Eels v Storm: Simonsson returns; Loiero, Warbrick to start

Heavyweights Parramatta and Melbourne launch the 2023 NRL Telstra Premiership season on Thursday night with all eyes on two clubs who many predict could slide this year.

The Eels, coming off grand final defeat to the Panthers in October, looked strong in their Pre-season Challenge win over Newcastle with Josh Hodgson slotting into the dummy half role alongside premier halves Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown. 

Storm coach Craig Bellamy faces perhaps his biggest challenge to get his new-look squad back to a premiership threat after a first-week finals exit in 2022. 

Bellamy's side has a host of new players while the uncertainty around Ryan Papenhuyzen's return this season presents a big hurdle to overcome for at least the first half of the year.

The clashes between both clubs in recent seasons has been fiery with this one to open the year expecting to offer just as much with each team looking to get off to a good start.

Team news
Eels: Bailey Simonsson has recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered in the grand final while Waqa Blake (arm), Matt Doorey (ankle) and Bryce Cartwright (jaw) have also been named but Shaun Lane (broken jaw) and Ryan Matterson (suspension) are sidelined. Doorey is part a new-look back row combination that includes former Panther J'maine Hopgood while ex-Raider Josh Hodgson plays his first game NRL game for the club at hooker. Former Warrior Jack Murchie has earned a spot on the interchange alongside another recruit in Jirah Momoisea.

Storm: Plenty of changes for Craig Bellamy's side with Ryan Papenhuyzen unavailable for at least eight weeks of the competition and several key departures including Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi. Winger Will Warbrick and second-rower Trent Loiero have been rewarded for strong trial form with starting spots. Tyran Wishart is the bench utility, joined on interchange by the versatile Chris Lewis, late bloomer Jordan Grant and youngster Alec MacDonald. Veterans Tariq Sims (calf) and Tepai Moeroa (toe) are both sidelined.

Stat attack

  • The Eels have won their past four games against the Storm.
  • The Storm have not lost a Round 1 game since 2001 against the Bulldogs.
  • Eels winger Maika Sivo has scored 36 tries in 37 games at CommBank Stadium.
  • The Storm have lost three of their four games at CommBank Stadium.
  • The Eels have four changes to last year’s grand final forward pack.

 

Story first published on NRL.com

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NRL.com