Eels v Broncos: Five key points
The highly anticipated season opener was dented slightly as a spectacle by injuries to key players as well an incredibly hot and humid western Sydney night, but last year's runners-up never looked overly threatened in their 17-4 win. Here are five talking points from the first game of the 2016 season.
Video bunker biggest winner of the night
Critics of the video referees bunker, if they still exist, will certainly be running low on ammo after it passed its first proper examination with flying colours.
A questionable try, given on-field as a try to Michael Jennings, was correctly and very quickly deemed a double movement by Bernard Sutton and review officials Luke Patten and Ashley Klein. A later try initially awarded to Corey Oates, despite the winger not grounding the ball as he plunged past the dead-ball line, was just as efficiently and correctly overturned.
Fans at the ground were able to see the process on the big screen, while those as home could watch what the officials were doing and hear their reasoning as the officials chose what angles they watched and at what speed. More contentious calls will come, and they will provide a sterner test, but the first outing of the bunker in a fully-fledged NRL match went as well as anyone could have hoped.
Corey Oates the second biggest winner of the night
Blockbusting Brisbane winger/second-rower Corey Oates was potent on Brisbane's left edge, and gave Parramatta's new-look right side edge of Clint Gutherson and Brad Takairangi some major headaches.
The 6'4" speedster churned through a match-high 204 metres and a match-high seven tackle busts, scoring one try and setting up another. Mooted for a long-term move to the pack, his coach Wayne Bennett joked afterwards the 21-year-old wasn't yet tough enough to play in the forwards.
Bennett will have a decision to make though when centre Jack Reed becomes available as early as next week and winger Lachlan Maranta returns to full fitness a month or so after that. With Englishman Greg Eden having a mixed night on the other flank after being handed the unenviable task of marking Semi Radradra (some brave and impressive moments in defence were countered by a match-high four errors), Oates did his chance of holding his spot no harm at all.
"I think we last year we saw what he could do as well," skipper Corey Parker said. "The challenge for himself individually is to do that consistently. For our sake and the Broncos, hopefully he does do that this year."
But the Eels were also winners, sort of, because it could have been a lot worse
A couple of years ago, if Parramatta had lost both first-choice halves and had a few pieces of luck go against them against a top quality side, they'd have folded up faster than Origami paper in a paper crane shortage and been left lamenting a 40-point hiding.
We may be clutching at straws a little but against last year's grand finalists, with a completely new-look team, losing their biggest star pre-game then losing their best player at half-time, the Eels stuck to their task and kept turning up in defence.
Coach Brad Arthur was reluctant to dish out too much praise after a whopping nine second-half errors, but was pleased with the resolute effort.
"If we want to take a positive out of it, even though we were a bit loose at times through the middle with our defence we scrambled ok and kept them out in the second half," Arthur said.
"The good aspects were even at the end we were completing at 50 per cent and were a bit all over the shop with our attack that could have got a lot worse for us and it has in the past.
"We got loose through the middle but we kept turning up and scrambling and our attitude was ok in defence. It wasn't perfect in terms of our tackling but it could have got a lot worse."
Eden's mixed night
Former Hull KR fullback Greg Eden toughed it out in the Intrust Super Cup all last year hoping for a shot in the NRL with Brisbane and finally got his chance on Thursday night after a strong World Club Series effort put him in the frame for Round 1.
Regardless of how he performed there was always going to be a question mark over his spot in the side beyond this week, with centre Jack Reed due back soon and winger Lachlan Maranta returning to fitness in the coming weeks.
He did some really good things; marking Fijian powerhouse Semi Radradra he was brave in defence and helped shut down some threatening Eels raids. Under admittedly intense pressure at times he also spilled a few kicks, for a total of four errors, but his coach was largely pleased with his efforts.
"Yeah I was pretty pleased with him for his first game in the NRL," Bennett said.
"If you'd seen what he played last year, you'd think he was a miracle player now. He's come a long way in 12 months with us, it's a credit to him. He didn't let us down. He had a tough assignment on who he was playing against."
Injuries are when the reduced interchange will bite
With the number of interchanges dropping from 10 to eight this year, the general consensus among coaches and players in the off-season was that, since most teams kept a couple in the bag until late in games anyway in case of injuries, it would only be early-game injuries in the backs that would really stretch teams under the new rules.
Both sides got an up-close look at how that will work in the very first game of the season, with 80-minute men in Eels five-eighth Corey Norman (neck) and Brisbane centre Jordan Kahu (quad) getting early showers in the first half.
"It had an impact on us losing a half at half-time and putting a second-rower out there so it did affect us in terms of our tackles," Brad Arthur said after the game.
Meanwhile Brisbane's playing 17 has a stack of big-minute forwards, several of whom are capable of doing a job in the backs, and skipper Corey Parker said Brisbane hadn't been overly affected due to the make-up of their side.
"We saw what [effect] it had tonight, particularly when there's a forced change. We lost Jordy Kahu there and had to push 'Lexxy' [Alex Glenn] out into the centres and cover that way. But aside from that, I think for our side in particular, we had the players and the dynamic that we can cover that. But when there is a forced change, it does throw a curveball at times."