Wednesday done and dusted.
With this spirited opposed session under the belt, the Parramatta Eels are now only a captain’s run away from finishing their preparations for Saturday’s trial.
After waiting till virtually the end of February for this first and only trial, there’s little doubt that a small collection of players would be literally tearing down the walls to play. Nearly four months have passed since that first group of players returned to Saleyards for the pre-season – it’s a long time to train without playing.
The squad took to the field a little later than usual this morning, but the milder conditions this week meant that the heat wasn’t a factor. In fact, the players look energised and ready to rip in.
Here’s a run down of this morning’s highlights:
Unlike Monday’s cameo appearance in the opposed work, Clint Gutherson completed the full session today.
I reckon it’s come at just the right time for the King.
It’s a tough gig to work back through such a long rehabilitation, but re-joining the fellas in the week of the first trial would be just the tonic. Even though he’s not playing, that sense of helping out the squad in their preparations would go a long way towards making him feel like he’s part of the team.
And today, he was very solid in the fullback role. His coverage of the kicks was sound and his injection into the backline added punch to the Green’s attack. More on that later.
The King rounded out his morning with a bit of goal kicking practice. Struck them sweetly too.
The Standout Moments
* Will Smith Wows
The man of a thousand backline positions brought the magic from fullback towards the latter part of the hit out. After starting with the Greens, Smith swapped teams with French to assume the custodian role for the Blues.
Fielding a ball off the ground in the in-goal, his dazzling footwork bamboozled the kick/chase as he darted into the quarter. With defenders shooting across in cover, Smith found Michael Jennings looming in support and the Rolls Royce of centres glided over 70 metres for the try.
* Master & Apprentice
Both may have been wearing the orange vests, but it didn’t stop Clint Gutherson and Jaeman Salmon combining down the left for a surprise early try to the greens.
It was an example of great hands by both, creating space for the winger. Gutherson timed his involvement perfectly and his pass was a reminder of his skills with the ball in hand.
* Tim Mannah Finds His Attacking Mojo
In previous training posts I’ve referred to the captain’s work through the middle, and his charges off good lines. Today he peppered his performance with impressive passes, but capped it off with a surprising four pointer.
As the Green team set themselves to defend their line, the Blues looked set for a typical out the back attacking shape. However, taking a short ball about 15 metres out, Mannah accelerated into space through the centre and dived over for a try under the posts.
Our 2015 Ken Thornett Medallist certainly looks to be in the best shape of his career and has been one of the most consistent performers of the pre-season.
* Aukafolau Steps Up
In a recent assessment of some of the fringe first-graders, I suggested that big Dane had been one of the most improved since the new year started.
This morning he created a try from nothing as he turned a bit of space into a try for Nathan Davis. Playing on the wing, Aukafolau got past his opposite before kicking ahead, with Davis winning the race to ground the ball. The kick was something that I wasn’t aware Dane had in his kit bag of skills (though all of the backs do practise their kicking).
* GL Marks His Own Cards?
Virtually every hit up from Greg Leleisiuao this morning required serious effort from the defenders. Whether it was on the edge of the ruck or through the middle after a kick, I can’t recall any ambling into the defence.
One of these bullocking charges planted Beau Scott onto his backside. Scott is not renowned for any half measures in opposed sessions. In fact, if you’re carrying a football, you’re fair game for one of his hits.
You could see the veteran back rower imprint this collision with GL in the memory bank.
I’m looking forward to their next opposed session.
Are You Ready?
With only three sleeps until the Eels and Knights trial at a sold-out Maitland Sports Ground, TCT would like to remind fans that the Eels will be live streaming the match with commentary by Adam Hawes.
The team list is a fair indication of who we can expect to take the field in Round 1.
I wouldn’t read too much into Tepai’s name appearing well down the list. Although he’s looked good in the last few opposed sessions, the powerful second rower is probably somewhat under done having spent a bit of time in rehab recently. I also believe that Will Smith almost demands to be included in the premiership opener.
Bring on Saturday.