There wouldn’t be a Parramatta or Manly fan that hasn’t circled Friday night’s round one blockbuster at Pirtek Stadium.
For more reasons than one, this highly anticipated clash is expected to be a confrontational encounter.
The off-season departure of Anthony Watmough from Manly to Parramatta is sure to add extra spice as the two teams look to kick off their 2015 campaign with a win.
Despite losing a host of veteran forwards at the end of last season, including Watmough, Glenn Stewart and Jason King, the Sea Eagles are set to unveil off-season recruits Feleti Mateo, Willie Mason and Luke Burgess in a bid to fill that void.
Mateo, who has been named in the second row for Friday night, insists he wants to bring his own style to the Sea Eagles and isn’t looking to play in the shadows of those before him.
“[Watmough and Stewart] did a lot of good stuff for the club and all I can do is come in and do what I can,” Mateo said. “I’m not looking to replace anyone but try and do what I can do and just back myself.”
Parramatta produced one of the upsets of last season when they toppled then-ladder leaders Manly in an enthralling match of footy at Pirtek Stadium.
The Sea Eagles were ran down 22-12 the last time these two teams met at Pirtek Stadium, however this time around the Eels are without last year’s Dally M winner, Jarryd Hayne.
“Jarryd was one of the best in the game when he left but they have got a really strong team, probably one of the strongest they’ve had in a while. They are going to be a tough challenge and they are going to be competitive this year,” Gutherson said.
As reported earlier this week, Josh Starling has been ruled out with a knee injury, while Brenton Lawrence has recovered from his knee injury and will partner Mason in the front row.
Having played a handful of games in 2014, Clinton Gutherson will replace the injured Steve Matai in the centres, who has failed to overcome a shoulder problem.
Dunamis Lui will wear jumper no.13 as Jamie Buhrer still recovers from an ACL injury sustained late last year, while Blake Leary has been selected on the interchange bench to make his Sea Eagles debut.
Jamie Lyon and Tom Symonds have also been named despite sustaining injuries in Manly's most recent trial against the Roosters.