Welcome aboard Blake Ferguson,
This was the predominant message from Monday’s field session.
All early signs point to the recruitment of a rugby league professional who will add experience and success to the Eels ranks.
Impressively, the big winger was close to the pace with conditioning, even though his Day 1 pitched him against a squad in Week 5 of their pre-season. It’s obvious that Ferguson has kept himself in good shape during his break.
Another positive was Fergo’s immediate impact on backline communication. From the first ball work of the day, his calls echoed across the field – at one stage directing the play to the opposite side as he quickly counted numbers in the defence.
More on that later.
Here’s some other features of today’s session:
After the stretches and warm ups with Lachlan Wilmot, the squad filed across to field 1, or as I’ll now refer to it, “The Province of Pain”.
Part 1 of the conditioning was a beep test. For the uninitiated, the groups of players have to reach markers on the field by the time recorded beeps are sounded. It begins at a very slow jog pace. As the levels are worked through, the required pace picks up and players start to drop off.
It was fully expected that Clint Gutherson would set the standard, and he didn’t disappoint. The man refuses to be beaten.
Sitting just behind “The King” were young guns, Dylan Brown and Haze Dunster. These names are starting to become familiar with TCT readers and for good reason. Were it not for Gutho, these young tyros (along with fellow full time squad newcomers, Schneider and Parry) would be leading the conditioning work.
Other conditioning saw the squad completing shuttle runs up and down the field, including the typical up and down off the ground work. It was good to see the young blokes communicating with Ferguson about what each set of running would entail.
A massive chunk of the morning was spent working in the quarter. Although there always seems to be a defensive component in such work, the major focus seemed to be on the attack.
i continue to be impressed by the forwards. The Eels will field a larger pack and they are looking to build creative combinations around this.
I’m still not paying much attention as to whether a player is in a “Red” team or a “Blue” team. The halves swapped and changed throughout the morning, with Smith, Brown, Norman and Moses being the primary playmakers.
Jaeman Salmon shifted out wider to the centres, and he looked very comfortable with ball in hand.
Each half had their moment to shine. Moses and Norman had some classy touches and continued their push for a re-think on their combination.
As noted earlier, Ferguson hit the ground running in his team work. From the opening set, his talk was tremendous, even sending the play to the opposite side of the field. It was only contrived opposed sets, but within ten minutes, he had a treble.
Reed Mahoney goes from strength to strength in his play. His pass selection looks to have gone to another level, giving an element of unpredictability out of dummy half.
The team finished off with full-field, two-hand touch footy. Cue Dylan Brown. His scorching individual try was arguably the highlight of the session.
A Final Word
My thanks to Ham and Parrathruandthru for being my extra eyes today. It can be challenging to keep track of players as they swap positions, especially when they don’t wear numbers. Much appreciated.
Incredibly, the team are very close to their two week Christmas break. When they come back in January, things get serious. We start to see the coaches looking to establish combinations and the opposed sessions heat up. That will be interesting to watch, given that the contact has already come close to match day impacts.
More to come on Wednesday.