Parramatta Eels attempt to snap a two-match losing run against Canterbury Bulldogs when the bitter rivals face off in the NRL 2020 season opener on Thursday night.
Eels vs Bulldogs kicks off at 8.05pm AEDT at Bankwest Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Channel 9 in Australia.
A blockbuster showdown between two of the NRL’s fiercest rivals awaits on Thursday night as the Eels and Bulldogs square off in the first game of the decade.
Parramatta vaulted from last to fifth in 2019 and are expected to challenge for the premiership this season – could they possibly end their three-decade drought?
Doing the basics right has always been the Eels’ achilles heel – they are capable of blowing teams off the park when they are operating at their peak, but too many times they dish out erratic performances and suffer from inconsistency.
Is 2020 the year they find the right balance?
Canterbury simply didn’t have the roster to compete with the best sides in the competition last season, but they put together a very strong finish – and coach Dean Pay will be hoping that acts as a springboard to this campaign.
However, the Bulldogs have already been rocked by an off-field scandal this week, with Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor both stood down after being handed show cause notices by the NRL.
It’s an unwanted distraction heading into the opening game of the season, but the Bulldogs have showed time and time again they play their best with their backs against the wall.
In saying that, the Eels have the far stronger side and will be determined to turn Bankwest into a fortress this season. I think Parramatta are going to explode out of the blocks and produce a big win to launch their season.
Marquee forward recruits Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard make their Parramatta debuts, while Waqa Blake has recovered from off-season surgery to take his place in the backline.
Brandan Wakeham replaces the injured Kieran Foran at five-eighth for the Bulldogs, while new signing Joe Stimson starts in the second row.
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. Brad Takairangi 15. Marata Niukore 16. Kane Evans 17. Peni Terepo 18. Will Smith 19. Ray Stone 20. Oregon Kaufusi 21. George Jennings
Bulldogs: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Will Hopoate 5. Christian Crichton 6. Brandon Wakeham 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Joe Stimson 13. Adam Elliott 14. Dean Britt 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Kerrod Holland 19. Ofahiki Ogden 20. Jake Averillo 21. Sione Katoa 22. Jack Cogger
Parramatta Eels – $1.32
Canterbury Bulldogs – $3.40
– Bulldogs have won their last two encounters
– Both of those wins were by six points or less
– Eels won nine of their 11 matches at Bankwest last season