The Parramatta Eels' greatest halves pairing of Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling believe Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses are the combination which could lead the club to its first grand final win since 1986.
Kenny and Sterling, who also played against each other for Wigan and Hull in the 1985 Challenge Cup final, talked up the Eels' premiership prospects at a lunch in Wollongong at which they were guests of honour before Saturday’s historic Super League match between the two English clubs.
“The expectations are high, I was a little bit surprised they finished top four last year but what that has done this year is raised the bar again,” Sterling said.
“Only one team can win the competition, they are tough to come by, but after what we saw last year they are right in the mix.”
Kenny, who played alongside Sterling in each of the club’s 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1986 premiership wins, said: “Looking at what they did last year you would have to say they have got to be looking at a top four position."
While Jarryd Hayne returns to the Eels this season, Kenny and Sterling said the key to the team’s success would be Norman and Moses, who joined the club mid-season last year and starred for Lebanon in the World Cup.
“I like the way Corey Norman plays,” Kenny said. “He plays a lot like Sterlo when he was playing, he would be looking at everything, directing the play, and it wasn’t unusual to see him on the open side then shoot across and do something on the blind side.
“I think he is a great player, he will go very close to playing for Queensland and Mitchell Moses had a very good World Cup, he is still a young guy who is learning the game and he has a bright future.”
Sterling was equally excited about the pairing of Norman and Moses in their second season together and also the direction the Eels were now heading under the coaching of Brad Arthur and with Bernie Gurr as CEO.
“Their talent is obvious but I like the fact they are combining so well in such a short period of time,” he said of Norman and Moses.
“We have got good depth, the recruitment has been strong, we are strong off the field and I think Bernie Gurr has been sensational since taking over so it is a strong Parramatta club all round and I would like to think that would transfer onto the playing field.”
The Eels are considered the NRL’s sleeping giant and have arguably the biggest and most passionate fan-base in Sydney.
Sterling said Hull FC supporters reminded him of Eels fans, who tore down Cumberland Oval after the club’s first grand final win in 1981, and he spoke glowingly of his experiences with them while playing in England during the function, which was a fundraiser for Kenny, who has lymphoma cancer.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I went over there and I loved every minute of it - on and off the field,” Sterling said. “I loved the people, they are the only supporters I have seen who rivalled the Parramatta supporters back here.”
Kenny played for Wigan and became the first Australian awarded the Lance Todd Medal after leading the famous club to victory in the 1985 Challenge Cup final against a Hull side featuring Sterling and fellow Eels star John Muggleton.
The match is considered one of the best finals in the 120-year history of the Challenge Cup and it will be commemorated when Wigan and Hull FC play for the Kenny-Sterling Shield in the first Super League premiership fixture played outside of Europe on Saturday night at WIN Stadium.
“There were 10 tries in all and it went down to the last five or so minutes but Brett was the difference that day,” Sterling recalled.
“That was 30-odd years ago, so to still be held in the esteem where this has some significance makes us feel very humbled.”
Sterling, who has been inducted into the Hull FC Hall of Fame, said he still followed the club’s fortunes and urged fans to support the match against Wigan.
“I’d like to think that the Australian fans will get to see what the English game has to offer because I still think it is a little bit more attack orientated and that is a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kenny said he was feeling optimistic after undergoing treatment for his cancer.
“The tumour hasn’t gone, it is always going to be there but it has shrunk down to 31mm. It was 92mm so things are going well,” he said.
“I am finished the chemotherapy, I am off the medication and hopefully the specialist is right when she says it will be another 10 years or so before it erupts. They are fairly good odds. I was happy with that.”