The Cumberland Throw

NRL Season Preview – 2018

The World Cup is over, Pre-Season has begun (if you haven’t been reading Sixties’ Training Reports, take a long, hard look at yourself), and I’m officially itching for Season 2018. Basically I just want to talk footy.

The Cumberland Throw is still cooking, doing our best to tide you over until Round 1, with Forty and Sixties each whipping up some terrific content this week.


The Depth Chart

Personally, I thought it’d be worth looking at the Eels Depth Chart for 2018, and maybe even having a crack at naming my preferred starting 17. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how wrong I am in the comments. 

Looking at the depth chart is a little different for 2018 as this will be the first season under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA. Outside of the agreed cap figure of $9.4 million (up from a now paltry looking $7 million this year), the biggest change from an NRL fan perspective is that the old NRL Squad Top 25 is out, and the new Top 30 is in. Each club is also allowed to designate up to 6 development players contracts (worth $60,000 each), to players in the squad under the age of 22 (although this age limit is actually negotiable with the NRL), but still need NRL permission in order to play them in the top grade.

In short, the Eels will be required to field 17 of their Top 30 players for each of their game day selections in 2018, and must get permission from the NRL to select anyone else (development players are a possibility, but outside of an injury crisis of biblical proportions it’s not happening for anyone else). This means we basically have a firm Top 30 to choose from.

As noted by BA in the media recently, we currently have players in 28 of our Top 30. I’ve listed these 35 players below – italicising the possible DPLs (although there’s 7 below), bracketed all players respective ages in 2018, and tried to place all players in their most recognised position (except for Taka, who I’ve moved to Util in line with his suspected shift in 2018, more on that below). I’ve also asterisked who I consider the non-debatable must haves for somewhere in the Eels 17. Shout out to @poupouescobar for providing the basis from his world famous Squad Succession thread.

Fullback: French (22)*, Gutherson (24)*, Hayne (30)*
Wing: Aukafolau (21), Hoffman (30), G.Jennings (25), Leleisiuao (21)
Centre: Afualo (19)?, Auva’a (26), Davis (23), M.Jennings (30)* 
Half: Moses (24)*, Norman (26)*
Hooker: King (27), Mahoney (20)?, K. Pritchard (24)
Middle Forward: Alvaro (25)*, Brown (25)*, Evans (26)*, Gower (33), Mannah (30)*, Matagi (30), Niukore (22), Terepo (27), Vave (29)
Edge Forward: Edwards (29)*, Faingaa (20)?, Ma’u (30)*, Moeroa (23)*, Scott (34), Stone (21), Williams (30)
Utility: Salmon (19), Smith (26), Takairangi (29)

What’s immediately evident is how thin we are in the halves. With Will Smith likely to be crowned one of the two Wenty halves, I’m not sure who wears the vacant 7 jersey for the Magpies. Theoretically Cameron King could reprise his halfback role, but as you’ll see below, I’ve got him as the starting NRL hooker. You’ll notice the absence of the other Pritchard (Frank), who is widely assumed to have hung up the boots. Unless that is off the mark or something changes, expect an official announcement soonish. Thanks for your service, Mr. Tank.

As hinted at in the media, I also think there’s an opportunity for another big money prop in our Top 30, despite the 14 spots already taken by middle and edge forwards, or half of our current ‘Top 28’.


The Teamlist

Below I’ve had my first crack who I would pick for our starting 17 for 2018. It is based on my own opinion only, and not necessarily a reflection of what I think Brad Arthur will do. I also probably need to explain two things:

1 – I love Kirisome Auva’a, but I break into cold sweat whenever opposition halves bomb him on the wing. As such, I don’t want to pick him on the wing, but BA probably will. Like many others I suspect BA relishes his kick return ability, and I can see the appeal. As an aside, he’d be my first drop at centre, or at least neck and neck with Taka.

2 – If for no other reason than his defensive reliability, I personally think Terepo will edge out Matagi and Vave for a guaranteed spot in the 17, relegating those two to fighting out with Beau Scott, Kaysa, Trex and Taka for the final spot in the 17. Again, just my thoughts; in BA we trust.

Here we go (good luck with the nicknames):

1. The Lemon King

2. French Fries

3. The Jet

4. The Plane

5. Hoffman/Auva’a

6. Yeah Nah

7. The Prince of Egypt

8. Kid Kane

9. Return of the King

10. Mannah Time

11. Monster Mash

12. Tep …

13. The Cyborg

14. The Polar Express

15. Kedwards

16. The Butcher

17. Matagi/Vave/Taka/Scott/Kaysa/Trex


(It surely wasn’t all that difficult, but for those looking to mark their work – Gutherson, French, Jennings, Hayne, Hoffman/Auva’a, Norman, Moses, Evans, King, Mannah, Mau, Tepai, Brown, Alvaro, Kenny, Terepo, Matagi/Vave/Taka/Scott/Kaysa/Trex).

Firstly, I can’t imagine anyone is particularly surprised by the names that show up in the 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 or 15 jerseys. I’d almost say those players are a lock to be both in that specific position, and in that specific jersey. The most uncertain of that crop is probably Jarryd in 4, just because he’s ‘new’, but unless Gutho fails a fitness test, I can’t see JH anywhere else.

If accurate, this is sad news for fan favourite Brad Takairangi who would be pushed to the less secure position jousting which is the back row. However, not unlike a number of other NRL players (Tui Lolohea, Mitch Aubusson, Dylan Walker, Gutho in 2016/17), his versatility might be his greatest enemy.

I almost put Kane Evans (8) in the aforementioned list as a near certainty, but he’s also new and subsequently also a little less than certain. However, seeing that Kane came to the club in search of a starting prop jersey, and he offers a body shape (tall and rangey) we don’t have with anyone else, you’d have to think he’s pretty confident of getting it.

As touched on above, I’ve got Hoffman edging out Auva’a on the wing, mostly due to his reliability under the high ball, but I would not at all be surprised if Kirisome got the nod instead. I think George Jennings (Gennings), or the“I watched the NYC Grand Final” fan favourite Greg Leleisiuao as long shots.

Statistically, Cameron King was out and out the better hooking option in 2017 over Kamikaze Pritchard. Kingy averaged a team high 40.2 tackles and 1.3 missed tackles a game, in front of Kaysa’s 35.8 and 2.6 respectively. Kingy’s generally longer minutes mean he also had 92.4 passes a game; compared with Kaysa’s 70.5. If you’re still prefer Kaysa, I’m not going to doubt your intelligence or anything, but it’s Kingy for mine. An interesting plot line will be whether or not Kingy truly has supplanted Kaysa, or whether BA will go back to early 2017 regular programming.

I think Alvaro should find his way onto the bench, and to be honest I would disagree with anyone who says otherwise. His defence is of the highest quality, and his workrate and effectiveness with the ball continues to improve. For mine, jerseys 16 and 17 are the most contentious, although i I had to choose I would have Terepo and Matagi. With that said, you could also make a good case for any one of Peni, Matagi, Vave in one jersey, with Taka, Scott, Kaysa and Trex in the other. I just think you need to have at least one more middle forward (as well as Alvaro) on your bench.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Marata Niukore, by all accounts he has come back ripped and is regularly Wenty’s best. The bloke is huge, head to toe. Remember the name, Hakuna Marata – either he or Ray Stone to be the first to make their Eels debut in 2018 for mine.

Give us your 1 to 17 in the comments, or run the risk of ruining my Christmas. 


Round by Round

Thought it’d also be worth a quick look at our Round by Round match ups. I had a crack at putting each NRL side into either 1st – 4th, 5th – 8th and so on, and also what I suspect the chance of us winning the match up each round is. I’ve put games as either at ANZ or away from ANZ, rather than the tradition home and away format. Eat up.


Rnd Opponent Date Opp Confidence Chance
1 Panthers (A) Sunday 11 Mar, 4:10pm 1st-4th Starting Season 2018 with a clash against our cross-town rivals, and one of the three other teams I expect to finish in the Top 4? I give the Panthers the slightest of edges being at home. 45%
2 Sea Eagles (A) Sunday 18 Mar, 4:10pm 9th-12th Fortress Brookvale is falling down, both figuratively and literally. (That’s what you get for calling it Lottoland). Eels will win this game well, particularly if Hayson is still actively involved in the club. 70%
3 Sharks (ANZ) Saturday 24 Mar, 7:30pm 5th-8th I think the Sharks will miss Maloney more than they realise. With that said, the Sharks often seem to have our number. 50%
4 Tigers (ANZ) Monday 2 Apr, 4pm 13th-16th It’d be very disappointing if we can’t put the Tigers away at ANZ. 80%
5 Panthers (ANZ) Sunday 8 Apr, 4:10pm 1st-4th And then meeting the Panthers again 4 rounds later? The NRL really wanted to make it up to Phil Gould, and quickly. I predict we’ll take this one back to make it 1-1. 55%
6 Raiders (A) Saturday 14 Apr, 7:30pm 13th-16th The odd team out in our first 9 Rounds repeat series, this is the only time we play the Raiders in 2018. Despite their wounded status, I hate playing their big pack, so I’ll happily take it. 60%
7 Sea Eagles (ANZ) Sunday 22 Apr, 2pm 9th-12th At least we know there won’t be any Manly fans at ANZ, as it’s over the Bridge. 70%
8 Tigers (ANZ) Sunday 29 Apr, 4:10pm 13th-16th This Easter Monday game draws a huge crowd every year, but you’d think the Eels will be too good for the Tigers here. 80%
9 Sharks (A) Saturday 5 May, 7:30pm 5th-8th Not unlike Round 3, this should be an absolute cracker. Flip a coin for mine. 50%
10 Bulldogs (ANZ) Friday 11 May, 7:50pm 9th-12th I look forward to the Blue & Gold Army embracing Kieran Foran again. 75%
11 Warriors (ANZ) Friday 18 May, 6pm 13th-16th The Warriors are the NRL equivalent of “I thought you were dead.” This is the only time we play the Warriors in 2018. 85%
12 Broncos (A) Thursday 24 May, 7:50pm 5th-8th Another 50 points seems relatively unlikely, but we did seem to have the wood over the Broncos in 2017. This is the only time we play the Broncos in 2018. 55%
13 Knights (ANZ) Saturday 2 Jun, 7:30pm 9th-12th I wonder if Pearce and Co will be firing by Round 13. I actually have them just missing out on the 8, so I at least expect a contest. I’m sure the boys will still be filthy about the result in Round 23 this year, though. This game is our only Origin affected game in 2018. 70%
14 Cowboys (A) Saturday 9 Jun, 7:30pm 1st-4th Play the Cows in Darwin, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. 40%
15 Rabbitohs (ANZ) Thursday 14 Jun, 7:50pm 9th-12th Apparently some bookies have us equal favourites with the Bunnies in 2018. Either I missed something or Greg Inglis just got new knees. 75%
16 Dragons (A) Thursday 28 Jun, 7:50pm 5th-8th Sorry Dragons fans, but Ben Hunt ain’t all that. The good news is that neither was Josh Dugan. 65%
17 Bye Despite some close contests, The Bye haven’t won a game in years. 100%
18 Knights (A) Friday 13 Jul, 7:50pm 9th-12th In 2016 we beat the Knights in Newcastle by a measly 2 points. Personally, I expect a similarly close contest in 2018. 65%
19 Bulldogs (ANZ) Thursday 19 Jul, 7:50pm 9th-12th This just in Bulldogs fans – Aaron Woods isn’t worth what you paid him. 75%
20 Rabbitohs (ANZ) Saturday 28 Jul, 5:30pm 9th-12th This game should coincide with Roosters’ announcing Angus Crichton’s signing, so morale should be low and the Bunnies’ 30,000 members will phone it in. 75%
21 Titans (ANZ) Saturday 4 Aug, 5:30pm 13th-16th Jarryd revenge game? I suspect he’ll have forgotten by then. Lucky it’s at ANZ, as the Titans fans won’t have, however. This is the only time we play the Titans in 2018. 85%
22 Dragons (ANZ) Saturday 11 Aug, 7:30pm 5th-8th I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about the Dragons. Eels will win, and it will somehow still be Josh Dugan’s fault. 70%
23 Storm (A) Friday 17 Aug, 7:50pm 5th-8th Here begins a brutal final 3 game stretch to end the home & away 2018. This is the only time we play the Storm in 2018. 50%
24 Cowboys (A) Friday 24 Aug, 7:50pm 1st-4th Travelling to Townsville to play (who I believe will be) the best team in 2018? Good finals preparation. 40%
25 Roosters (ANZ) Saturday 1 Sep, 7:30pm 1st-4th It takes us until the final game of the regular season, but this is the only time we play the Roosters in 2018. 50%

Tell us your most anticipated match up in the comments. Or don’t. Fine, whatever.
It’s worth noting we only have one 5 day turnaround (before the Rabbits game in Round 15), and play most games on Saturday (9), followed by Friday and Sundays (5 each), and then the graveyard Thursday night (4).


The Road Ahead

Whatever happens, 2018 will be a statement year for the Eels. Season 2017 could very well have been a continuation in mediocrity, another year like the ten or so prior where the Eels might have started strong but wilted away to finish outside the 8. Thankfully, obviously it wasn’t.

It was the break through year, a break out for Gutho and Brown, a break free for Mitchell Moses, another broken record for Eels membership numbers. 

Now, on the back of such success, we face 2018. In a way in which years prior never could, one way or the other, 2018 will make a statement about the immediate future of the Parramatta Eels. Will we maintain our status as up and comers, push further towards a premiership, or disappointingly slip back into NRL irrelevance? 

Only 2018 has the answers, and I for one can’t wait.


Go you Eels,


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117 thoughts on “NRL Season Preview – 2018

  1. Fletch

    Great read Mitch, I took am just plain gagging to talk footy and get the season underway. Ok here’s my two cents worth:

    1. Guth
    2. French
    3. M Jennings
    4. Taka
    5. Hayne
    6. Normy
    7. Moses
    8. Evans
    9. King
    10. Mannah (but needs to play more minutes for mine)
    11. Ma’u
    12. Tepai
    13. Brown

    14. Alvaro
    15. Kenny
    16. Matagi
    17. Kaysa/Smith

    Where I differ from you is obviously Hayne. I reckon we’re fine for centres but will really miss Semi. Hayne has played wing for NSW and Aus very successfully and he is a finisher. Let him be a straight swap for Semi with Taka continuing to feed that wing quality ball and watch the tries continue. Hayne can also have license to roam as Semi did.

    I agree 16 and 17 are the biggest grey area. I have chosen Kaysa/Smith in 17 so we have the utility player you always end up needing when you don’t have one. Also Smith is just so damn good looking…

    So there you go, feel free to shoot me down or tslk me up, just my thoughts 🤔

    1. mitch Post author

      I actually don’t mind that lineup, and if we knew it would work, I actually like Taka’s contribution to the team more than I like Auva’a’s or Hoffman’s. With that said, I think it’s a very long shot for Jarryd to end up on the wing. It just doesn’t use his passing attributes to their full extent, although I could imagine BA getting Jarryd to go back for kicks inside our half (which are more likely to be attacking opposition bombs), and getting the advantages of Kirisome’s kick returns on regular kicks.

      Smith IS so damn good looking, and I wonder if that utility player role will bode well for Taka’s chances to be included in the 17 (although I’m not sure that provides a hooking option).

      No shooting down from me mate, thanks for posting.

        1. The rev aka Snedden

          Al didn’t you know they have come to the great rev for guidance on SSM.
          But like most of us revs we are turning them down ….lol

  2. Roy

    I’ve watched over 10 under 20 games this year and Greg Lelesiou is a must in the starting team he is just a better player then Hoffman and Auva. His a handful almost impossibly to tackle one on one

    1. mitch Post author

      How did you see his defence, Roy? Still some question marks for mine.

      His height is also a bit of a concern for the NRL cauldron, but he certainly has plenty of admirers.

      1. Glenn

        Agree Mitch, his positioning in defence is poor. Also in gf I think (but could have been Penrith game in finals) he didn’t turn and contest a ball kicked thru which could have denied a try. That poor attitude for me cost him any NRL position.

    2. Anonymous

      Way of being nrl ready ,defence suspect and cant have lapses in nrl that he has in nyc , not sure he will even get a run nrl 2018 !

    3. Al

      To me his height and defence are serious issues regarding his progression to the NRL, however, BA and company seem to think they can remedy those problems. I hope he is not one of those NYC ‘stars’ that can’t progress.

    4. The rev aka Snedden

      Roy his a handful in the 20’s I think he will get shown up in the NRL.
      His still young n has a lot to learn b4 he makes it in the big time. Plus Hoffman n Avu’ua have experience on there side. Like Mitch I have great concerns over is (D) his poor n lazy.

      1. mitch Post author

        With that said – Poor defensive play can be coached out, his height on the other hand will always be an issue.

        Hopefully its impact is able to be minimized

  3. Mitchy

    (Hayne early rounds) Gutherson, French, Jennings, / Taka (centre) Hayne, Hoffman, Norman, Moses, Evans, King, Mannah, Mau, Tepai, Brown, Alvaro, Kenny, Terepo, Scott if fit; and TREX if not.
    Mitch i have taken 30 mins from my day to read this and i am salivating tbh. I am concerned too abt the halves if injuries occur, as Guth coming back from injury could also delay us; I have said for a while now about a good exp prop (sixties will know this) and am waiting to see what occurs there.
    To me Hayne should be fb until GUth is back, but guess it depends on how he performs. Taka centre during this time.
    I do not fear Penrith tbh and hope they crumble like sao’s in a blender.

    1. mitch Post author

      I completely agree re Gutherson/Hayne/Taka movements in early rounds if Gutho is no good. See what happens though.

      Glad I could get you in the mood for NRL mate – thanks for reading.

      Saos in a blender would be ideal.

      1. Mitchy

        Miatch anything to get me looking at football than work!
        The forwards for us are the key imo. We have to have the punch upfront. If not…..we will struggle for top 4.

        1. mitch Post author

          Outside of an injury in the halves, I can’t imagine our backline will be an issue.

          I think we’re one prop away from truly contending though

  4. mitch Post author

    When you say ‘dopey’, do you include people who don’t realise I actually did put Bevan French on the wing?

    No need to get aggressive mate, we’re just having a conversation. I put my team forward, you put yours forward. No need for anyone to get cranky or call any of our players ‘dopes’.

  5. Colin Hussey

    1. French/Gutho,
    2. Hayne
    3. Jennings
    4. Takairangi
    5. Kirisome/Hoffman
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Mannah
    9. King
    10. Matagi
    11. Manu
    12. Moeroa
    13. Brown

    14 Edwards
    15. Alvaro
    16. Terepo/vans
    17 Scott

    1. mitch Post author

      Similar line of thinking to Fletch, so you’re in good company Col.

      Does that mean you’ve got French to the wing when Gutho is fit, and Hayne to stay on the other?

      1. Colin Hussey

        Mitch, I replied to Sixties above, the thing to me is that I doubt that Gutho will be back too soon, they will not take a risk on him early, that could mean some conditioning time at Wenty before getting his spot back, I know that may raise some shackles but I see the backline as being strong enough to cover for him and avoid any risks that may come to him if he returns too early.

        Whenever I have seen Hayne play on the wing its been on the left side, also IIRC his centre time has also been over that side as well, the other candidate is Hoff for the left side as that is his best side, so he could benefit playing on the outside of Hayne, not sure that Taka was as effective back to the left centre spot last year when he swapped with MJ, as he was in the first year with feeding Semi, not that he was bad either.

        The only issue with the forwards is that watching this year he seemed to be less effective than he was in the past, but I doubt if he will be not at least on the bench as he is our only forward signing at this point of time so one would expect him to be picked – if fit. Terepo to me was not that great this last year except he went well in the WC showing what everyone knows of him. To not have the Matagi and Vave in the squad would be a blunder, even though they were inconsistent this year, could mean that Brown ends up as a front rower to replace one of them with perhaps Marata coming up into the squad.

        1. mitch Post author

          A lot of movement then! Good to have such discussion though mate.

          I agree re Terepo’s form last year, but I think he’ll beat out Matagi and Vave at this stage. Heck they all might be there.

          I worry whether or not Taka finds his way into our 17, and we haven’t even discussed Beau Scott or Kaysa. Crazy.

          1. Colin Hussey

            Mitch, I replied to Sam re Kaysa, my feeling is that he will need to learn some tricks especially with kicks and variety in pass/play options, a reason I said this season that it would be good for the eels to bring in a former hooker who could help that way, the other option would be for someone like Kimmorley who could do the same as he did with the halves this year. The injury he suffered this year and non surgery is a concern but overall he has more speed than King and if he can pick his dummy half runs better and use it a bit more, he would be my preferred option long term, then again both of them are one shot away from an injury that could have their careers ended.

            Scott has not appeared at training as yet, but someone said its family, he is vital to the team as a bench player and comes on at key times, he was a bit undisciplined at times last year, and I was actually wondering after his injury if he would come back or retire, which retirement is still a possibility, but!

          2. Glenn

            Trouble with Kasya, and he was pinged in final for doing so, is his passes from dh are either line ball or forward. I can’t remember King throwning a bad pass from dh. With the off season conditioning I believe king will be even better next year.

          3. Colin Hussey

            Glenn, I don’t remember Kaysa being pinged for that prior to his injury, in fact almost all his detractors were very much realising how he can play as he got longer minutes on the field.

            I have said many times now that his selection in the finals was BA’s biggest blunder in team choices, Kaysa had been out for how many weeks and missed games, sure he had been training as he knocked back knee surgery, but he was totally out of it in regards to match fitness and should never have taken the field in such a crucial game.

            The fact is that Smith and King should have been the rotation which had been working well, I certainly do not see that one game being enough to knock him out of contention. King had been injured at Wenty for some time in each year he’s been on contract, this year he grabbed his chance and it worked, and that was the whole thing.

          4. Colin Hussey

            Terepo on his day, plays above his size, he looks small compared to those around when viewing on the box, I was impressed with his work in the WC and showed what he can do, and on that score I see him winning a bench spot. same with two heads, but again he has to come on each week with the right one attached rather that the empty one.

            A fully fit squad could make for some good competition for the few spots.

      2. Tyler

        Your drunk if you think beau Scott is bringing anything to the team in 2018. He’s been a great addition to parra the last few years but has to step aside for the young ones to come through.

        1. Gutho
        2. Hoffman
        3. Jennings
        4. Hayne
        5. French
        6. Norman
        7. Moses
        8. Evans
        9. King
        10. Alvaro
        11. Mau
        12. Moeroa
        13. Brown

        14. Edwards
        15. Matungi
        16. Mannah
        17. T Rex

  6. Colin Hussey

    If Gutho is not ready for round one, I would have French there, with Hayne on the wing, if BA is not going to have Hayne as the fullback for the year then get him used to the team and fit on the wing in Semi’s spot straight swap. Although I see him primarily in the 3 spot eventually. The other wing spot is open for Au’va or Hoffman, but could see Akafaolou go there but 3rd drop.
    6 & 7 pick themselves.

    The forwards are interesting and the way that BA showed last game in having Kaysa on the bench at the expense of one of the big men, was a bad move, trial matches may sort out the 9 spot but expect King to retain the spot and be a possible cover for the halves.

    Basically leaving the main run on as per last games except Alvaro to be Mannah’s replacement off the bench. BA will likely stick close to the main 17 but I believe he will pick Evans somewhere, with Terepo likely the one to miss out for him.

    Still I am seeing trial games as being where some of the other 13 will be on show, with the likes of Marata being able to press for a spot. likewise any of the younger group being able to press for selection as well.

    1. Anonymous

      Terepo will get a run before matagi or vave ,they both lack consistency and peni gives his all , actually peni very underated but not by teamates and especially opposition .

  7. John Eel

    Ignore what I said above.

    Evans does have good leg drive and post contact metres and his defence is effective but he does not play a lot of minutes. His time in 2018 will be interesting

  8. John Eel

    Your early pre season projections have us winning 165 games. That just about gives us a top 4 birth as you have already stated. You also asterisked 13 players which just about picks the team. When I first read it I was wondering why Beau Scott did not have an asterisk but maybe you are correct after going thru the lists.

    I thought that Terepo had a good year in 2016 and I was looking forward to what he could produce in 2017. Unfortunately for one reason or another he just did not get in the groove in 2017. I think that he will be in the 17 for the start of 2018 at least. I also believe that Evans will be in the 17 but not necessarily in the starting 13.

    I agree with King at nine and no utility

  9. sixties

    Geez Chief. Your team list looks ok, but your adopting the aggressive approach these days!
    You are off the mark with Gutho.
    1. He’s not a winger.
    2. Without putting too much pressure, I reckon he’ll be back before round 5. That said, if he’s not ready, they wouldn’t let him play.
    Edit – There will be no shortcuts with Gutho’s rehab. Definitely won’t make the start of the season. Round 5 might even be optimistic.

    1. Colin Hussey

      Totally agree re Guth and the wing, still have the horrors in remembering his debut season on the right wing.

      Once he’s back then the backline will take a different shape, primarily with a Bev/Gutho switch, with Bev to Right wing, at that point I see whoever fills in go back to Wenty, or— depending on Hayne is shaping could go into the centres with Taka to a bench spot, Auva/Hoff to left wing.

  10. sixties

    Apology accepted mate. We all get passionate about our footy and our Eels. Criticism of form, playing skills, discipline etc is completely valid. We prefer that it stays in that context. Judging from your latest comment, it seems you agree.

  11. Trouser Eel

    So many iterations it’s hard to know where to start. Is Gutho going to be ready? Should Kaysa get a look in when statistically King is king.
    Vave needs to work on his fitness more to be a first string forward in my mind and the recruitment of Kane (can we agree his nickname is Abel/Able) makes me more sure of this.
    I like your percentages for win/loss probability. Can you introduce another column to show our chance of pulling Perenara as a ref?

    1. mitch Post author

      Comment of the post for mine.

      I was considering Kandy Kane, but Abel works too.

      For a brief moment in time I forget about Perenara, and all was right in the world.

  12. Rowdy Roddy

    1 Gutho
    2 French
    3 Jennings
    4 Hayne/Taka
    5 Hoffman/Hayne
    6 Norman
    7 Moses
    8 Mannah
    9 King
    10 Evans/Alvaro
    11 Mau
    12 Moeroa
    13 Brown

    14 Evans/Alvaro
    15 Kedwards
    16 Scott/Matagi
    17 Terepo/Vave

    Thanks Mitch. This is a genuine opportunity to put forward a realistic Top 17 from a squad that contains real depth.

    In regards to the 3 positions where I’ve nominated 2 players? It has occurred to me that in the past we have not really had the luxury of such depth for a few reasons 1. We just didn’t have more than 17 NRL standard players to pick from. 2. When we did in 2016 we had two cripples at the start of the season. 3. Last year we had suspensions and injuries.

    I’m assuming Mr Fitness Gutho will exceed all expectations and drive his recovery to the MAX and therefore be granted the blessing of coach and doctors to start in #1 jersey in round 1 giving Hayne no chance of establishing himself there prior to Gutho resuming from injury.

    That covers why I’ve coupled Hayne with Taka in the centres. Personally I would prefer Hayne play outside Taka on the left wing which would cover for the loss of Semi and give us TWO devastating wingers who have a license to roam in attack or just be the recipients of great cut out passes from Moses and Norman or kicks put in behind the line and high balls by both halves again. Taka was strong for NZ outside weak halves.

    1. mitch Post author

      My Post Season Grades Blog, using Champion Data.

      I also moderated Kaysa’s numbers to cover for his final game as he only got minimal minutes and was returning from significant injury.

  13. Sam

    Hey guys! Thanks for this stuff – makes the off season go quicker that’s for sure.

    I think that through fortune and injury Hayne will get the 1 at some point throughout the season 2018 even if it happens round 1 I won’t be surprised. As to how that effects the King and F F I think it ll be a 3 way rotation between wing/centre/fullback for them with JH. Maybe 4 ways if Tak keeps fit and hungry.

    I have to agree With chief I too have doubts about Evans – he’s got some skinny legs and alot of filling out to do. Perhaps he will prove me wrong but I imagine he will finish the year as a bench forward like at the roosters.

    I fear Fritchard and Beau will retire. Or see very little action…

    The terepo/Matagi/Vave menage will be interesting as well my prediction would be for Matagi to win out as he seems more durable than Peni and fitter than Viva.

    So that’s basically the same 17 as you M. Great to be able to agonise over whom to leave out for once – well done to the coaches and recruitment managers and we still have 2 spots to fill!

    On another note: thanks for keeping politics, religion and social justice issues out of this site. We get enough of that through just about every medium.

    Let’s just keep on talking footy at the Cumberland throw. It’s an oasis amongst the desert of stupidity that is the internet fan forum world.

    1. mitch Post author

      Coaches have done an outstanding job. I think if all are fit, even if he wasn’t the incumbent, Gutho is the best fullback on our roster and that will win out.

      We do our very best mate. Id like to think I use all my stupidity in other parts of my life, but my wife would tell you otherwise.

      Thanks for reading.

  14. Sam

    Oops. I also think Kaysa is set for 14 jersey which pushes butcher Vave Matagi into the menage I describe in small details above.

    1. mitch Post author

      I think there’s wisdom. I think I need to look more at who I have in the side, rather than “surely this guy can’t miss out”.

    2. Colin Hussey

      Sam, while I am a fan of Kaysa, King showed himself to be adept this past season, BA earlier had a utility of the bench in Smith who proved his worth, preseason may be where the 9 spot is worked out as was the 9’s last year when Kaysa won out over King. Thing to consider though is that BA wants a full forward bench rather than utility, but who knows how that will pan out early on.

      I doubt that Kaysa will be a bench player, but a possibility could be as someone else mentioned that King, could well fit the utility role as he has played other roles including in the halves. 2 months to go for trials and see what happens.

      1. Sam

        Hi Colin,

        RE kaysa – i am inclined to agree with you. King would be my first choice hooker. Kaysa would be my back up if injury struck.

        I do believe however that BA sees him as integral to the attitude of the team and defensive line – why play him underdone in the final V Cowboys? And he is a popular character amongst the team.

        And further as you mentioned King can play more of a utility role – so his 2nd stint in the interchange rotation would be edge forward or half if there was injury.

        So if you lock Kaysa in for 14 – there’s 3 bench spots available.

        Alvaro has to get 1 of them even if 60’s has brushed him. Polar is too good to not make it.

        What about Smith? Vave? A fit Trex? Or B Scott? Ray stone if he measures up? Terepo?

        Too many decent players to choose from and that feels incredible to say!!

        1. Colin Hussey

          Sam, the big thing that I believe that BA wants as the end of year matches come closer is he will want a full strong forwards bench, that means he is likely wanting to have an 80minute #9, if both Kaysa and King come through the year unscathed then he could have a selection headache, as he really has 3 players to work into one spot, Kaysa, King and Smith, so 3 into 1 does not fit, the other aspect is each are off contract end of 2018 and I cannot see all three being resigned, a healthy but sad situation.

          Of the 3 Kaysa has really only a one string bow, as he is an exclusive 9, King is able to play in the halves while Smith can also cover those spots plus fullback but we have that spot well covered. Kaysa has age in his favour but he has to develop his dummy half skills and perhaps has more of an allied fighter pilots concept rather than one trip Japanese type needs has to be looked at.

    1. mitch Post author

      Just ridiculous the sudden depth we have, and we all still want another prop!

      Great to think we have a player of Will Smith’s calibre waiting in the wings.

      1. Matthew sweeney

        Yes and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes an extended bench for round 1. Usually injury can sort out these hard team selection issues.

      2. John Eel

        Who can forget those two tries he scored off Mitchel Moses from those deft over the left shoulder passes. Great combination

        1. mitch Post author

          Just read an NRL article that BA sang his praises, and wants him as the util in the 17, leaving Kaysa vs King for the 9 spot.


          1. John Eel

            If BA is saying that he wants a utility he must be expecting bigger minutes out of his middle men this year.

          2. Matthew sweeney

            I had no inside running on that article Mitch. All things being equal I would say king starts Smith on bench.

          3. Mike

            I like Smith as the utility, hence I named him below in my 17. I think we can carry him there as I think the likes of Brown, Mau, Tepai etc can play solid minutes.

            King is defo my first choice hooker, I was pumped when signed him but he languished (or was it I jury) for a. It. Was really glad he grabbed his chance with Both hands.

            Any given week I like the following benchdepending on whether we think we need a back up for King or not, which should vary depending on who we play.


            I really like the no nonsense, accountable, generally mistake free football that those bottom three bring to the table compared to the likes of Terepo/Edwards/Vave

  15. sixties

    This is insane!
    I’ve attempted to list a 17 numerous times and struggled.
    Here’s a 17 that, with everyone available, I believe the coaches would select.

    1. Guth
    2. French
    3. Jenko
    4. Hayne
    5. Hoff *
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Mannah
    9. King
    10. Evans
    11. Ma’u
    12. Moeroa
    13. Brown
    14. Taka
    15. Scott
    16. Terepo
    17. Edwards

    * A fit Hoffman is both safer and faster than Auva’a. However, Kirisome is a ferocious carrier of the football and may get the nod.
    I can’t believe some of the players that I’ve left out of that 17.
    Alvaro – form prop at season’s end.
    Matagi – mainstay in 2017
    Smith – most improved, versatile, ideal bench player
    Kaysa – courageous, high energy, heart of the team
    Niukore – prop of the future – massive potential
    T- Rex – doubt he’s been bought for Wenty
    Gowie – thorough professional, the go to man to get the job done
    Vave – a fit Vave is a blockbuster through the middle
    Stone – a new Beau Scott in the making?
    I’ll stop there because I’m literally listing the squad.
    The standout feature of the Eels squad is the versatlity in the backline. Many of the players can easily play multiple positions.
    Depth and versatlity is a powerful combination.
    I think the window has opened.

    1. The rev aka Snedden

      Sixties I like you side except for a few.

      (1) Moeroa will start from the bench for mine. I’d use him as a middle bench forward. His big n powerful n runs hard. I’d shift brown to 2nd row n start with alvaro at lock.

      Wait wait b4 anyone blows a fuse n starts calling for the looney bin. Then think about this the game he played lock (passes me) but when he did play that lock roll his numbers were massive.

      If I’m correct his running metres for that game was 144 n his tackle count was something like 42 or something like that.

      With numbers like that you will be mad not to let the polar bear play lock.

      If anyone can tell me what game it was plz feel free.

      (2) I’d re-place Kenny with stone on the bench. That way he can watch n learn from Scott n get a few minutes in the big time building up his experience in the NRL. For mine Kenny gives away to much silly penalty’s for my liking in game n also at the wrong time in games. Coach killer Kenny if you ask me. His time is up.

      God bless.


    2. Rowdy Roddy

      You’re right Sixties. I don’t know how you left some of those players out of the 17 either. Not enough BIG on your bench mate!

  16. Mitchy

    Interesting 60’s; what do you do if Moses gets hurt? Who would play half? Norman with Gutho to 5/8?
    i still think we are one Big Boppa short; unless Vave has a big year or someone else with size and height.

  17. Clive

    I like your team sixties but I’d swap Alvaro and Terepo. Although he’s improved I still have nightmares about Peni’s ball handling. Our teams depth is a Good problem for the coaching staff to have👍

  18. Glenn

    I’ve for a few years now have lamented the we have small forwards and 3 middle forwards that could actually be clones of each other in Mannah, Alvaro and Terepo (although Terepo has started to pass occasionally). What we lack up front are a few power forwards with an offload. This lack of creativity up front has imo severely hindered us. So far we have bought Evans but really does he bring what we need?

    Williams is an interesting inclusion, master stroke or a disaster (?), but if BA can get him back to where he was about 5 years ago and put him in the middle (which I suspect is where BA will put him) he’ll give us that size and creativity we desperately need. Regardless we still need another T-Rex clone (not She-Rex) in the team but whether we’ll get one is very much up in the air atm but apparently BA still looking. That is a positive.

    Whether our team improves or not is very much debatable.
    Negative: We have lost our greatest attacking weapon in Semi (has any winger previously had a highlights reel with so many long range tries) who probably scored more than 25% of our tries. Some of these were individual efforts which we won’t emulate in 2018.
    Positive: We now have amongst the best halves combination in the comp.
    To compensate for Semi’s loss we need forwards to give the halves and backline room to do their magic. Unless we have that I can only see us going backwards.

    1. Mitchy

      Great points Glenn; TRex could be a good factor if he comes on and players 7-10 games or so. To me mate Vave has to put in or he will be looking elsewhere. He’d has the size but seems a little laid back.
      Bevan on the wing for me….he’s got the pace etc. and size is only going to get stronger.

      1. John Eel

        Last year Vave came from Manly unfit and needed surgery. He missed a lot of pre season and came in about Rd 2 or 3 I think. He was never fit in my opinion and at one stage BA put him back to Wenty. He has a chance this year with a full pre season to get fit and earn a contract for next year

        Fit he can be very effective

  19. mitch Post author

    It’s something that I should have written – the loss of Semi.

    I’ve seen very few people note how big a potential impact Semi loss will have on our team. He single handedly created momentum for our side at times in 2017, and scored match winning tries other wingers might not have. Might be a bigger impact than many realise.

    1. Colin Hussey

      Mitch, to me the loss of Semi is huge, thing is I doubt if he will return to the eels after reading he has had meetings with another French RU club Bourdeoux? which have offered him big coin, depending on if he has signed the option with present club, it will very much depend on if he can refuse that and come back for under $1m to play NRL. If he stays where he is with the extra year and comes back in 2019 he will take some time to adjust to RL again, and not sure how long that will take and value to the team then.

      Simple aspect of that, at least to me, is the club and supporters really have to erase any thoughts of him until he actually arrives and signs. So the choice is simple who takes his spot.

      If we consider Hayne for that spot, I believe once he’s gelled into the team and is back up to spec with his speed, and defence then I believe he could be as good as Semi in that spot, especially if he has a support centre inside him. At that point it becomes a choice if he does good on the wing swap to centre and see how he goes there and put him in the best spot.

        1. Colin Hussey

          Mitch, I hear you, and that is something that needs to be dealt with by the coaching staff, last thing we need is to have 2 centres that have a love of the ball in their hands, its one thing to spray that magic stuff on the hands to help with catching and holding on to it, but its another thing entirely when you use super glue on them.

  20. yaya

    1. Guth
    2. French
    3. Jennings
    4. Hayne
    5. Auuva
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Mannah
    9. King
    10. Evans
    11. Mau
    12. Moeroa
    13. Brown

    14. Scott
    15. Edwards
    16. Alvaro
    17. K Pritchard

    I love takka but with Hayne coming i’m not sure where he fits.

  21. John Eel

    Not a lot of love among Eels supporters for Terepo. That surprises me especially now that he seems to have his handling issues sorted. I will concede that he had a very interrupted year last year starting with a suspension then a Pec injury.

    I reckon that he consistently runs harder than any of the other Middle forwards

  22. Rowdy Roddy

    Mitch, great content and invitation to express an opinion.

    My late effort last night was full of what-ifs and indecision. So after reading more data and careful consideration of every sensible comment on here at “The Throw” here goes my decisive best 17 side for 2018. This is just my considered opinion.

    1. Gutho
    2. French
    3. Jennings
    4. Taka
    5. Hayne
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Mannah
    9. King
    10. Evans
    11. Mau
    12. Moeroa
    13. Brown
    14. Smith/or another big bopper when the opposition calls for it.
    15. Alvaro
    16. Scott
    17. Matagi

    I believe that Hayne is a straight swap for Semi and has won Man of Match awards on the wing for NSW in State of Origin.Our backline works well and will only get better with another off-season, so why mess with it.

    I’d completely overlooked Will Smith who is potentially the most versatile and skilfull bench player in the NRL. In regards, to our forward rotation it will depend upon who stands up at training, whether Beau Scott retires or not and whether BA wants to run with 4 forwards on the bench. I do not think we need both Kenny E. and B. Scott on the bench at the same time next year. I would like to see real strike on the edges which means a fit Trex could come on to replace either Tep or Manu who would then rotate into the middle. No utility then give us either Vave or terepo. No Beau Scott gives us Ken Edwards also.

    1. mitch Post author

      I can’t inagine a lineup where Kenny doesn’t get a run but I applaud your decision to add Will Smith. I think if I went again he’d be in my side.

      1. Rowdy Roddy

        Thanks Mitch, but I’m gunna go again if you allow 3 attempts to get it righter? Is there such a word as righter, there obviously should be mate! I’ll keep you in suspense until after dinner then I’ll add “my final effort at getting it righter”!

        A hint, I’m considering the addition of Kenny E, but at who’s expense?

  23. Shelley

    This is a fantastic discussion. Different team line ups being debated with respect to each other and players. It has been good to see the push back from the club, fans and supporters on all different platforms to simply support our club and players.

    I am so far away from an expert so this is my team that will probably be way of the mark. I have taken this as best possible line up so I have not considered injuries.

    1- Gutho ( he runs back hard and makes metres- with semi gone we need this)

    2 Hoffman

    3 Hayne
    ( I think Moses, Hayne and French could be dynamic together, if they rush Hayne Moses can cut him out, if the rush up moses can kick in between for Bevan with lightning pace) I think the short side late in each half could also be very special with all three having really good skills. All this with Gutho out the back ready to chime in.

    4- Jennings( Jennings was brilliant outside Moses but that combination between Norman, Jennings, Ma’u and Gutho was also deadly early on in the season)

    5- French

    6- Norman

    7- Moses

    8- Evans/ Alvaro ( the other one on bench)

    9- King ( Hated writing this because I love everything about Kaysa as a clubman and I feel like a traitor.
    They offer completely different things, one quick out of ruck, the other excellent passing from ground and good kicking game. I think with all the attack we have accurate passing is more valuable)

    10- Mannah ( but must play about 10 minutes more a game)

    11- Ma’u

    12 Tepai

    13 Brown

    14 Alvaro/Evans ( Alvaro is super fit and reliable- could play long minutes if we got an early injury or head knock)

    15- Taka – could cover an injury in the backline or halves but also gives an opportunity to cover all the forwards positions as well by moving brown to front row. I think he covers more positions, and as King is an 80 minutes dummy halve, unless injured he won’t need replacing. If Kaysa is picked then I would go with Smith on the bench) Not to downplay how vocal he is and really gets the boys fired up- important off the bench.

    16- Kenny ( I know he has brain explosions but he is energetic, skilful and a very good reader in defence- he also fires up the team)

    17- Scott/ Terepo ( if Mannah cannot play more minutes then definitely Terepo as you would need the extra fire from the bench.)

    This was really hard to do and no matter what team line up we picked and what BA will eventually pick, the fact it was hard to do and the reality that we we have all left out really good players is absolutely wonderful and a credit to our club.

    1. mitch Post author

      I really like your team. I think there probably should be one util, whether Taka or Smith. Smith gives cover at DH, but Taka cover in the forwards.

      Intriguing at the very least.

  24. Paul taylor

    I believe the dynamics of this team will depend on what Hayne comes to the table with. If he is able to get back to anything like 2014 form the team goes to another level. On the other hand if he doesn’t perform and stays in the team on reputation only the team culture will suffer big time.

    Believe king is the best hooker moving forward and I hope we can grab a front rower ASAP. We need the ability to punch the line . Not sure about Evans

  25. shane(norman is the best)

    1 Gutherson 2 French 3 M.Jennings 4 Hayne 5 Auva’a 6 Norman 7 Mosses 8 Alvaro 9 King 10 Mannah 11 Ma’u 12 Moeroa 13 Brown 14 Evans 15 Matagi 16 Scott 17 Takairangi
    Really hard as so many other players deserve a position eg: Edwards and Smith to mention 2. Great read Mitch and really looking to next year though would like to see us get at least 1 more big body prop with a good offload. Not sold on our wingers either as both lack some skills in being a complete winger. I like tall wingers like Topou who are good under the high ball both in attack and defense, good kick returns and solid in defense and know how to find the try line. Never rated Hoff and still don’t and why we purchased him, a lot better than him out there. I also think our backs are strong and will be interesting to see how our forwards go and who BA picks. A lot of competition for spots which is healthy, but hope we do not loose any before season starts.

    1. mitch Post author

      I like your team, but no Kenny Edwards blows my mind. Personally I think he’s Taka with a better running game and more brain explosions.

      1. Anonymous

        Agree thats the team for mine but cant grasp kenny not getting spot also BA has declared will smith big in his plans and rightly so , glad its not my job , you cant please everybody so i guess I’ll please myself ricky nelson said !!

        1. sixties

          Let’s call it the BA Garden Party anon? The way I’m trying to reconcile things is that most of the players in the full time squad have the opportunity to be in BAs plans. The rest is up to them. That’s what Will Smith did last year – made himself a must pick.

      2. shane(norman is the best)

        Yes it was hard to not pick Kenny as I like him when he runs good line or straight but when he starts running across field he looks more like Joesph Paulo and his game looks like how Paulo played. Like I said it was hard to pick a side as you could leave Taka out or put him to center and Hayne to wing and Kenny on the bench. A good headache for BA to have though it may cause a few to look else where to get a go, hope not as we have a good team with good cover in most positions. Cheers and merry xmas.

        1. sixties

          Shane, injuries often shape the team a little differently to how its planned. I figure plenty of our favourites will still feature in the team at some stage.

  26. The rev aka Snedden

    Good write up Mitch. bet you didn’t think you would get this much of a responce did you.
    Anyhow here is my 2 bobs worth on my line up with everyone on board.

    1. Gutherson
    2. French
    3. Jennings
    4. Auva’a ( his more a centre then winger )
    5. Hoffman ( his combination with karisome started to come to the fore b4 he injured him self )
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Mannah
    9. King
    10. Evans
    11. Mua
    12. Brown
    13. Alvaro

    14. Smith
    15. Scott
    16. Stone ( in the side to get (NRL) experience
    17. Moeroa ( prop)

    18th man Hayne.

    I now ppl are going to say why Hayne at 18th man. Why have half a million sitting n waiting. I believe Hayne has to earn his place n not think his a walk up start no matter his price tag.

    19. Matagi
    20. Kenny ( coach killer Kenny ) His done his dash with me I’ve blessed him many times I’m tired of him giving away silly penalty’s at the wrong times in games
    21. Kaysa.


    Merry Christmas to one n all may you all have a good n safe holiday’s. P’s I’d like to say a big thank you to the ppl at the TCT who have worked there backsides off to bring us the best news from what’s happening with our team.

    Sixties , Mitch , mac , 40/20 .
    Thanks guys. God bless you all n your family’s. cya in 2018

    1. sixties

      Thanks Rev. Best wishes to you and your family. What pleases us most is the high standard of the replies. People speaking their mind with respect. This post has such a big response because the responses are driving further intelligent responses.
      As for Hayne, he’ll give BA an indication of his attitude when he resumes training. Everybody has to earn their spot with BA. Names matter little.

    1. sixties

      Good on you for over 41 years of support Heather. I assume you mean it will be good for Hayne to again play in the same team as his mate Tim. I know Tim’s happy for him to return.

  27. DDay

    Great work Mitch – such thought provoking stuff. Depth is impressive, particularly when you think the 3 listed (Smith, Salmon, Taka) can all cover the halves though we are short of out-and-out wingers (with Semis departure) and will have to field wingers playing out of their preferred position.

    The Chance of Winning table has some interesting calls – the Sharks and Cowboys clearly make you jumpy and you don’t rate the Dragons & Tigers!

    Agree with the great majority of your team selection though suggest the contentious call of swapping Alvaro with Mau and including the good looking Mr Smith. Alvaro provides size during the softening up period, a different feel to the pack and the Polar Bear had a better 2017 than Mau.

    1. Gutherson – will take time but with Hayne arriving no room in the centres
    2. French – was so good in 2016 on the wing
    3. Jennings (C) – we struggle with the penalty count – Captain Jennings might help that
    4. Hayne – can only imagine he’ll have a roving role in attack and can help Auva under the high ball in defence
    5. Auva’a – an off-season of specialist winger training will help under the high ball
    6. Norman – relatively quiet 2017, time to step up
    7. Moses – look out if he improves on 2017
    8. Evans – must be a starter
    9. King – great end to 2017 and the width of his pass is key to giving Norman/Moses space and time
    10. Mannah – still the spiritual leader of pack and looking for big season with his mate Hayne back
    11. Tepai – has got better each year so looking forward to 2018
    12. Brown – role similar to 2017, cyborg role leading the work rate in attack and defence
    13. Alvaro – got better as the season progressed and was outstanding in his game at 13
    14. Smith – has to be in the team, covers the spine and Guth/French/king are injury risks
    15. Kenny – Mr X-factor
    16. Scott / Mau – tough call here – good luck BA
    17. Trex / Matagi – with Trex ahead assuming Trex rediscovers his inner beast.

    Anyway you look at it, BA is going have some tough conversations with some good players missing out.

  28. Mike

    I think everyone is convinced Hayne will play in the centres, and though it seems logical, when you throw up a few different combinations, I think it’s fair to say they look stronger on paper, even if the general consensus is Gutho deserves first crack in the 1. But let’s compare these three options, firstly what most expect: (this is based on the assumption evryone is good for round one, which seems unlikely, re Gutho, but for the sake of the discussion.

    1. Gutho
    2. French
    3. Hayne
    4. Jennings
    5. Hoffman/A’vua
    Seems solid enough, but what are the question marks? Hoffman/Avua on a wing and Hayne in the centres, sooo, is the following combination stronger:

    1. Gutho
    2. French
    3. Takarangi
    4. Jennings
    5. Hayne
    I like this combo way more than the above, Hayne is streets ahead of the other two wingers, and It could be argued that Taka is far more comfortable, and understands the structures we already have in play at the Eels than Hayne, and it gives us an Origin quality combo in Jennings and Hayne, I think it is comfortably superior to the first combo. You could swap Hayne for Gutho in this scenario also. I know some freak at Gutho back on a wing given he debuted terribly for us there, but to be honest, he has come on leaps and bounds from those days and I’d have him on a wing 11 times out of 10 over either Hoffman (who I just don’t rate), and Kirisome, (who does barely anything on a footy field better than Gutho.

    The other variable assumes Hayne can get back to somewhere near his 2014 self, and it looks like this:
    1. Hayne
    2. French
    3. Gutho
    4. Jennings
    5. Hoffman/Avua

    I still think, behind a solid 6/7/9 which we have in Norman/Moses/King, Hayne could absolutely destroy teams. He has never had the luxury of p,aging behind that sort of spine at club level before and the pressure to be the chief playmaker and kicker simply wouldn’t exist like it has done previously.

    Soooo, now I assume Gutho is out in the early rounds, given my preferred combinations, I’d be starting the season as follows (this obviously assumes Hayne trains the house down and is doing all BA asks of him:

    1. Hayne (he is a better FB than French, regardless of how he went last year at the Titans)
    2. French (isn’t ahead of Gutho so can’t see hi. Ahead of Hayne, so must p,at the season onthe wong barring injury to others)
    3. Taka (has done nothing wrong, was a shining light last year and deserves to be there)
    4. Jennings (simples)
    5. Hoffman (once Gutho is good to go, I just can’t fit him or Avua in the back 5 above the others)
    6. Norman
    7. Moses
    8. Evans
    9. King
    10. Mannah
    11. Tepai
    12. Mau
    13. Brown

    14. Smith (assuming we want a guy that can cover backline and hooker, I prefer him over Pritchard, just reckon he has better dart out of hooker. If we don’t go with a utility type then I’d go Matagi
    15. Scott
    16. Alvaro
    17. Gower (I love what Gowie brings to the table, he is just solid with the stuff ups of some of the others)

    I can’t have KEdwards. He is talented, but he isn’t a match winner, but very well could be a match loser and apparently has a dodgy hammy, at least he’d have you believe that in the final 3 minutes of every game he plays.

    1. Colin Hussey

      Mike, some good comments, thing to consider in all this when suggesting which wing to put which player to and the centre combo’s is to look at where the players have been best suited and played in the positions in the past and done well in them. I am also one of those who freaks at the thought of Gutho back on the wing, sure he has had some game time since then but, I think he’s wasted there and for me a better proposition as filling the 6 spot long term or replacement in the centres for either Taka or MJ.

      That said, French’s time on the wing has been on the right side in the 5 spot rather than 2, so I would be leaving him there to settle, Au’va took his spot there when the croissant was injured, would he fit 5, not sure. I would be leaving MJ at 4 next to the croissant and Taka at 3 with Hayne at 2 straight fill in for Semi.

      Thing to consider is that Taka is best suited to the left side and MJ has publicly said he sees himself a right side centre rather than the left, it was an experiment at Penrith when they had injuries, really a fill in and he expected to go back to the right wing but never did until BA shifted him there.

      Hayne and Hoffman. Haynes time in the centres and wing were on the left side not the right side. Hoffman is also another player who has played more time on the left side than on the other, when he played at 1 his main attacking runs were also on the left side. If he comes good from his injury and is chosen for the top team I would suggest and prefer to see him at 2.

      For me depending on the dice roll the following is likely the best options an I include Gutho but don’t think he will be back until a few rounds in, so

      1: Hayne – Gutho when he returns
      2: Hoffman – Hayne when Gutho back
      3: Taka – Hayne, how the cards fall when Guth is back
      4: MJ Favoured position.
      5: His spot.

  29. Mike

    I guess my main point is

    Gutho, Hayne, Taka, Jennings, French are a far superior back 5 regardless of where they play, than if Hoffman was inthere for any one of them.

    Taka and Jenko are true centres only.
    French is a Wing/FB
    Gutho and Hayne in my view could play all 5 positions at a level higher than Hoffman can play wing.

    When fit, for mine, they are our back 5. The massive question is, what happens if Semi comes back😳🤔

  30. Rowdy Roddy

    Well here is my revised, considered top 17

    1. Gutho
    2. French
    3. Jennings – will be hard to handle inside Hayne with two speedsters for our halves to select from.
    4. Takaraingi – Can play key role for French back to right centre as he played inside French 19 tries in 2016 . Strong defensively too with a big body.
    5. Hayne – Can roam around in attack and pop up anywhere. Also covers the halves if either are injured during a game.
    6. Norman – will have best year since 2016 foolishness that cost him $100K p.a.and perhaps the captaincy. No pressure, run, kick or pass.
    7. Moses – will benefit from full off-season with Normz and relish responsibility to construct 80% of our attack. Will play State of Origin 2018.
    8. Mannah – Less pressure this year, only has to hit it up, get quick play the balls and tackle.
    9. King – Will become an 80 minute player, also benefit from the experience of 2017 and full off-season. Great service from dummy half.
    10.Evans – Needs to start to make a mark in NRL, best forward on field in first RLWC trial against Australia. Played strong in other WC games.
    11.Mau – same same
    12.Tep Moeroa – will finally realize his potential and play like the man he now looks with his new hairstyle. BA to use him more in midfield 2018.
    13.Brown – same same

    14. Alvaro – same same
    15. Kenny Edwards – same same, without the penalties.
    16. Matagi – will be pushed to the limit by Vave for this position.
    17. Scott – he or K. Edwards will be pushed out by a rampaging Trex at some time during the season.

    I can’t find a place for Will Smith or Kaysa as we really don’t need a utility on the bench with both Hayne and Taka in the starting side.

    1. sixties

      It’s hard to argue with your selections Rowdy because all have their merit and all will feature.
      I tried to ignore any favourite players in selecting a team that I think the coaches will prefer.
      There may be an element of horses for courses on the bench, but I think Smith’s versatlity almost makes him a certain selection.
      Beau Scott is a middle forward off the bench, which leaves two spots.
      Peni Terepo provides the type of punch BA likes.
      This leaves one more spot.
      Kenny Edwards? – you’d think most likely.
      But then you’re omitting another middle forward like Alvaro, Vave, Matagi or Niukore which seems illogical.
      Good luck BA.

  31. mitch Post author

    Alright, I’m having another go – this time predicting the Round 1 lineup as selected by BA. This is mostly what I’ve read on and the fact that I can’t imagine Beau Scott playing for Wenty. I might be well off the mark though. In this take, in this moment, I think Terepo edges Alvaro, and I’ve need felt so unsure of myself.

    1 Gutherson
    2 French
    3 Jennings
    4 Hayne
    5 Hoffman
    6 Moses
    7 Norman
    8 Evans
    9 King
    10 Mannah
    11 Mau
    12 Tepai
    13 Nathan Brown

    14 Will Smith
    15 Kenny Edwards
    16 Beau Scott
    17 Peni Terepo

  32. Jake

    Our depth in the halves is actually not as shallow as your chart makes it look. Hayne and Clint are both excellent options to back up the halves (and Brad has played some as well). And it is the depth everywhere else that frees them to cover in the halves if need be; the Eels have plenty of center/fullback options even if Hayne or Clint or both are needed elsewhere.

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