Teams scheduled for Round 1 – Eels: Another big mess as Matterson banned three games after appeal rejected
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As part of a series showcasing the expected first-round squads for the NRL’s 17 clubs in 2023, the Eels are set to be in contention once again to break the competition’s longest title drought.
After making the Grand Final for the first time in 13 years, Parramatta should be close to going all the way, but the exodus of several key forwards has cast doubt on their credentials.
Eels coach Brad Arthur maintained throughout last season’s run for the premiership decider that they expect to remain title contenders in 2023 and judging by the squad they have incorporated, they cannot be struck off.
The rise of Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown in an elite duo gives the Eels one of the best playing duos in the NRL as they have size and strength in forwards as well as pace and pace. scale creativity.
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Their western Sydney rivals Penrith remain the team to beat, but Parra should be in the top four unless injuries strike.
Parra’s attempt to start the season with a bang hit a snag after star striker Ryan Matterson was forced to sit out the first three games after Parramatta failed in his bid to have his suspension changed to a fine .
Matterson sparked controversy last October when he opted to take a three-game ban for a crushing tackle on Dylan Edwards in the Eels’ big final defeat, rather than coughing up a $4,000 fine.
At the time, the NSW State of Origin backrower claimed the fine was too ‘heavy’ and hit out at the NRL for regularly changing the rules and leaving players out.
Matterson, however, changed his mind in November and appealed to NRL Judicial Chairman Geoff Bellew to replace the punishment with a fine.
The Eels were told there was no process available through the court to change Matterson’s penalty, with any plea or decision considered final. It is believed that Parramatta then lodged demands with the NRL hierarchy to have the decision overturned, but was again told there was no mechanism available for the change.
Who is new?
Signing veteran Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson could be a very shrewd move if he’s playing anywhere near his best. But after tearing his ACL following a series of other injuries in recent seasons, he could struggle to regain his peak form or stay in the park.
The Eels bolstered their pack with a few young players who showed promise but were unable to cement regular starting spots elsewhere in J’maine Hopgood (Panthers), Jirah Momoisea (Knights), Jack Murchie ( Warriors) and Matt Doorey (Bulldogs).
Who has left ?
There are four main players we will miss, starting with Maroons fringe hooker Reed Mahoney, who has agreed to a lucrative contract with the Bulldogs.
Marata Niukore (Warriors), Isaiah Papali’i (Wests Tigers) and Oregon Kaufusi (Sharks) were integral to the pack that challenged Penrith for the title.
Ray Stone, who has missed most of the season after knee surgery, headed north to the Dolphins, center Tom Opacic was nabbed by Hull KR while utility fullback Hayze Perham is now a Bulldog.
Key points to unlock
Ryan Matterson, after initially accepting a three-match ban instead of a fine, has failed to overturn the court order and will sit out matches against Melbourne, Cronulla and Manly.
After being told he could sign elsewhere in 2023, Nathan Brown could end up starting in the first round, but Hopgood impressed the Eels in his first pre-season at the club to become favorites to replace Matterson when Parra opens the season. March 2 against Melbourne.
Replacing Papali’i on the right edge is another up for grabs with Doorey and Bryce Cartwright the main contenders.
Opacic’s departure means Waqa Blake will get a crack at center and with Bailey Simonsson nursing the knee injury sustained on Grand Final night, Sean Russell or Haze Dunster (on their way back from his own knee injury ) will be on the wing.
The club have yet to confirm speculation that Brown and Blake are struggling to be fit for the start of the season due to pre-season training injuries.
Predicted team for round 1
1 Clint Gutherson
2 Maika Sivo
3 Waqa Blake
4 Will Penisini
5 Sean Russell
6 Dylan Brown
7 Mitchell Moses
8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
10 Paulo Junior
11 Shaun Street
12 Matt Doorey
13 J’maine Hopgood
14 Jacob Arthur
15 Makahesi Makatoa
16 Nathan Brown
17 Bryce Cartwright
Other team members: Ryan Matterson (suspended), Haze Dunster, Jack Murchie, Jirah Momoisea, Ky Rodwell, Mitch Rein, Ofahiki Ogden, Samuel Loizou, Wiremu Greig.