The 2016 season kicks off in earnest on Thursday night with a salivating matchup between a Parramatta team who has spent up big to change their fortunes around and a Brisbane side that enters the year as title favourites.
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos Thursday, March 3 (AEST), Parramatta Stadium, Sydney
The Eels have named a newlook side with four changes to their backline including skipper Kieran Foran, centre Michael Jennings, fullback Michael Gordon and winger Clint Gutherson. Beau Scott will also start in the backrow. Tepai Moeroa will start at lock with Anthony Watmough out and facing retirement due to a degenerative knee injury. Brisbane will wheel out boom recruit James Roberts in the centres in place of the retired Justin Hodges. Jack Reed is out hurt with Greg Eden to debut on the wing. Ben Hunt returns from suspension while Josh McGuire is back from injury.
The Eels and Broncos have had a very even recent history with the last seven matches between the two sides split evenly dating back to 2007. The teams played just once last year with the Broncos successful 28-16 at Suncorp. The Broncos have won three of the last four at Parramatta Stadium but the Eels won the last match at the ground 19-18 in 2013. Only 1 of the last 10 matches has topped 44 points while none of the last five at Parra Stadium have topped 37. Eels No.6 Corey Norman is a former Bronco.
The Eels have had a stellar preseason, topped by claiming the Auckland Nines, their first trophy since claiming the World Sevens 15 years prior. They followed that up with a 22-8 win over Penrith. Brisbane put their focus on the World Club Series and absolutely annihilated a handy Wigan team. Both teams should hit the season running.