10th time's a charm: Norman's rare halves certainty
Corey Norman can't promise the Blue & Gold faithful an end to their 32-year title torment.
But with more certainty than ever before in his five years at the Parramatta Eels, he said the team would keep the masses entertained.
In 2013, Norman was lured south from junior club Brisbane Broncos to play under Ricky Stuart. By September, Stuart had walked and a month later, Brad Arthur was Norman's new sounding board.
Once Norman rang around the game, he worked out who the then-Manly Warringah Sea Eagles assistant was.
In the five seasons since, Norman's scrumbase partners have ranged from million-dollar man Kieran Foran and the mercurial Chris Sandow to makeshift options like back-rower Kenny Edwards and centre Brad Takairangi.
Parramatta's last premiership-winning halves Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny recently dubbed Norman and Mitchell Moses – his 10th playmaking partner at the Eels – as the pair who could end the longest title drought in the NRL.
Norman played 13 games alongside Moses following his halves partner's mid-season move from Wests Tigers and with a rare full pre-season to hone their combination, there's a genuine belief the Eels "can do something big this year".
"I've been here for four years and I've had my fair share of halves partners, so when Mitch got here (it) was kind of just another process I guess for me," Norman told NRL.com.
"But knowing that Mitch is here for the long haul that helps a lot, and that was quite exciting actually when he first came, knowing it was long term back then too.
"It was an encouraging finish to the back end (of 2017), I think Mitch played some of his best football then and that made my job a lot easier.
"I don't know how many games we had last year but each time we got better and better and now with a full pre-season, we get to understand each other's game more and start to know what each other's going to do.
"We'll have to wait and see of course; it’s a long year but Mitch and I are both confident players and there's a big belief in this team."
Besides having a halves partnership on the up, the Eels will pack serious firepower out wide with Bevan French, Michael Jennings, prodigal son Jarryd Hayne and the injured Clint Gutherson able to cause serious headaches for defensive lines.
That potential has Norman predicting more razzle-dazzle from an attack that ranked eighth in 2017 as they made a long overdue return to finals footy.
"We get to play good attacking football in the way Brad has set the team up," Norman said.
"That understanding about where (he and Moses) can help each other out is developing more and more and Brad encourages us to play expansive football.
"Our attack has never been our issue, the focus has probably been more on defence for most of the summer to be honest."
Despite reports of tensions brewing between Norman and Arthur during the hot summer months, the star playmaker is adamant their relationship remains healthy, another welcome certainty in Sydney's wild west.
"That's the best thing about it. Sometimes I disagree with him and sometimes he disagrees with me but that's good, that's healthy and it's a strong relationship.
"When I first got down here in 2013, Sticky left and I'm very fortunate that Brad stepped in. I'm very lucky because he's a good coach and we've got a good relationship.
"I didn't know for while that it would be Brad. And when I did get the news, I didn't know too much about him either but I was checking with boys at Manly and Melbourne and all the reports were that he was a good coach and Parra was lucky to get him."