Writing 3-4 training reports per week can be a challenging task. There’s always the element of looking for something different to the day before.
There’s also the essential component of not describing set moves or standard shapes or plays that we are likely to witness this season. I’m certain that all Eels supporters would understand why such descriptions would not be found in TCT training reports.
I was wrestling with that today as I watched another training session unfold and then later as BA took the time to answer a few of my questions. There was plenty to like about what I witnessed and a bit for the squad to work on, but I wanted a point of difference for this report.
TCT readers deserve more than another description of how Norman and Moses dominated or details about the difficulty that the defenders had with Bevan’s elusiveness. Of course, I could write about that, because it was exactly what unfolded on the training paddock.
Indeed, the easy option would be to copy and paste the last two reports – after all, it would be entirely accurate!
Instead, I offer up the following brief overview of the efforts of some of the fringe players during this pre-season. This is not presented as in-depth analysis, simply observations of their work during the field sessions.
Over the last few weeks, Davis would possibly qualify for a most improved award. The pre-season did not start well. He struggled with the endurance work (not unusual for outside backs) then sustained what appeared to be a leg strain early on.
After hitting the new year, Davis has featured as fullback for the green team and looked much sharper. Positionally he’s measured up, and in full stride he’s been a handful to contain. This will be a crucial year for the big back, and he’ll be looking to impress for Wenty from game 1.
Plenty of Eels supporters have called for GL’s inclusion based on television coverage of the Eels 2017 NYC finals appearances.
Like Davis, he struggled with early pre-season endurance work, and also found himself in rehab with a knee injury. Paralleling Davis again, he is one of the most improved, especially in conditioning, with this translating into solid opposed work.
This is Greg’s first year out of the 20s and he’s likely to spend 2018 learning to play senior level football out of Ringrose Park. No need to be impatient here as time is on his side.
The recipient of the 2017 NSW Cup Coach’s Award is in contention for a first grade call up this season. Jennings returned to pre-season training in superb shape, and the departure of Radradra has opened a first grade spot.
Last season I watched Jennings excel at Saleyards, even filling in at fullback for the green opposed team. This year, he’s filled in on the wing for the blue team. Come round 1, I’m expecting Hoffman and Auva’a to be selected in first grade. Jennings will be next in line.
This is Dane’s second NRL pre-season. The big centre caught the eye with his physical presence over the 2016/17 summer, following it up with a season fluctuating between Wenty’s ISP side and the Parra NYC team.
Moving into 2018, it appears as if he’s met conditioning expectations and he has performed solidly during the pre-season opposed work. Like GL, Dane is in his first year out of 20s and would be expected to spend 2018 honing his craft at centre for Wenty.
Our 2017 ISP player of the year has trained in both the forwards and the backs during this pre-season. Though making his presence felt in the back row last year, he has added bulk to step up to a middle forward role.
Incredibly, his versatility has seen him fill in at centre for the green team during this pre-season. His powerful charges have been a feature of the last two weeks of opposed work.
Mitch has already written an extensive profile on Marata. I rate our Cook Islands International a genuine chance of debuting this year.
Reed has been the surprise packet of this pre-season. He set the standard early with his conditioning from week 1 of training and has not missed a beat since.
During the opposed sessions he has played in the halves and dummy half for the greens. His pace off the mark has been his best asset and he looks most dangerous during unstructured play.
The promising rake is still eligible for NYC but I’d expect him to spend time at Wenty too.
Stoney is another 20s graduate enjoying his first NRL pre-season. Like Reed, he’s more than met the mark from a conditioning perspective. It can be challenging to meet the physical demands at the senior level but Ray has looked at home in the squad.
During opposed sessions, when Mahoney has filled in at half for the greens, Stone has filled in at dummy half. This versatility could help to open opportunities moving forward.
The quality that Stone has demonstrated at training is that he’s prepared to make effort on effort. It’s a valuable characteristic for a footballer to possess. Undoubtedly, the hard as nails back rower is a big part of the future of the Eels. He played a number of games of ISP last year, and I expect 2018 to be a continuation of his learning curve at that level.
The recruit from the Shire has impressed with his superior fitness from the first day of pre-season. For much of this time he has shared the rehab paddock with Gutho, and the player that the King has dubbed “the Apprentice” looks likely to be a future challenger for Eels fitness champion.
Salmon has only just started opposed work, and is not yet involved in full contact. His skills work with Joey Grima has been exceptional, and given that he’s played across five-eighth, back row and centre at junior rep level, his future could take a variety of paths.
A graduate of the 2017 Sharks SG Ball team that finished runners-up to the Eels, his move west came as a surprise. I expect him to debut for Parra at Jersey Flegg level before progressing to ISP.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this slight detour from my regular reports. It’s back to business on Thursday for both Eels training and the Ringrose Park trials.