Wooden spooners Brisbane approach the official launch of the Kevin Walters era against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium full of hope but unable to completely banish the doubts after a Jekyll-and-Hyde trial performance.
The Broncos looked slick and sharp while racing to an 18-6 half-time lead against North Queensland at Redcliffe but after the break it all fell apart, opening the door for the Cowboys to score 28 unanswered points.
But Walters chose to look on the bright side after the second-half face plant, with fullback Jamayne Isaako, halfback Tom Dearden, centre Tesi Nui and hooker Jake Turpin all impressing.
The Eels couldn't quite keep up with 2020 minor premiers Penrith in their final trial hit-out but coach Brad Arthur was unconcerned, blaming the clunkiness in attack on the ferocious pace of the game.
Broncos v Eels
Match: Broncos v Eels
Round 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Broncos: Kevin Walters' team will start 1-17, with Tom Dearden and Richie Kennar the last two players omitted. Brodie Croft will get first crack at the No.7 jersey and partner Anthony Milford in the halves. Herbie Farnworth will start at centre having recently undergone surgery on a chest infection. Veteran David Mead will return as a Bronco on the left wing while 19-year-old Tesi Niu has switched to right centre in the absence of Kotoni Staggs (ACL).
Thomas Flegler has been cleared after copping a knock in the trial but fellow prop Payne Haas is suspended until round four. Rhys Kennedy and Cory Paix were cut from the extended squad 24 hours before kick-off.
Eels: The Eels will start 1-17, with Haze Dunster and Joey Lussick the last two players dropped from the squad. With veteran Michael Jennings suspended for an alleged performance-enhancing drugs violation, former Cowboy Tom Opacic will start in the centres. Former Titan Keegan Hipgrave will make his Eels debut from the bench alongside ex-Warrior Isaiah Papali'i, who will fill the hole left by Marata Niukore's suspension.
Jordan Rankin and David Hollis were the first two omitted from the 21-man squad on Thursday.
Fullback for Broncos is number 1 Jamayne IsaakoFullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
Winger for Broncos is number 2 Xavier CoatesWinger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
Centre for Broncos is number 3 Herbie FarnworthCentre for Eels is number 3 Tom Opacic
Centre for Broncos is number 4 Tesi NiuCentre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
Winger for Broncos is number 5 David MeadWinger for Eels is number 5 Blake Ferguson
Five-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Anthony MilfordFive-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
Halfback for Broncos is number 7 Brodie CroftHalfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses
Prop for Broncos is number 8 Tevita Pangai JuniorProp for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Hooker for Broncos is number 9 Jake TurpinHooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
Prop for Broncos is number 10 Matthew LodgeProp for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 Alex Glenn2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 Jordan Riki2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson
Lock for Broncos is number 13 Patrick CarriganLock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange for Broncos is number 14 John AsiataInterchange for Eels is number 14 Oregon Kaufusi
Interchange for Broncos is number 15 Thomas FleglerInterchange for Eels is number 15 Isaiah Papali'i
Interchange for Broncos is number 16 Ethan BullemorInterchange for Eels is number 16 Keegan Hipgrave
Interchange for Broncos is number 17 Ben Te'oInterchange for Eels is number 17 Will Smith
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
- Touch Judge: Michael Wise
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara
Tevita Pangai Jr v Ryan Matterson: Combustibility will run head on into consistency when these two star back-rowers meet in round one. Pangai Jr is devastating when on song but too often his game goes off the rails.
Matterson, on the other hand, just keeps churning out the metres and racking up the tackles while also picking up plenty of attacking stats. It will be interesting to see how his migration to the left in attack affects his output.
The Eels dominated the offloading stat in 2020, their total of 303 a stunning 74 clear of the Roosters (229) in second place. Prop Junior Paulo claimed the individual honours with 54 offloads ahead of Newcastle's David Klemmer (45) a distant second and another big gap to Martin Taupau, Christian Welch and team-mate Ryan Matterson in equal third (35).
The Broncos simply have to get Parramatta's ball-runners to ground as quickly as possible.
What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?
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