Captaincy boost in Norman's contract year
Off-contract Eels playmaker Corey Norman has evolved into a genuine leader at his club, as evidenced by his captaincy debut late last year being consolidated by being named captain of Parramatta's Downer NRL Auckland Nines squad to kick off season 2016.
The former Bronco has made massive strides in his two years in blue and gold and on the eve of the 2016 Auckland Nines told NRL.com he was hoping to extend his stay.
"Yeah this is my last year, I'm sure my manager and the club are talking, I've just got to worry about myself and play some good footy," Norman said.
"I definitely would [love to stay]. I love Parramatta, I've been here for two years and I don't see myself going anywhere else."
An extra carrot in front of Norman now is the chance to pair up with one of the best halves in the NRL in new Eels recruit and former Sea Eagle Kieran Foran.
Norman said he and the Kiwi Test pivot had been combining well so far at training but was tight-lipped about whether he was expecting to marshal a dominant Eels left edge boasting blockbusting winger Semi Radradra and incoming Test centre Michael Jennings, or move to the right of the field to accommodate traditional left-side half Foran.
"It's been good. The times we've trained together we've been good which is the most pleasing thing but it's only training and we've got a couple of trials to work on our combinations to get things going," Norman said.
"We've been training both sides so we'll have to wait and see [who plays where] I guess. That's what [the trials] are there for, to fine-tune the things we need to work on before Round 1."
Norman was fairly confident though that Jennings would slot into his usual left-centre role, meaning a shift to the right for Brad Takairangi.
"He's been training there, I think he's played left centre pretty much his whole career," Norman said of Jennings.
"He's a world class centre so it doesn't take much for him to slot in. He's come in, he's obviously learned our structures and what we're going to do and he's fit in well. It's a great little asset to our team."
When the Nines kicks off, Norman is hoping the strong squad the Eels have named will allow them to improve on last year's showing, when they were one of the best sides through the group stages and won their quarter final before a limp semi-final effort saw them bundled out by the Rabbitohs.
"We had a good run, it was disappointing in the semis to go out like that but obviously we want to beat the semis this year," Norman said.
"It's a strong pool, I think all the pools are strong and all the teams have sent some good teams over. There should be some good footy this weekend and I'm looking forward to it."
Looking at the squad – in which 16 of the 18 named players have played NRL, with the other two being bright prospects in fullback Bevan French and back-rower Matt Woods – Norman said he was excited to see what it could produce, especially 2015 Nines sensation Semi Radradra.
"It is a great all round squad, like you said Bevy and Woodsy haven't played NRL yet but they're good young players and especially looking forward to Bevan French out there.
"We all know what we're going to get out of Semi, he's a crowd favourite and he loves it too so hopefully he can put on a show this weekend!"