WIZ: Eels v Warriors most intriguing game

Gary Freeman Columnist

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    Manu Vatuvei was in sensational form against Samoa. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Wayne Drought

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    Ok, there are ‘glamour’ games with all the so-called superstar signings and hype, but I think the most interesting game in the premiership kick-off weekend is the Parramatta Eels versus the New Zealand Warriors.

    Not much has been written about this contest and I am more than a little surprised.

    Both clubs are parading new head coaches and a number of key changes to personnel.

    And both outfits desperately need to succeed this season, after the horror stories that were 2012.

    I badly want to see the Eels v Warriors at Parra Stadium at 5.30pm tomorrow arvo.

    This game will be massive.

    Ricky Stuart is the man entrusted with Parramatta’s future, and every man and his dog in the Golden West is looking for major improvement.

    I believe the Eels will go OK this year. Yes, Jarryd Hayne is the key man, but this club has much more to offer than one brilliant individual.

    Jacob Loko is a very fine attacking centre who caught my eye a couple of seasons ago. This kid can really bust the line and go on with it. He’s a special talent and the Eels’ fans will love having him in their mix.

    I like the look of youngsters Luke Kelly (five-eighth) and Darcy Lussick (prop) and if cagey half-back Chris Sandow can work out something special with these guys, who knows what the club can achieve?

    I believe the loss of seasoned top-graders such as Luke Burt and Nathan Hindmarsh will be felt for a long time at Parramatta. Of course, this sort of thing happens to all clubs, but the Eels handle will it, I have no doubt.

    The Warriors were terrible last year and need to make a quick and powerful impression under their new mentor, Matthew Elliott.

    I thought they should have gone for Tony Iro as the main man but I think they can still do very well with Elliott cracking the whip.

    Mannering is the new Warriors’ captain and I really rate this guy in defence and attack. Ben Matulino and Kevin Locke are wonderful talents.

    NZ are not highly rated as far as this year’s comp is concerned, but I really like their chances of doing something spectacular when nobody expects it.

    You can go and look at the Stormboys, the Sharkies, Sea Eagles, Roosters, or Bulldogs as we kick-off the new season.

    But for my money, check out Parra versus NZ.

    There might be a team here that surprises all of the ‘experts.’

    Gary Freeman
    Gary Freeman

    Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist.