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NRL: Eels v Storm to open NRL campaign

Parramatta Eels and Melbourne Storm will go head-to-head in the opening game of the NRL season and following plenty of changes at both clubs it will be interesting to see how they go in 2023.

Normally both sides would be among the hot fancies to win the Premiership but the jury is out for now following some big departures at the end of last season.

In 2023 the Eels can be backed at 14.00 to win the Grand Final, while the Storm are priced at 8.50. There is still plenty of quality in both sides and they have the potential to go deep into finals.

However a good start to the campaign is needed for these two teams which make Thursday night’s clash even more mouthwatering. It is a tough game to call and could go either way, but we look sure to be in for some fireworks at CommBank Stadium.

The clashes between these two sides are usually fiery to say the least and it should be extra spicey with it being the first game of the season. Let’s take a closer look at both sides as kick-off fast approaches.

What:Parramatta Eels v Melbourne Storm
Where:CommBank Stadium
When:20:00 (AEST) Thursday 2nd March 2023
How to watch:Channel 9, Foxtel Go, Kayo Sports
Odds:Eels 2.05, Storm 1.78

How things stand

The Melbourne Storm can never be written off heading into a new season. Especially when coach Craig Bellamy remains at the helm and arguably the NRL’s best player, Cameron Munster, remains on the pitch.

They still have a roster packed with quality that will have them in the hunt throughout the season but there have been some big departures that could hurt them. Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers Kenny and Jesse could leave a gaping hole and it remains to be seen if the Storm can fill that void.

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Smith missing from the forward pack in particular will be a big loss, although they still have Harry Grant. Keeping star full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen fit and on the field following his concussion issues and a serious knee injury will also be key. There have also been big changes at Parramatta with a host of big players moving on at the end of last season.

Reed Mahoney and Isaiah Papali’i are big losses for the Eels, while forwards Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi and Ray Stone will also be missed. After the 80 minutes are up on Thursday night we will have a clearer idea regards how these two sides cope this season.

Storm without injured stars

The Storm have an impeccable opening round record under the leadership of coach Craig Bellamy. Indeed they have yet to lose a round one fixture in the last 20 years. 

Considering this looks to be Bellamy’s final season in charge it will be a record they are determined to keep and they will be all in for the win. They will have to do it without a couple of influential players though as both Ryan Papenhuyzen and Justin Olam are out on the sidelines injured.

So too are Tariq Sims and Tepai Moeroa. Melbourne still have a side packed with quality though and Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant could be among the game changers.

So too Xavier Coates with the winger priced at 2.00 to score a try anytime during the game or 8.50 to grab the first. Will Warbrick will be on the opposite wing after impressing in pre-season trials and Trent Loiero is also handed a starting spot in the second row.

New boy Hodgson to start for Eels

The Eels lost last season’s Grand Final to the Penrith Panthers but this side will have a very different look to it. Brad Arthur’s men did impress in the pre-season win over Newcastle when Josh Hodgson slotted into the side nicely when impressing in the No.9 jersey.

He is the man to replace Mahoney and they are big boots to fill so it is important he settles in quickly and combines well with Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown. Shaun Lane (broken jaw), Nathan Brown (hamstring) and Ryan Matterson (suspension) are all missing for the Eels but it is not all bad news.

Bailey Simonsson (shoulder), Waqa Blake (arm), Matt Doorey (ankle) and Bryce Cartwright (jaw) have all been declared fit to play. The big dangerman for the Eels is winger Maika Sivo who has scored 36 tries in his last 37 games at CommBank and is priced at 2.15 to score anytime in this game.

The Eels have also won the last four meetings between these two sides and will be determined to make it five on the spin.

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