Amid the tumult of drug accusations, staff sackings, salary cap whispers, players being stood down and speedy rehabilitation, round two of the NRL kicks off tonight.
As is often the case, round one provided a few surprises but whether or not we can take any formlines of significance is another matter.
Our Thursday instalment sees the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs travel to Parramatta to tackle the Eels.
Eels vs Bulldogs – Preview – 14th March – ANZ Stadium – 8:05pm
The Eels and Bulldogs have a long history of tough battles, none more memorable than those of the early 80s.
These days the game may have evolved into something completely different but a strong Sydney based rivalry is as strong as ever.
Everything Parramatta touched last weekend turned to gold during their 40-10 drubbing of a very poor Warriors in New Zealand and has the Eels fans cock-a-hoop again.
A slimmed down Chris Sandow was clinical, selective passing and deft kicking revealing glimpses of the play that earned him his huge contract at the Eels.
Jarryd Hayne was back to his best, lurking with intent, creating opportunities and bagging himself a hat trick of four pointers.
Another noted improver was Reni Maitua who may well have found his feet under the tutelage of Ricky Stuart.
The Eels will be without their five eighth Luke Kelly this week due to a hamstring injury, Joseph Paulo moves from lock to five eighth, with Ben Roberts on the bench to be injected later in the game.
The question mark for the Eels form however is more so over their opposition (The Warriors) who looked disjointed and below NRL standard.
The Ben Barba-less Bulldogs suffered defeat at the hands of a mastermind (Jonathon Thurston) and a white hot North Queensland Cowboys last weekend but were far from disgraced.
They are still missing two big forwards in Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano as well as the suspended James Graham.The Bulldogs have a pack that should still be able to match Parramatta’s.
The key players for the ‘Dogs may well be the halves, Kris Keating and Josh Reynolds who will need to provide that match winning spark that may have otherwise been provided by Barba.
Pacy veteran Steve Turner again starts at fullback in lieu of Barba but may well swap with Drury Low during the match as he did last week.
Tony Williams will look to play a bigger role this week and his match-up with Maitua may be a key to victory for either side.
One thing is for certain, this week looms as a much bigger litmus test of where Parramatta sit in relation to the big-guns this season (albeit an understrength Bulldogs).
Prediction – Bulldogs by 8