The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 23, 2018: The Hit-Out

I was thinking of beginning this report with an anecdote about today’s weather. This would involve a recount of how the gales blew over the observation stand at Old Saleyards, so the filming had to be captured from on top of a van.

Then I considered how to best describe such an unexpected session. So I waited. I really didn’t want to overplay what I watched. So I waited some more.

It’s strange that such an atypical session would cause me such angst in writing my post. After all, when there’s something different to record, there’s usually a bit more enthusiasm to be found in the composition process.

But I was having trouble – mostly because it was difficult to not talk it up. So again I waited.

Finally, what I wanted to communicate took shape. I’ll make no predictions from today’s training, I won’t rate particular players as certainties to make a team that won’t be named for over three months.

But I will make this overall subjective call – a comparison against previous seasons.

Put simply – this was the most intense early pre-season opposed session that I’ve ever witnessed.

Big call? It’s a call that can’t be ignored.

Perhaps it’s the impact of the unexpected on an observer, because what transpired today wasn’t what I would have predicted. Perhaps it’s indicative of players looking to impress. Maybe, like an NRL clash, they were playing to instruction.

Whatever the case, here’s how I saw it:

Contact – Forwards

I arrived in time to watch some of the forwards’ contact drills in the Saleyards sandpit. It was highly competitive as the big blokes gave everything to win each contest.

Firstly, the players were tackling a partner carrying a football. It seemed like the goal was to both wrap up the footy and wrestle the ball carrier to the ground.

In the next drill, the footballs were removed as it became a stand up grapple challenge. With two or three pairs simultaneously in battle, it was hard to know which contest to watch.

As someone was declared the winner they were immediately faced with the next player charging in to the pit.

It was a big day for Ray Stone.

The surprise packet for me was Ray Stone. At one stage he and junior Paulo were locked in a wrestle that must have lasted around 3 minutes – a long time in these types of drills.

In the final drill, the pairs began on the ground, with each player trying to gain ascendancy by getting their opponent onto their back.

By the time it was done there was probably more sand on the players than there was in the pit.

It would soon be time for the main show.

Blue vs Red 

A full contact opposed session under the control of NRL referees isn’t out of the ordinary for pre-season training. It is when we’re talking about November.

The arrival of Gavin Reynolds, Ben Cummins, Adam Gee and Russell Smith (I think I’ve identified them correctly) signalled that today’s training would be an opposed session. Anyone feeling sick with the “No Footy Blues” would have received a dose of what the doctor prescribed.

Part way through the 2018 season, the Eels shifted away from a rotation of current referees and instead called on the services of ex-NRL referee, Sean Hampstead, as a regular opposed session official. I’m not sure what the plan will be for this coming year.

Before the match began, Mick Potter briefed the referees on the goals of the session.

As per any opposed work, the Eels were split into two teams. Today it was Blue vs Red.

Competition is highlighted when moments are celebrated.

Anybody who’s watched rugby league up close, or away from the masking noise of a large crowd, would be familiar with the sound of big contact. There was plenty of this today as each pack of forwards aimed for supremacy.

To be blunt, the intensity was a complete surprise. And when a collision delivered a result like a turnover of possession, the players celebrated as they would in a match.

Highlights

Ray Stone filled in at dummy half for the Blue team as Kyle Schneider had rolled his ankle earlier in the morning. It was a minor injury that required the typical rest, elevation and ice, and he should be back at work next week. Stone was up against Reed Mahoney in the Red shirt.

Norman and Brown were the halves for the Blues, with Moses and Salmon controlling the Reds.

Will Smith impressed today.

Will Smith played centre for the Blue team and was on fire. He broke into the clear for a long distance try to French, provided another assist for the Blues second try before scoring one himself.

Second phase play was up a notch. Tim Mannah provided a ball for a long Ray Stone break in the lead up to Smith providing the assist for the Blues second try. Junior Paulo also delivered a memorable offload as he monstered his way through a tackle.

The offloads and support play through the forwards were countered by some heavy collisions. Stone and Evans delivered a couple of rippers.

But it wasn’t just big hits. Desperation defence also shut down a couple of dangerous plays. There was one that really stood out. Although I couldn’t identify the defender (mostly because it looked certain for a line break to happen and Salesi Fainga’a was immediately looming in support) Dylan Brown weaved and then accelerated into a hole only to be brought down by a brilliant tackle.

Dropped ball seemed to be minimal, not at all what I expected in the windy conditions. The ball was shifted on the back of the forwards laying a platform. However, it was not the reckless abandon of a game of touch or drop off. The mixture of structure and second phase was typical of an NRL match.

And the outcome that gives me the greatest joy to report – the Eels won the penalty count!

Final Word

There were some sore footballers after today’s hit-out, and any smiles were well-earned. It wasn’t the ideal day to be hitting the sideline ice bath but plenty did.

Even as I complete this report many hours later, I’m still stunned by the intensity of the contest. I’d like to provide more details on individuals, but to be honest, the clash in the forwards overshadowed anything else I could report.

In a show of club unity, players from all grades will be coming together for a massive conditioning session at a western Sydney venue on Saturday morning. A few of the players mentioned this to us after today’s training. It’s encouraging to have something akin to the old Jack Gibson days when three grades would train as one.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Hearndo
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Hearndo

Outstanding work Sixties!
How is maika Sivo going?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I’d love to know this as well please 60’s! I haven’t heard his name mentioned in your reports. He’s the player I’m most excited about and I think has the biggest upside. Great to hear we’re getting stuck into some realistic game hardening and the forwards are standing up. My biggest concerns in your reports are that players who are playing out of position are standing out. This gives me grave concern for our defence. The last thing I think most supporters want to hear is that Smith at centre stood out and Ray Stone at hooker was your pick… Read more »

colin hussey
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Anon, Stone is no stranger to the 9 spot and filled in there many times in ISP, also sure I read same in the Jnr grades as well.
He’s an excellent player & I for one won’t underestimate his abilities nor sell him.short.

Fuuuuuuui
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Fuuuuuuui

Colin, it’s Fuuuuuuui (as mentioned at the bottom of my comment, if you got to the end) I figure if a fill-in is outplaying those who are specialists in the position, then there is a huge question mark over the opposings ability. I think Ray is a great player, I’ve watched him a fair few times, and he’s a quality second rower. His passing accuracy and passing speed from dummy half is way below par. Our team is on the back foot from the play the ball when he’s playing there. Will Smith outdoing our centres, well that has me… Read more »

Jimmy Jnr
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Jimmy Jnr

If i can ask Sixties. I might be reading into it more than i should. Are you saying Stone only played hooker yesterday cause Schneider rolled his ankle.?

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

Yes thats correct

Jimmy Jnr
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Jimmy Jnr

Thank you my friend

rayt
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rayt

Thanks Sixties 👌 real
ly looking forward to 2019

Grunta
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Grunta

Loving the reports mate. Glad to here about the forwards hit out and the heavy contact. Can’t wait to see how Sivo develops.

Poppa
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Poppa

Riveting reading mate.

colin hussey
Guest

This report, again tells me that 2018 needs to be well put behind us and put our full focus on next season, where I believe there will be no wood on the mantle piece next year, maybe not a trophy but it will come. Thanks sixties, I need to get down next year to watch one of these sessions. One name that you mention does not surprise me and that is Ray Stone, I have only seen some games with him in it and one being an SOO junior match and he completely upped the tempo for the NSW team… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Squiz was the toughest I’ve seen for parra puns for pound Col. remember that rugby league week pic of him in mid? He made 50-60 tackles – tough as.
Milo

colin hussey
Guest

Have to agree with you Squiz, I sometimes wondered about that mud photo, if they had of taken stats of him, especially weight, he would have been a fair bit heavier.

Did you ever watch John Baker? He was incredibly tough, took no nonsense nor prisoner of the opposition and was not afraid to put it to his eels team mates either.

Milo
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Milo

Yes Col. I do recall but was quite young at this time; but my old man also spoke of him and his toughness; Ray Higgs was also a fav.

colin hussey
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I used to go to the training nights at Cumberland when he was at the club, he could not stand shirkers and anyone he thought had shirked their work in a gam as well as in training which in those days was 2 nights a week, Tues & Thursdays, with a Saturday morning gig if playing on Sundays. One Tuesday evening when the players finished I went up to the pub where a good number went to have a beer, John rolled in and saw one of the other forwards who had a crook ankle and was let off from… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

What’s interesting is that both players had a couple of beers together, and while one limped away there was no animosity between them. JB was tough on the field and off. He would have had a good military role as he would take not many prisoners if any.

Offside
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Offside

The idea of will smith at centre is intriguing i think in attack hed be quite handy hes actually quite a strong runner

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Yes, just don’t let the bugger kick!

Mark camman
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Mark camman

Hi Sixties – great write-up and glad to hear thst the boys are fired up and already the sense of passion is evident as players are competing for positions and contracts.
I would be interested to know how Kane Evans is looking. To me he looked cery gangly and too light last year. I thought he could carry another 5-6 kgs quite comfortably which would make him a more dama ging runner. Any evidence that he gas bulked up rhis season? I would like to see him as a starting prop this year

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

G’day Mark, I just thought I may add my threepence worth to the Kane Evans enigma. I have paid particular attention to Evans size this season because as you rightly pointed out, he was looking quite gangly in the upper body last season when he came back from recovery of a broken arm after the WC. I have had the good fortune to attend the Wed and Friday sessions this week if only for about an hour each time. Kane looks “HUGE” and it was reflected in the hits he put on and the way he carried the ball up.… Read more »

Mark camman
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Mark camman

Thanks for the update Rowdy. If we can get a prop rotation of Junior Paulo, Kane Evans, Daniel Alvaro + Peni Teropo or Tim
Tim Mannah Or Tepai Moreao I would be happy.

colin hussey
Guest

I believe Tepai would be wasted as a prop, better in the 2nd row to run the edges, the heavy defensive work would weaken his main value in his running game, for a big fella he has some speed to boost that running aspect, and hard to pull down in that mode as well.

BDon
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BDon

The big improvement for Evans would be to run hard and straight more often. I recall Arthur Summons saying that Norm Provan always hurt tacklers because of running hard with his body shape..tall, gangly, bony, elbows and knees flying everywhere. And I recall Brad Arthur at signing said Evans gives us a different body shape to make defenders vary their technique.

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

You might have to add Oregan Kaufusi to that list too Mark. And when the 2 Utoikamon brothers (who are both big units) are playing consistent footy for Wenty they may also add weight to the argument..

Leo toohey
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Leo toohey

I spoke to kane at training and he described season gone as the worst hes had in nrl and was determined to make up for it , recognition is a good start .

Eel Nut
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Eel Nut

Outstanding write up Sixties.
Just wondering if you think from the training runs if any of the young guns will be blooded to first grade early in the 2019 season?? If so, who???

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

Great and accurate report Sixties. How recall so much detail is impressive, especially when distracted by the huge contact and skill displayed by the two packs of forwards. I was also drawn to the speed at which the opposed session was played. The intensity was as you say, almost akin to an NRL match. It makes me wonder what might become of our previous early season poor starts if we can maintain the enthusiasm and the commitment to achieve Adrian Jimines’ goals in the fitness and strength areas. I have not seen a team train with this intensity at this… Read more »

Leo toohey
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Leo toohey

Adrian was ba,s trainer when he won nyc with storm 2009 and hes been after him since finally getting him late last season where he made an immediate impact but alas we had run out of troops , incidentally storm 2009 20,s contained , oniell ,widdop ,proctor ,kelly ,griffin, duffie , leary, rochow , mclean , which proves you make good teams out of good players .

Sam
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Sam

That was an awesome read! Thanks 60’s.

Wish we could’ve all seen Stone V Paulo in the pit of despair!!!!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Good report! I’ve noticed that in your reports Moses and Norman have been on different teams/groups. Norman with Brown and Moses with Salmon. Obviously Norman and Moses were terrible together in 2018. Are you surprised they haven’t been working together much so far this pre season?

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

I’ve noticed that too. Very interesting, you would think they would start the season together so they should be working together more.

Shelley
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Shelley

It will be really interesting to see who starts in the centres and therefore who plays fullback. I must admit I like Gutho at fullback, his positional play, talk and ability to ball play is very beneficial for us. I remember watching one Flegg game last season at ANZ and found myself looking up the name of a player who looked a step above most on the field. That was the only time I have seen Ethan Parry play, although I had read about him and he certainly looked very talented and good defensively. First grade is a big step… Read more »

Pete
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Pete

Great summary Sixties. Couple of questions. Have you noticed a difference now that Jiminez is on board? Does Mark O’Neill show up to training?

Big Derek
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Big Derek

Jimenez has made the training more game specific.

Still nothing from our wonderful media dept that O’Neill has commenced , that would be a good place to start.

Anon
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Anon

What media department , tct is the only media at this club .

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I remember reading that he wasn’t commencing until late jan/feb

Billy
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Billy

I was at the Parra office Monday gone and before that 2 weeks prior. O’Neill was well and truly settled in working both occasions. I have not seen him at training but i am not there often or for long periods. But i can confirm he is there.!

Hamsammich
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Hamsammich

In the initial media release by Parra it said he would be starting the 1st of November.

Jonboy
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Jonboy

I only stayed for about half of the opposed session but one of my standouts was Shaun Lane. I saw a couple of very handy offloads from him and if there is something we definitely need in 2019 it’s 2nd phase play and some offloads.

Rob
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Rob

Is Lachlan WIlmott still there or has he been replaced?

Jonboy
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Jonboy

He is still there

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

great report, good to see the 20s players from the last few years going well

Milo
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Milo

Great again Sixtoes and thanks for others who added on.
Sixties have you noticed anything different in discipline at training ? and also I hazard to say defence being redone particularly in the ruck and I note your sandpit comments and also out wide where we often got tested.
I know defence is communication too but we often got caught out at times from 3rd man in to the wing.

West Coast Eel
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West Coast Eel

I’m loving these reports. I can honestly say now, that I’ve put the 2018 season behind me and I can’t wait for 2019! Looking forward to many more of these training reports over the next few months.

BDon
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BDon

Haven’t closely followed a pre-season before, usually get on with other things. Brings it to life and so interesting, easy to think these blokes earn good money for a 6 month job, but just not the case. From what i’m reading, makes you think about what makes a difference in good and not so good teams. I can see sixties that you’ve got the microscope on the weaknesses from last season. A big one is the spine and you’re circling this one with patience. Great reading.

Moff
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Moff

Great read Sixties. Your reports have helped me get out of the fetal position and look forward to 2019.
Cheers

Gazzamatta
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Gazzamatta

Fantastic stuff 60s. Greatly appreciated.
A simple question but one I have no idea of.
How often do the boys train and for how long?
From your reports, my impression is that its Mon through Fri with probably PHs excluded, 2 hours per day. Would this be about right?
Thanks.

MattL
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MattL

Top shelf as per usual 60s.
From the pics I’ve seen, Taka seems to be in with the forwards still. Is that what you’ve seen or with the centre shortage is he being moved back there / utility?

Dorks
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Dorks

Does anyone know the role of Mick Potter