The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – December 7, 2018: The Battle In The Pit

Over the course of the Parramatta Eels pre-season, the challenge falls upon me to find a different angle for each report. I try to look for something that I haven’t reported on before, or maybe focus my attention on a few different players each week.

Let’s be real, there’s around four months of pre-season, three reports a week. By the time the season kicks off, that’s approximately fifty reports about what a rugby league team is doing on the training paddock. So I try to put myself in the readers’ shoes. What would interest you in today’s session?

Fortunately, my reports often write themselves. The marked impact of youth on the team dynamic has been a case in point. In other instances, the fieldwork, or the opposed session, is different to what I’ve reported on before and the content flows. Aside from that, there are simply moments worthy of reporting.

Today’s session provided me with unique moments to report, and yet the assignment of constructing the post was still not easy.

And the reason – the contact session in the sandpit.

My task – how to compose this report without giving away any training methods that may be unique to the club, and yet convey to readers the intensity that I witnessed.

I guess you, the readers, will be the best judge of whether I’ve succeeded in that endeavour.

Opposed (With thanks to Ham and Derek)

Personal circumstances meant that I missed most of this. However, with a small crew in attendance, I was provided with some noteworthy moments.

* The intensity of the contact grew as the opposed hit out unfolded. The words “serious contact” were uttered.

* The halves were again swapped. Brown and Norman were at first paired against Smith and Moses. Brown then paired with Moses against Smith and Norman

Marata Niukore impressed again today.

* A break down the sideline by Niukore put Moses in for an early try.

* Marata featured again with a charge close to the line looking certain to be rewarded with a try, but this time Dylan Brown stopped the rampaging Kiwi from scoring in an amazing defensive play.

* The offloads from the forwards continued, with a pearler from Junior being the pick.

* Dylan Brown posted a fine individual try after dummying his way through the line and then accelerating.

* Ferguson vs Parry – Fergo might have provided a little jab to the face – yes, it gets willing out there!

The Pit

The modern game of rugby league is nothing like its ancient past, especially in defence. My recollections about technique only involve being taught head position and shoulder contact, and practising this on team mates or a tackle bag. And it was all about hips and legs.

Nowadays, creating dominance has shifted the focus to the upper body. Wrapping the ball up, getting the attacker onto their back, legitimately slowing up the play-the-ball.

The ruck itself becomes a contest of its own within the match.

For the player carrying the ball, if they’re not breaking the tackle, they’re either looking for an offload or getting a quick play the ball. For the latter this means finding their elbows and knees as they hit the ground.

And so to the contest in the sandpit at Old Saleyards.

This pit is a far cry from the play areas of childhood, but the enjoyment of staff and players watching the battles couldn’t be more apparent.

The squad was split into two groups for the two contact drills of about 20 minutes duration. Like any drill it contained different components to assist the learning, athleticism, and execution of the skill.

Watching on, it wasn’t all about strength. This was a mix of forwards and backs. What I witnessed involved:

* hit and stick – assisted by the attacker charging in hard to demand quality first up contact leading into the battle

* technique – positioning of the arms and body without it becoming an illegal grapple tackle

* discipline – moving as a line, staying legal in the contest, not giving away penalties

* effort on effort – repeated tackles and contests, immediately after completing one

Personal highlights

* The sound of the contact – a measure of what this meant to the players

* Marata Niukore setting the tone for the first group with his charges. (Since Marata has been at the club, he’s always attracted the biggest hits in opposed sessions. Why? He rips into every contest.)

Mahoney – thrived in the contact

* Reed Mahoney hammering into everyone

* The collisions between Dylan Brown and Mahoney. Brown laughing off a bloodied mouth

* Ethan Parry lifting the intensity of the second group as the coaches demanded more

* Gutho and Normz talking it up

* The surprising strength of French and just as surprising agility of Paulo.

* Gowie’s “hair”

Final Comments

It was a privilege to be allowed to watch the contact session from such close quarters today. We’re not strangers to training, but by the same token we are only visitors and this is the workplace of the football department.

Consequently, I’ve tried to convey what was done without giving anything away – if that makes sense? Hopefully, these training reports add context to the great images captured by Eels media.

In watching around 90 minutes to an hour, three times a week, I’m only witnessing a fraction of the work that staff and players put into a pre-season. NRL teams are dedicating over four months of preparation before a ball is kicked in anger. That’s a huge chunk of the year.

We’re already over a month in. Are you counting down the days?

Eels forever!



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Great read Sixties, look forward to each 1 for my footy fix in the off season. Great to hear how Niukore is going and hope he gets in the 17 as he has been improving each game and already rate him as 1 of our best forward. I am really excited for next season and when you do the write upon each player as interested in how the young guns are going and especially Mahoney and Stone as they seem like the future stars of the blue and gold army. Keep up the great work and thanks.

My kool

Any word on Alvaros weight 60s? Also Marata id be curious about along with Kafusi.
Sorry to be a pest on this. I am curious to know how much size these 3 have put in and the reasoning behind Alvaro? Did the coaching staff want him too and want to change his style?


Someone able to work that hard in defence can obviously cope with carrying a bit more weight. He doesn’t need to make 40 tackles in 40 minutes to do his job in defence. 25-30 tackles will be fine, and the extra weight will really help his attack.

Chiefs cousin

Did Gowie have a hair transplant?

Big Derek

On the occasions I have attending training, the most encouraging feature is that the juniors playing in the contact sessions are standing out , not because they are raw or intimidated, but that they are at the minimum up to it. Schneider and Mahoney as starting hookers delivered crisp feeds, and very aggressive defence. Both stayed back to work on some techniques, willing to do the extras which is always a good sign. Stefano, Oregan and Faiinga were probably only outshone by Junior in the forwards. The physical battle between Fergo and Parry, was of the welcome to the NRL… Read more »


Sixties. I caught the prelim final Eels v Dogs from 2009 on FOX last week it it reminded me of two things. 1) we had a bunch of average names that played well (Kingston, Mortimer, Keating etc) and 2) we were the kings of the offload. (& perhaps 3, we played with confidence of course). It gives me hope for 2019 as we don’t have big name players once again, but blokes capabale of playing above themselves if they find some confidence. All I need now is for you to tell us fans that the eels are focussing on offloading… Read more »

The rev aka Snedden

Good read sixties. I’m looking forward to reading the signings & if anymore are coming. Just a quick question. If Johnston ask for a release from South’s n Robert Jennings doesn’t re-sign do we make a play for either 1 of them ? Good to see the boys ripping into training it seams like a happy place. From the pictures you are posting looks like big JP is in for a big yeah but in saying that so does marata nikuor his looking very fit💪🏋 If we signed Johnston this would be my lineup. #1 Johnston #2 Ferguson #3 Gutherson… Read more »


Rev do we need another outside back? I am not sure tbh. but take your point.

Leo toohey

Coaches never worry about who we should get they just concentrate on who they have got mate ,

The rev aka Snedden

Sorry my son just saw something on the news about Johnston not happy being told by Bennett that his playing on the wing.


The rev aka Snedden

Ok all good


As always 60s thank you for giving us our footy fix, i really hope to a few junior players get a run i will except another year without finals if it leads to a big development year i would be very keen to see a Brown/Moses halves pairing


Another festivas read Sixties and co. Thank you.
When talking about the pit, are talking something big in size? What dimensions are we roughly talking about?


Ok that’s a fair size and seems to me your stage 2/3 teaching estimation was ok….for me the defence factor and ruck play for Parra (in defence and attack) this season was a little down on last yr. Important to improve this part. As Penalties at times, albeit controversial had an impact on the results and confidence.


Thank you and that makes sense and sounds good.
Repair being Jiminez?

John Eel

Milo I am glad you worked it out! He has got me a couple of times this week with Baz and Repair.


Maybe Beurepairs John?


Tepai I think


Was wondering about Jnr Paulo’s agility @ 125/130 kgs. Good info sixties, little grabs that matter.
Niukore runs hard, tackles hard, low error rate, strong temperament. Great fundamentals waiting for that winning feeling.

The rev aka Snedden

Sixties can you see in your crystal ball n see if you can see nikuor n lane as our starting back row as I just don’t see where Manu fits in in 2019 or nikour n moeroa with Nathan brown our lock. I personally think that Manu mu’a is passed it. If I was Parra I would let him go to the West tiger’s or Souths. What’s your thoughts on Manu mu’a’s training

Leo toohey

Hes reinvigorated ,fitter ,stronger and said himself hes got a point to prove , most looked past it season gone .

The rev aka Snedden

Every one always says we have a point to prove. 😁

Paul taylor

Thanks again . Best supporters site by. Mile.

Hearing that Levi is in his way . I rate the kid , tough bugger.

Is the big Fijian winger still in rehab mate ?


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