Ballin counting down the days

The count down to the Sea Eagles' season opener against the Storm is well and truly underway.

After another gruelling pre-season, the Sea Eagles now focus their attention on round one as they prepare for their bid to improve on last year’s grand final loss at the hands of the Roosters.

As the 2014 season draws near, Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin is relishing kicking the NRL season off against rivals Melbourne in 12 days time.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into the games and starting the year off on a positive note, especially if we can kick off the season with a win against the Storm,” Ballin said.

In more ways than one, the Sea Eagles’ round one clash with rivals Melbourne promises to be a belter, with George Rose set to make his Storm debut against the club he spent eight seasons at.

“I heard he’s looking pretty fit and lost a bit of weight and had a few impressive trials. I hope he’s going really well and it’s always fun playing against Georgie, whether you’re playing with or against him,” Ballin said.

“He’s one of those characters of the game and I’m looking forward to playing him in round one. It will be interesting to see what colour smugglers he’s got on.”

The Sea Eagles wrapped up their trial matches with a come from behind victory over Parramatta at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.

The Eels showcased new signing Will Hopoate for the first time after more than 875 days out of the NRL.

In a fine display, the former Sea Eagle unselfishly set up winger Vai Toutai for a four-pointer with his first touch.

“I tackled him a few times. He’s just as strong as ever and he’ll take a little while to settle back in. I think that was his first game after being away for two years, but he’s a natural athlete and a natural footy player, so he won’t take long,” Ballin said.

“I’m not looking forward to playing him again in a couple of weeks.”