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.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • March 8th 2013 @ 8:07am
      maximillian said | March 8th 2013 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      Now Hayne is a co-captain I expect him to lift his game & potentiallly recapture his form of 09. An inspired choice by Ricky.

    • March 8th 2013 @ 8:17am
      oikee said | March 8th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Cant wait, and i have a big black marking pen ready to rule out one or the other.
      The battle for the wooden spoon. The winner will go onto greater heights, the loser, black pen. hehe

    • March 8th 2013 @ 8:20am
      B.A Sports said | March 8th 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      I must say, I don’t always agree with the Fiz but this game intrigues me to. The Warriors look great on paper. I read their team list and the backline was amazing. Locke has freakish talent, Fisiiahi could be anything and Hurrell and Neilsen in the Centres with Shaun J at half. So after seeing a real good looking back 7 , i thought they must be weak in the forwards. But you still have Mannering, Mateo, Sam Rap and Taylor, all talents and it makes you wondeer how they can be ranked so lowly… but then you remember how they play, you remember how bad Leuluai can be and Manu’s hands.

      As for the Eels, where is Tonga? Injured already! The Eels fans won’t want to look at Morgan in the centre’s too often. Some of the other young backline players (Blair, Sio and Loko) have some talent and one hopes that their experience in first grade, which came before they were ready, will now aid them. Their forwards look less impressive and one can’t imagine Ben Smith, who has lost all his pace and has no flexibility, it would seem, what so ever, can’t be long for first grade.

    • Roar Guru

      March 8th 2013 @ 10:39am
      Mantis said | March 8th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

      This game interests me purely to see which of the two teams will struggle more this season. I think the Warriors will get up, as they have a better 17 than the Eels, and I’m not sure Ricky has had enough time to do what he wants with the squad.

      Another interesting game similar to this one is the Raiders Penrith game. I personally think Penrith have recruited well in the off season, particularly Lewis Brown, Whare, Sika Manu and James Segeyaro. They have a very underrated pack.

      The Raiders on the other hand have a similar team to last year, but as we’ve seen with them, they can be awesome or diabolical. Who will turn up?

    • March 8th 2013 @ 11:17am
      katzilla said | March 8th 2013 @ 11:17am | ! Report

      The Warriors will really miss Lewis Brown once a couple of injuries hit the pack or centres.
      And with the Warriors injury history that looks likely.
      My pick is for the Warriors to get to about 3-4 wins from the first 6 games then watch it all fall apart when said injuries materialise and they’re not covered effectively.

    • March 8th 2013 @ 2:20pm
      Nick Guthrie said | March 8th 2013 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

      As a Parramatta fan I’m also obviously looking forward to this game. I agree that extra responsibility might lead to improved performances for Hayne but mainly I’m just looking forward to Ricky’s influence rubbing off on the boys. His time as NSW coach shows that he knows how to create a real culture of unity and I think that’s something that’s really been missing from Parra and I think Ricky can instil a bit of that mongrel spirit and really bring the boys together. I think the Sandow-Kelly combination holds a lot of potential as well but it’s another thing to turn that potential into performances. Hopefully Loko can have some better luck with injuries this season too!

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