Corey Norman has led a change of NRL fortunes for Parramatta, starring in an 20-12 win over Manly to open their season on Sunday.
Norman’s off-field woes symbolised the Eels’ tumultuous and salary-cap scandal ravaged 2016 season, suspended by the NRL for the last eight games of the year for off-field indiscretions.
But he was the Eels’ best in his return on Sunday afternoon at Manly’s renamed Lottoland, scoring one try and setting up another as Parramatta turned over a new leaf.
After Manly opened the scoring early, Norman hit back when he grubbered for himself and regathered over the line to level the scores at 6-6.
He played a key role in their next try, driving a kick along the sideline to produce a 40-20 after the Eels looked like they would be trapped deep in their own end on the last.
From the ensuring attacking raid he laid on a pass to Manu Ma’u, who produced a flick offload while falling for Bevan French to score.
Returning after the break with a 14-6 lead, Norman twice trapped Manly in-goal with kicks early, before the pressure finally told as he laid the last pass on for halves partner Clint Gutherson to score.
Manly looked every bit the side that had undergone a massive overhaul in the off-season.
They completed just 21 of 31 sets, and one error included recruit Curtis Sironen completely missing a Daly Cherry-Evans pass as it hit him on the chest.
Cherry-Evans and his new halves partner Blake Green had little chance to combine, as Manly struggled for field position and had just 38 per cent of the ball.
They didn’t help their own cause, Lewis Brown giving away a crucial penalty for a hand in the face of French in the 66th minute, allowing the Eels to extend their lead to 20-6.
Centre Brian Kelly was a rare bright spark for Manly on debut, opening the scoring with his second touch as he jinked his way to the line in the sixth minute.
However, it would be Manly’s only points until the 77th minute, when Green scored a late consolation try.