Members and fans will be excited to see the Fijian winger in action. Sivo, played for the Gundagai Tigers, Mounties and the Panthers NSW Cup over the last few years and has a proven try-scoring history.
New faces in the Blue & Gold
Blake Ferguson will play his official Club debut this week and Eels Members and fans will be looking forward to seeing the experienced winger in action.
The Blue & Gold will be eagerly looking forward to watching Ferguson charge out of the back field and getting the Eels sets rolling, whilst also finishing off tries down the other end of the field.
A big and physical threat, Fergu
son will be looking to continue his strong 2018 form where crossed for 18 tries, had 20 line breaks and topped the running and post contact metres out of anyone in the competition.
New recruit and second row forward Shaun Lane will also play an important role for the Eels in 2019. Coming from the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles last season as their leading try scorer, the t
all, rangy forward possesses a handy offload and will be difficult for the Panthers defence to handle out on the edge.
The potential return of Junior Paulo will have Blue & Gold Members and fans keeping their eye on the Eels updated team lists closer to kick off. Ruled out late from the pre-season trial against the Panthers a fortnight ago with a hamstring strain, Paulo has been named on the Eels extended bench and could make his return to the Blue & Gold this Sunday.
Lane's Blue and Gold debut
The Eels will be excited about starting their season with a traditional Battle of the West clash.
A heated rivalry between the two sides, the Eels will be looking to repeat the result from a fortnight ago when they came away with a 20-0 victory over the mountain men in their pre-season trial.
Historically, the Eels hold a slight head to head advantage over the Panthers, however, in the same corresponding game last year, the Eels led14-0 after 30 minutes before the home side scored 24 unanswered points to come away with the two points. The Eels will be out to right the wrongs from that clash, coincidently, the 2018 season opener.
The Panthers have also won four of the past five encounters, prevailing in both clashes last season.
Battle of the halves
With the departure of Corey Norman during the Eels off-season, the new look Blue & Gold halves pairing of Mitch Moses and Brown will come up against the established pairing of James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.
Moses is ready to lead the team in the halves, taking pressure off the debutant Brown, and the halfback will be looking to return to his consistent best in 2019 whilst his partner finds his feet in the NRL.
For the Panthers, it will be the first match of Ivan Cleary’s second run as Panthers coach, and Nathan and Maloney will be looking to continue their strong combination.
An intriguing match up that will go a long way in determining the winner of the clash.
The Eels have been eagerly waiting for the season to kick off and to begin their 2019 campaign, wanting to claim bragging rights over their western rivals and start their season off with a win.
For the Panthers, they will also be determined to kick off their season with a victory in front of their loyal and passionate home crowd.
Their past few weeks have seen plenty of off-field distractions surrounding the side, so expect the Panthers players to unite and put in a resilient performance.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean WhareCentre for Eels is number 3 Michael Jennings
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Waqa BlakeCentre for Eels is number 4 Brad Takairangi
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Dallin Watene-ZelezniakWinger for Eels is number 5 Blake Ferguson
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James MaloneyFive-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Eels is number 8 Daniel Alvaro
Hooker for Panthers is number 14 Wayde EganHooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
Prop for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaProp for Eels is number 10 Tepai Moeroa
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Isaah Yeo2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Hame Sele2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Marata Niukore
Lock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-HarrisLock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Eels is number 14 Will Smith
Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Jack HetheringtonInterchange for Eels is number 15 Tim Mannah
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Tyrell FuimaonoInterchange for Eels is number 16 Kane Evans
Interchange for Panthers is number 18 Jarome LuaiInterchange for Eels is number 17 David Gower