AAP Rugby

Eels rookie looms as key to 30-year curse

By AAP Newswire

The No.7 curse at Parramatta has hung over the club for almost 30 years.

But for 80 minutes at least - and with the dark clouds hovering at Penrith - there was a ray of light for the Eels after their stirring season-opening 20-12 NRL victory at Panthers Stadium on Sunday.

Eighteen-year-old Dylan Brown belied his age and inexperience with a composed debut that had immortal Andrew Johns in wonder for most of the match.

His stats don't show the full story: one try assist, one line break assist, 22 tackles and three runs for 13 metres.

But it was a non-statistical contribution when the game was in the balance late in the second half that impressed Parramatta coach Brad Arthur the most.

"I thought his play of the game was a kick for Michael Jennings into the corner late in that second half," Arthur said.

The Eels mentor also waxed lyrical about his rookie's defensive efforts during a critical ten-minute period when Michael Jennings was in the sin bin.

"He had to defend in the centres at two-in," Arthur said.

"He had Maika (Sivo) who's (playing his) debut as well on the outside of him, and then Shaun Lane defending as a half against James Maloney.

"But he showed good calmness and composure which is what we talked about during the week with him and all pre-season that's what we like about him."

However Brown's most significant impact could be in how his combination evolves with chief playmaker Mitchell Moses.

There was much anticipation as to how the 24-year-old would perform following the departure of Corey Norman over the summer.

But if the first 80 minutes of the season is anything to go by, Moses may finally be primed to shatter the halfback curse.

While most were locked in on Brown's eye-catching debut, Moses quietly set up two tries and kicked for 290 metres in a mature display.

"I thought (Brown's) composure was really good for Mitchell. He stuck to our plan and got the job done for us today, Mitchell," Arthur said.

Often criticised for his defensive lapses, the former Wests Tigers pivot also produced two try-saving tackles in the space of a minute in the second half.

The clutch plays reminded Arthur of how their defence looked during their most recent finals campaign two years ago.

"That's how we played in '16-17. We didn't look like that last year," he said.

"Regardless of the result today or how it ended up, I was proud and happy that we looked like that team again."

The only downside for the Eels was that key forward Nathan Brown could be out for up to three months after suffering a suspected torn pectoral.