NRL Eels vs Storm

The NRL is back! And what better way to kick things off than a heavyweight contest between two of the best teams in the competition, as the Parramatta Eels play host to the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night.

The Eels are coming off their first Grand Final appearance since 2009, which coincidentally was a loss to the Storm (who were later stripped of the Premiership). The Storm, meanwhile, are coming off their most disappointing season for some time, finishing fifth in the Minor Premiership, before being bundled out in week 1 of the finals.

Draftstars are back for NRL season 2023 and they are kicking things off with a massive $50,000 contest, with the winner set to pocket a cool $4,935. With several other smaller contests available, there’s a contest for everyone, so get involved and make this game even more interesting.

NRL season 2023, let’s get it started!


Team News

The Eels have lost two big names from their 2022 squad, as Isaiah Papali’i (Tigers), Marata Niukore (Warriors), and Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs) have moved on. They’ve been replaced by Josh Hodgson (Raiders) and J’maine Hopgood (Panthers), with Hopgood in particular someone to keep our eyes on to start the season. In terms of their round 1 team, the Eels have a completely new look back row, with Matterson (suspension) and Lane (injured) joining Papali’i and Niukore out of the squad. They are replaced by Bryce Cartwright, Matt Doorey, and J’maine Hopgood. This is where we might find some value early in the season on this Eels roster.

For the Storm, they’ve lost a good chunk of their 2022 forward pack, with Brandon Smith (Roosters), Kenny and Jesse Bromwich (Dolphins), and Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins) all moving on. The Storm have replaced this quartet with Tariq Sims (Dragons), Elise Katoa (Warriors) and Aaron Pene (Warriors). In terms of round 1 team news, Ryan Papenhuyzen (injury) remains out, with Nick Meaney once again playing fullback. Rookie Will Warbrick starts on the wing, with Young Tonumaipea and Reimis Smith returning after finishing the season injured in 2022.

Betting Markets

Parramatta Eels ($2.15) vs Melbourne Storm ($1.71)

Points total – 41.5 points

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Match Overview

With both teams featuring new look forward packs, it’ll be extremely interesting to see who can get the upper hand in the middle of the field in this contest. With both teams’ strength being their spines, surely the dominant forward pack will put their team in good stead to win this one. I tend to like the Storm to get the job done, given their propensity to start the season as good as any team in the competition. The Eels have more question marks to start the season, so I give the edge to the Storm in this one.

Love It – J’maine Hopgood - $13,840

Hopgood flew under the radar as one of the better off-season acquisitions by the big teams for this season. Coming over from the Panthers where he was stuck behind Isaiah Yeo, Hopgood has looked tremendous in his trial appearances for the Eels. With Papali’i moving on, Lane injured, and Matterson suspended to start the season, Hopgood has a great chance to cement his spot as the starting lock for the Eels. Blessed with a high motor and the ability to offload, Hopgood can play the 80 through the middle if required, and will get through a mountain of work. Tremendous value selection in the forwards.

Love It – Harry Grant - $21,710

With Brandon Smith off to the Roosters, Harry Grant is undoubtedly the Storm’s main hooker. And whilst Tyran Wishart lurks on the bench, Grant should still play big minutes throughout the season. With this matchup likely to put a premium on points, I prefer the Half/Hooker option that is going to get me solid base points in tackles. Grant is a premium option, however, is a decent $1,300 cheaper than teammate Cam Munster, and whilst Grant’s ceiling isn’t quite what Munster’s is, I like the high floor early in the season.

Love It – Christian Welch - $14,390

Welch was looking to have another big year in season 2022, before his season was cut short in round 1 last year, suffering a ruptured achilles which ruled him out for the entire season. But he’s come back strong to start the year, having been named team captain for season 2023. Welch might start a little slow this season, so he is a risk, however he has a really solid fantasy game, always churning through plenty of work. Add this to his ability to push an offload, and Welch can be counted on for a solid score most weeks. As outlined earlier, I believe this will be a tight contest where attacking stats are few and far between. When that’s the case, I like to stick with base stat monsters.

Hate It – Mitch Moses - $19,930

Moses isn’t going to bomb here, he always manages to get a decent score, with his kicking game allowing him a solid base to work from. But for this price range, I don’t like him. The other players in this price range include Cam Munster, Harry Grant, and Dylan Brown. I prefer all three of these other options. There seems to be a lot of chatter around about the Moses deal with the Eels, and with so much off-field talk heading into the season, I don’t like stumping up this sort of money. Of course, he could kill it, but I prefer the others at the price.

Hate It – Nelson Asofa-Solomona - $18,550

Another ‘hate it’ that could make me look really foolish to start the season, but I just don’t like NAS this early in the season. He’s a guy who seems to take a little bit of time to get going through the season, and with Christian Welch back starting in the front row, Nelson’s minutes are more than likely going to be down to start the year. Having said that, NAS is one of those front rowers who doesn’t need big minutes, and one big run could leave me with egg on my face. But I trust the middles for the Eels to make his life hard, and if NAS can’t manage some big attacking stats, this price is far too expensive.

Who Knows – Bryce Cartwright - $12,000

The Carty Party is back! Cartwright is about as rocks and diamonds as it can get - not only in fantasy, but general rugby league as well. Bryce has never quite reached the dizzying heights many expected of him, after bursting onto the scene with the Panthers 10 years ago. Despite this, he “can’t miss” fantasy football when he takes the field, as you never know if he’s going to come up with a ‘Harlem Globetrotter’ type play to break a game wide open, or make simple error after simple error. I’ll have him in my team this week, because how can you possibly leave this spectacle out, however who really knows whether you’ll get the Jekyll or the Hyde.

Draftstars Suggested Lineup

Draftstars Lineup


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