Mark down the date.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, today we witnessed the impossible become reality. Today Jaeman Salmon beat home Clint Gutherson over 400 metres.
A little digging revealed that Gutho may not have been at the starting line when the run started, but the fact remained that he quickly found Salmon’s shoulder, and still the apprentice held off the master for the final 300 metres.
This was unquestionably our talking point in what was a savage conditioning session. Here’s how the morning was structured.
The field work began in the hands of Lachlan Wilmot. As reported a couple of weeks ago, strength, flexibility, balance are core elements of his work. You’ll witness strengthening work with rubber bands (for glutes), hurdles, and players working on accelerating and running without using their arms.
We were all surprised by Polar’s top pace during this warm up. The big fella can motor when he opens up.
From there it was into what appeared to be attacking drills within the opposition quarter. There’s always a defensive component to such drills, but given the structure of the work, I’ve little doubt that this was mostly about attack.
Once again the work was scaffolded – from unopposed to opposed. Left side only, then right side only onto full field width.
The different options were trained. There were a number of structured alternatives, but there were also instances where the individual appeared to play what was in front of them.
The standard was a little varied this morning. At times the play opened up the holes that you’d hope it would. At other times the improvised caught the defence out. There were also times when the play broke down under defensive pressure.
In other words, this morning was typical of players learning the play book whilst becoming accustomed to relatively new combinations.
Nowhere To Hide
This was one of the most brutal conditioning sessions of the pre-season. Most of the movements appeared to be defence themed, and Adrian Jimenez was taking no prisoners.
With other staff, including BA, moving around to deal with individuals, Jimenez barked at the players, keeping it real about what it would take to be a successful NRL player and a successful NRL team.
In one fifteen minute drill, the players must have hit the ground somewhere between 50 – 60 times – simulating the up and down nature of footy. Except every player in this drill was involved in 50 – 60 tackles each.
As if running intervals and getting up and down off the ground wasn’t enough, some 400 metre runs were thrown in for good measure.
Stand up Jaeman Salmon.
Gutho didn’t get the jump on the squad at the start (he was busy with something apparently), and that was all Salmon needed to get to the front and stay there. Brown was just behind those two.
Adding credibility to Gutho missing the start was his performance in the next 400 metre circuit. He got to the front and Salmon and Brown couldn’t get close.
Finally, the squad was split into four groups for relentless sets of runs across the field. Front row, halves and hookers, outside backs and back rowers made up the four groups.
The rest time between runs was close to negligible. If you fell behind, there was no rest. It was a brutal way to conclude the morning.
Leadership, or lack thereof, is a criticism which has been levelled at the Eels over recent years. Given that Mannah and Gutherson wear the C, they’ve copped a lot of the brunt.
I’d argue that our halves are the ones that need to be leaders, given the control that they have over the destiny of a match. They have to call the plays, push/direct players around, bark at the forwards.
Our two captains regularly show their leadership qualities at training. From leading the conditioning work, to demanding better efforts from their team mates and spending time with younger players, they make their presence known.
Today, both captains dropped back in their running groups to push/encourage a couple of players struggling with a tough session. You could literally see those players lift with that encouragement.
Given that this Wednesday afternoon is the Open Training Day for Eels members, there will be no midweek training report. Instead, let’s see plenty of members fill Saleyards to watch how hard the squad is working.