How does a team re-group after a loss? It’s only the first round, but after the Eels big pre-season, and an impressive trial win over the Knights, dropping the Premiership points against the Panthers was an unexpected result.
Letting the match slide after leading by 14 points rubbed even more salt into the wounds.
This week I was particularly keen to see how the squad would respond to their disappointing start to the season.
Aside from the skills work on display, I wanted to pay attention to the team’s attitude. I didn’t want to witness much in the way of laughter or banter. However, I did want to hear plenty of talk in both the drills and the opposed work. From my perspective this would indicate a team smarting after the loss, but at the same time attacking their preparations with a positive attitude.
Now that the season has begun, recovery days are incorporated into the schedule. This week, Wednesday and Thursday have been the only field session days as the squad prepared for their clash with Manly. It was interesting to see that the team had to be named before any field sessions had taken place. Then again, I wasn’t expecting any change to the 21 listed last week.
There’s certainly been no rest for the coaching staff. After the video sessions identified particular effort areas that the team needs to address, the field work set about re-establishing the standards that the coaches are looking for – from individuals and from the team.
Wednesday featured plenty of fast, opposed football. The contact was limited to bump pads and it appeared as if attacking cohesion was a primary focus.
The Wednesday session concluded with individual skills, including goal kicking practice. Working with Damien Hill, Mitch Moses struck the ball well from a range of positions.
Thursday began with a set of drills inside a grid, then specific forwards and backs coaching, before launching into a big opposed session under the control of NRL referees. Unlike the touch and bump pad work of Wednesday, there were some decent collisions throughout this session.
Obviously, there will be limitations on what I will report. As the team works through specific match preparations, providing the slightest suggestion about set plays or team selections/roles would be counter intuitive for an Eels supporter site. There’s plenty that I could never report. However, there are some observations that Eels fans would like to know:
* The NRL boys were incredibly focussed. Plenty of talk in both attack and defence. This was the key feature that I was looking for.
* Jarryd Hayne, when he’s in the zone, is something to behold. He makes the difficult look ridiculously easy. He provided moments like that this week.
* Bevan French reminded everyone of his skill set in a number of plays.
* Danny Alvaro nailed a long distance, angled field goal, much to the delight of skills coach, Joey Grima. Little wonder the Eels wasted no time in extending Polar’s contract.
* Brad Arthur was very vocal, reminding players of effort areas and spending time with individual players.
* Nathan Cayless did some work with the Wenty players before leaving. His full squad have to come together outside of Saleyards as the Magpies team contains part-time players.
* Our thanks to Murf and Joey for their time this week. Much appreciated fellas!
Matches aren’t won on the training paddock, but the work towards the win begins there. Parramatta have prepared well this week.
Taking on Manly at their home ground is never an easy proposition. Under Barrett, Manly defend tenaciously and pride themselves on staying in the contest.
The Eels will need to be at their best and they will need to find more moments of effort on effort. There can be no less than that in the NRL.
They know what they need to do. It’s time to execute.