The Cumberland Throw

The Eels Forwards – A Strength That Defies The Critics

When the season previews were being prepared by various media outlets, a common theme was noticeable amongst the experts. Although  many believed that an improved season was on the cards for the Eels, they also raised question marks about the Eels pack. Were we a prop short? Did we lack the damaging back rower needed to propel us into the finals? At this early stage of the season, the same critics must now be starting to re-think their assessments.

The Front Row

Rather than a weakness, there is undoubted strength through our depth in this position. The starting props of Mannah and Paulo provide a great balance to each other. One is all impact, the other is all work. Junior can wreak havoc on the defensive line with his powerful charges and capacity to offload. Equally, when he hits, his target knows the definition of pain. Tim Mannah’s role is to get the good yardage and maintain the roll on through a quick play the ball. As a supremely fit forward, he maintains a high work rate in defence, helping to stiffen up the centre of the ruck.

Mannah - supremely fit and gets the much needed metres.

Mannah – supremely fit and gets the much needed metres.

When our starting props are interchanged, on comes the next pair. Look at the balance again. Peni Terepo provides those powerful charges and crunching tackles and Danny Wicks takes over with the work rate.

Yet the depth continues. Waiting in the wings is David Gower, Daniel Alvaro and Rory O’Brien. All of these blokes carry first grade experience. Gower has already stepped up into a bench role due to injury and suspension, and after starting the year in the NRL, Alvaro has maintained strong form for the Wenty Magpies.

Indeed, Rory O’Brien is an interesting prospect. After being recruited as an out of shape prop from the Dragons, O’Brien has put in the hard yards on the training paddock to completely transform his body shape. His outstanding efforts in a strong Wenty pack have not gone unnoticed.

Finally, we also have two young up and comers, Joseph Ualesi and Alex Twal. Ualesi has been around for a few years and is almost the forgotten man after spending the pre-season and early rounds overcoming a back injury. I have actually wondered whether he has the potential to be another Junior Paulo. Twal is still plying his trade in the NYC and is more of a long term project. However, he has been a part of the full time squad and looks to be benefitting from this experience. (For fans interested in another long term prospect, keep your eye on Steve Dresler from the SG Ball. I’d expect him to move up to NYC this year. He is one out of the box!)

The Number 9s

Peats, DeGois, Pritchard, King, Nelson – is any other club as well served in the dummy half position as the Eels? The Wests Tigers would like to be!

Peats started the year on fire with a ridiculously high work rate, notably in defence. Just when we were again moaning another injury to the unlucky rake, up steps IDG to do what he does best – lead the defence line and test the resilience of the opposition.

Isaac DeGois - more than just a replacement rake.

Isaac DeGois – more than just a replacement rake.

Whilst the starting hooker role has changed, Pritchard has maintained the energy off the bench each week. How good has it been to see the young bloke string these matches together? May it continue!

Now consider the depth. Cameron King is a classy player and has had to start the year OFF THE BENCH for Wenty. In most clubs he’s in first grade. In the future, it will likely be his destiny with the Eels. For now he has to bide his time, but patience and form will earn its rewards. But Cameron King is not alone as a worthy Wenty player. Cody Nelson is a fine utility forward who can also cover dummy half. A consistent performer and captain of the Magpies, he will probably force his way into a top 25 position next year.

The Back Row

Beau Scott, Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa and Kenny Edwards – what a powerful crew! The addition of Beau Scott has been a spectacular success. Tough, intimidating, skilful – he is a class act and the icing on the cake for a back row that was not short on potential. Manu Ma’u – the bloke must scare his own team mates during opposed work! Imagine lining up against him when he’s sporting his game face on match days!

Kenny Edwards is our new x-factor. Remember, he’s played less than 30 NRL games, yet look at his power, confidence and skill set. Tepai Moeroa is still so young yet transforming into a rugged middle forward. He is learning to read how to defend on the edges, but in the middle –  when he hits, the opposition know it!

Kenny Edwards packing down with Semi and Hoppa.

Kenny Edwards packing down with Semi and Hoppa.

Now consider the depth. Cody Nelson has already been mentioned. So now we can add Kelepi Tanginoa, Matt Woods and James Hasson. Kelepi has the potential to step up into a similar role to Manu Ma’u. In his matches with Wenty, his attacking charges have literally bashed the defensive lines. Matt Woods has plenty of fans due to his high work rate and has only just stepped up from NYC with the Tigers. After joining the Eels from Manly, experienced first grader Hasson has just returned from injury. Arthur is known to have a high opinion of Hasson from his Manly days and the young workhorse will be looking to press his claims in the next few weeks.

Of course all of this is written without including Anthony Watmough. I have previously dedicated a post to Choc and his efforts to get back onto the field. He’d love to be helping out his team mates right now but the knee isn’t cooperating. A fit and healthy Watmough would be an automatic inclusion.

The Attitude

Controlled aggression and focussed commitment – this seems to be the mantra. Certainly there can be no doubt about the aggression demonstrated in defence and the close to 80 minute committed effort. Given a couple of late tries were given up to the Cowboys and the Dogs, I’m sure that Brad Arthur is still looking for that consistent 80 minute effort from everyone. However, even the harshest critic of the Eels would have to concede that it’s been a quantum leap in attitude from what we’ve witnessed in recent seasons.

What can we put this down to?

No doubt BA and the coaching staff have been integral. Throw in a hard head like Scott and a half barking orders like Foran, and you’ve got a pack that’s gone from workers to intimidators.

Looking ahead, with an impressive starting pack, and plenty of depth to back it up, Parramatta finally have the forwards that can carry the team into a finals campaign. It’s early days for sure, but the signs are extremely positive.

Critics, take note!


All images courtesy of the Parramatta Eels and the NRL


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18 thoughts on “The Eels Forwards – A Strength That Defies The Critics

  1. Kramerica

    Physicality, intimidation and brute strength have been the hallmarks of our performances thus far. This pack has a pack mentality and are ruthlessly going about their business. They’re a bunch of bullies. I’m loving every minute of it!
    Great write up sixties 🙂

  2. Joe Briffa

    hi mate another great read. I just want to say I like everything about Steve Dresler I know it’s S G Ball but he is mature beyond his years, and I just love the mongrel he displays.

      1. Clive

        Hi sixties
        Can you give us some more info on this Dresler kid? Body shape, playing style, skill set etc.

        1. sixties Post author

          We secured Dresler from the Titans due to a contract bungle, similar to the Roberts issue I believe. Dresler is tall, has a strong build and is very mobile. Obviously he is still growing, but already I’d consider him big enough to take on the NYC. He takes the ball up hard and has a good skill set. He can pass before the line and offload in the tackle. At times he seems to play a James Graham type role as a first receiver in the play. I like the way he organises the players around him. He seems to have a real game sense. Forty has seen more of him than I have. He might be able to add more details.

  3. Parra Pete

    Love these great reads..You have a great insight Sixties on what is needed.
    The work rate of the ‘pigs’ has been an impressive driving force in 2016.
    I rate Beau Scott the buy of the decade for what he brings to the Club – especially with his professionalism and brutality in defence. Punisher….and forwards take a detour from the side he is on.
    As Jack Gibson used to say – “Don’t put your toughness on display, just let your opponents FEEL it”..Beau has the same respect from opponents that Ron (Hitman) Hilditch used to command,,,
    Keep up these FANTASTIC articles…I am in awe….

    1. Gazzamatta

      Spot on Pete. Scott oozes toughness. I loved it when the interviewer was trying to talk up Scotts injured shoulder with him as he left the field post the Cowboys game. “It’ll be fine” he snapped back with that hidden snarl there for all to see. Buy of the decade? A big statement but at this stage of his tenure, who could argue.

  4. John Eel

    Great analysis sixties, you are always a good read.

    Does this mean that we will not have to spend up big to replace Junior.

    1. sixties Post author

      Hard to say mate. I’m pretty sure that the next step is securing some current players who are off contract. After that, who knows. They will always look for those players on 1 year deals but big name recruits may be another matter.

  5. Glenn

    Great read 60s. My concern is that as the season proceeds the high work rate in defence will have a telling effect on the forwards. The possibility of burnout is ever present and likely to happen around finals time. BA needs to carefully manage the forwards and rest them to maintain their freshness.
    If our attack starts to click into gear it will allow the forwards to have a break from the weekly grind of relying on defence to win games which is happening at the moment.

    1. sixties Post author

      Good observation Glenn and one that the players also agree with. You can’t keep gifting possession and field position and not eventually pay a toll. The success in attack, which also means not turning the ball over, allows the defence to freshen up.

  6. JJ

    Great read 60’s, what a difference 12 months make. From having a soft underbelly to steel, grit & determination. I wonder if the coaching staff have discussed the potential to rotate players through certain parts of the season to reduce fatigue and keep them as fresh as possible?

    1. sixties Post author

      Thanks JJ. It’s an interesting thought about resting. A team cannot be “up” psychologically for every game. Players pick up niggles but play through them. A coach would need to make a judgement call about whether a player would benefit from a rest or time off for a minor injury. This would have to be balanced against team momentum and the player’s desire. Different times for the Eels to consider.

      1. Soren Lorenson

        You would think that the next 2 home games would be a high priority for securing 2 points. I’m not saying that the players or coaches would be looking to ease off but with wins from those games in the bank I would imagine some of the depth in the pack could then be called upon for a few weeks leading into the bye. The more first grade the likes of Tanginoa and Alvaro play the better off we will be in the post Junior era. Maybe the injury to Timmy is going to be a good thing for the back end of the season.

        1. Anonymous

          I’m not too sure about how to read that injury to Mannah. He was a bit off the pace in his first two games then put in a powerful performance against the Dogs. I think he needed to start stringing some good performances together for his own confidence.

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