The Cumberland Throw

The Watchlist – Jaeman Salmon

As the countdown towards Season 2018 rolls on, I thought it worth taking a look at some of the up and comers in our playing ranks – players who are knocking on the door, but are yet to crack first grade at the Eels. You can read the first instalment on Marata Niukore here.

When Jaeman Salmon was announced in November as a 3 year signing (after the signing of Kane Evans, Tony Williams and the return of some bloke called Jarryd), it was likely met with a collective shrug of the shoulders from most Eels fans.

Wasn’t this just another young bloke, touted superstar, junior prodigy? Haven’t we seen this preemptive fanfare before?

And I get it. There’s been plenty of similar looking prodigies who have let us down in the past. Think of the ferociously bulbous jaw of Jakob LokoMarmin “your brother’s pretty good” Barba, and eventual “what the heck happened there?” question of Tim Smith (who still holds the single season try assist record at a ridiculous 40, mind you). And there are still a few junior Eels yet to be tested in the big leagues; including the departed Troy Dargan (he’s not deceased, just not with the Eels), and current young guns Ray Stone, Reed Mahoney (pronounced mar-nee) and internet fanboy target Greg Leleisiuao (I straight up copy and paste his name every time)What’s the big deal? Surely there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.

And when it comes to fish like Salmon, all many of us mere mortals knew about the kid was that he had a cool name, was highly touted, and the Sharks were annoyed to have lost him.

So, for a bit of context, the man they called ‘the Apprentice’ played a leading role in the Sharks’ 2015 Harold Matts’ title, playing his local footy at Cronulla rugby league nursery De La Salle Caringbah. To boot, Salmon was also a part of the Sharks’ NYC side in 2017, and has represented NSW in both the U16s and U18s. Whatever your expectations, that certainly reads as a handy little résumé for a 19 year old.

Brad Fittler similarly reflected on Salmon’s time in the U18 NSW team with this deadpan, generic school report card comment:

“He’s been in the system for a while Jaeman, and he did a great job with his Cronulla team this year and I think he’s a player of the future.”

Gee, thanks for the insight Freddy. The Eels were also typically composed in their signing announcement, with Head of Recruitment Peter Sharp being quoted as saying:

“Jaeman is a very exciting youngster who will enhance our already elite program and flourish under Brad Arthur.”

But it was this this ridiculous take comment from noted bitter Sharks fan Buzz Rothfield in late December that really flipped everyone out:

“Our early prediction for Dally M rookie-of-the-year is boom Parramatta Eels five-eighth Jaeman Salmon. This kid can play. He joined the Eels from Cronulla after playing NSW Under 18s last year. He turns 19 this month and has trained the house down in the off-season. Salmon will start from the bench but is likely to be in the starting side by the end of the season. He’s big and strong with beautiful ball skills.”

(Another off season, another house tragically trained completely to the ground.)

Now, to be brutally honest, I think Buzz is way off. Sorry, but not only is Jaeman 100-1 to win Rookie of the Year, I don’t actually see him nabbing a first grade bench spot at any point this season. However, the reason I think these things is not a reflection of Jaeman’s talent or potential, but rather a likely lack of opportunity.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out which three of Beau Scott, Kaysa Pritchard, Will Smith, Daniel Alvaro, Brad Takairangi, Peni Terepo, Siosaia Vave or Suaia Matagi I would have sit next to Kenny Edwards on our bench. Throw in whoever is squeezed out of a wing spot on Gutho’s return out of Kirisome Auva’a and Josh Hoffman; and also consider Marata Niukore and Ray Stone are both in with a shot of making their NRL debuts in 2018. The team is stacked, and it therefore seems the opportunity may not be there for Jaeman this season.

Nonetheless, whatever happens in 2018, let me assure you, this kid is the real deal. Jaeman reads the game very well, particularly for a player his age, and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on both sides of the ball. Not unlike Ray Stone, Salmon (at 6’1″, and 95 kg) fits right in with the first grade side. With a build big enough for the second row, speed that could make a race car weep, evasiveness like a cloud and silky smooth passing skills, Jaeman’s best position (rather than his talent) remains the most pressing question about his playing future.

Interestingly, in a chat with Taka on the Eels website, Salmon himself suggested he wants to base his game around Mitch Moses and Corey Norman, to some extent revealing the halves seems like the current target. With that said, I’m not sure being a good half, centre or back rower are mutually exclusive; we’ll just have to see what happens.

Although Jaeman’s best position going forward remains unknown, consider this:

“Very few other fish can exist in such a wide range of conditions, and would not survive if they lived the way salmon do. However, salmon are anadromous which means they can thrive in a variety of environments, including both fresh and salt water.” 


An edge forward, a swift backline player, or an extra half – who knows? Maybe it’s a case of Salmon by name, salmon by nature.

Whatever happens, this kid is going places; so make sure you remember the name. Here at The Throw, we’ll be watching.

Go you Eels.




Photo courtesy of the Parramatta Eels; Fittler quote courtesy of NSW Rugby League; weird salmon reference courtesy of World Wide Fund for Nature.

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21 thoughts on “The Watchlist – Jaeman Salmon

  1. Rob

    What are his physical stats like? Built like a second rower suggests a weight of over 95kg and a height of 183+cm to me?

    Please enlighten us if you know, I couldn’t find anything on the web when I looked.

  2. Pou

    I am intrigued about this guy. Only made a few appearances (all off the bench I believe) for the Sharks’ NYC side, though as an 18 year old. Then not only signed but announced by the Eels (when we poached Stone and Leleisiuao there was no official announcement by the club) and training full time the entire off season. So we clearly have big plans for him. I agree it’s highly unlikely he will play NRL in 2018. Will he play any Flegg this year? He has two years of eligibility left in that grade.

    1. mitch Post author

      Interesting point re the announcements.

      I suspect the plans are as big as you suggest. I’d hazard a guess that they’ll start him in the Flegg side and then the natural progression will depend on how he handles it. As you’d know, it was once again evident at Wenty the other day just how big a jump it is between the two competitions.

      We’ll see how he goes in 2018, and how soon they choose for him to make the jump to ISP.

    2. Forty20

      Salmon almost single handedly clawed the Sharks back into the 2017 SG Ball Grand Final. Ethan Parry blitzed them in the opening exchanges and we raced out to a 3 try lead if I recall correctly before he began to shred our right edge. We would go on to win in the end but I’m lying if I didn’t have my glutes clenched for a good portion of that fight back!

      Given his long layoff from contact work I would not be surprised if we eased him back into the swing of things by way of Jersey Flegg. There is a clear pathway to the ISP for him this year given we aren’t carrying any backup halves of note so I think he has an opportunity to play plenty of senior footy.

  3. Milo

    Good blog Mitch and co. He seems a v good buy and one would assume, and i know we should not assume that he could be picked for future nrl – albeit a position not 100% yet. I have noticed his fitness in the two sessions i have managed to see this pre season; he seems to have a v good motor. A 6ft half does not seem the go; but maybe an edge 5/8 / back rower…? Great read and its good to hear about such players….

    1. mitch Post author

      Thanks Milo, as always, appreciate your support mate.

      I’m told Wade Graham’s game might be a good possible model of his future style, but too much is unknown at this stage.

      1. Pou

        I was recently looking at past SG Ball champions and how many first graders they have produced, when I saw that Wade Graham was the halfback and captain of Penrith’s Harold Matts side in 2006 (they won all three junior grades that year).

  4. Colin Hussey

    I believe he signed for 3 years? Based on his age and skill levels, I would suggest he is seen more a longer term player for the eels than this year, should he continue to shine and perhaps in the 5/8 role with the eels, I would think that one player in particular who is one of the 11 off contract end of 2019.

    There will certainly be new faces at the end of this season and more the following considering all up 21 players this year, the 11 end next year is a lot of players who will be not in the B&G after 2019.

    1. mitch Post author

      Yeah mate 3 year deal. I think we’ll learn a lot in 2018, but 2019 will see his NRL debut.

      But that’s just me having a guess based on what we know at the moment.

      1. Colin Hussey

        Mitch, it was interesting to see him signed for 3 years especially given his age, especially when one considers that the halves at Parra, are not too bad really, without reading too much into the signing, I think the pressure is really on one specific player.

        1. mitch Post author

          that’s assuming he’s seen exclusively as a half. I’d be wary about reading too much into it, Colin. I suspect it’s more a case as he’s seen as a talent, and worth holding on to.

          1. Colin Hussey

            Very True mate, thing is that with the amount of talent that appears to be raising their heads in the squads, without wanting to put names to players, there can be none of them going missing at times as has been the case.

            I am seriously seeing the players that we have on the books now as having the ability to take the trophy maybe not this year but certainly within 3 years, in saying that if all the NRL squad plays to the potential and abilities I see no reason why they could and should not be able to win this year.

          2. mitch Post author

            It’s a hopeful time, we’ll see how we go with injuries. if all’s fair, I think we’re well placed.

            i’m cautiously optimistic.

        2. Hamsammich

          Just on his playing position I went through where he played. He’s been named on the wing, centre, halves and second row.

          So if need be, he could almost play anywhere.

  5. Rowdy

    Great read Mitch, as I’ve said previously this Watchlist is a wonderful concept.

    Not having seen Salmon play, but considering all that’s been said and written about him his frame size, weight and height also his skillset, speed, evasiveness and experience in rep footy, comparisons with previous and current NRL stars like Wade Graham.
    Have I missed anything here? Oh yeah, BA’s and Sharpies enthusiasm to get him here long term, straight into the development squad training fulltime with the NRL boys!

    I would venture to say. “When this kid fills that frame of his and plays a few games against men in ISP………I believe he could play any backline position from half to centre as well as an edge backrower. I don’t think Corey has anything to worry about anymore than any of our other stars. His performances for Wenty this season, probably in the halves with Dylan Brown or Joe Taipire is probably at very short odds of being something special.

    1. mitch Post author

      Thanks Rowdy, and thanks for reading mate.

      If Salmon does/the coaching staff do see him as a half, I think the greater issue is balancing Joe Tapari, Dylan Brown and Jaeman Salmon into two halves positions. It’s a terrific headache to have and I suspect all three have a bright future at the Eels.

      IMO the vacuum of halves talent at Wenty is actually in a blessing in this regard, particularly for the back end of the season.

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