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It’s a rematch of Round 1 last season when the Panthers and Eels renew their rivalry out west on Sunday afternoon.
Parramatta raced out to a 14-0 lead on that occasion but couldn’t hold on as the Panthers scored the last 24 points of the match.
It was a theme that played out over the course of the season for both sides – Penrith were guilty of starting slowly in countless matches, while the Eels were typically inconsistent and missed out on the finals.
For Penrith, this is an opportunity to put their off-season woes behind them and get the focus back onto on-field performances. Ivan Cleary is back for his second tenure as Panthers coach and it’s vital he gets off to a successful start, especially with many picking the club as premiership winners this season.
Dylan Edwards starts at fullback for the Panthers, while new signings Tyrell Fuimaono and Hame Sele will come off the bench.
It will be another uphill battle for the Eels to secure a finals spot this season, but they have added some strike power out wide, bringing in Test and Origin winger Blake Ferguson from the Roosters.
Fellow new recruit Junior Paulo is in doubt due to a hamstring injury, while Dylan Brown will partner Mitchell Moses in the halves.
Matches between these teams are usually close, but the Panthers – who have won the last two meetings – clearly have the better team. If they can put their off-season drama to the side, they should have enough quality at home to start the season with a win.
Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards 2 Josh Mansour 3 Waqa Blake 4 Dean Whare 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6 James Maloney 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Sione Katoa 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11 Jack Hetherington 12 Isaah Yeo 13 James Fisher-Harris.
Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan 15 Tyrell Fuimaono 16 Moses Letoa 17 Hame Sele. Reserves: 18 Jarome Luai 19 Tim Grant 20 Liam Martin 21 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.
Eels: 1 Clinton Gutherson (c) 2 Maika Sivo 3 Michael Jennings 4 Brad Takairangi 5 Blake Ferguson 6 Dylan Brown 7 Mitchell Moses 8 Daniel Alvaro 9 Reed Mahoney 10 Tepai Moeroa 11 Shaun Lane 12 Marata Niukore 13 Nathan Brown.
Interchange: 14 Will Smith 15 Tim Mannah (c) 16 Kane Evans 17 David Gower. Reserves: 18 Josh Hoffman 19 Oregon Kaufusi 20 Bevan French 21 Junior Paulo.