It’s a very uncomfortable existence dealing with the furnace that is western Sydney this week. For the Parramatta Eels, it was so hot at Saleyards I wasn’t sure whether they were training for the Premiership or for that place down below. And if heading down there is hotter than the greater west, then it’s time for me to steer clear of a few sins!
An early start ensured that the players weren’t slogging it out in the middle of the day, but the temperature was still oppressive. To be honest, I questioned my sanity standing on the running track to watch a footy team train!
As for the players, you have to respect what they delivered in today’s conditions.
You can take it as a given that the session included a chunk of conditioning, and that Reed Mahoney was outstanding. However, most of you are probably more interested in knowing that the opposed session was the the focus.
Again the NRL whistleblowers were in action, and they had a bit more to do under today’s conditions. There was even a penalty blown for a high shot – which I’ll put down to getting scrappy under fatigue. Fortunately, the Eels won the penalty count.
The Blue team (NRL) were given a bit more time in possession than the Reds this morning. A flood of four pointers followed in a session which looked to be working on attacking combinations.
* Great lines run by the forwards. Tries were scored by Polar and Junior, with Marata notching up a double.
* Shifts out wide were earned and resulted in the Jennings brothers, Gutho and Munz all crossing the line.
* Gowie demonstrating his leadership with the Reds. The majority of the young players were donning the Red shirts today, and Gower was barking orders and reminders at them throughout the opposed work. Likewise, when Mannah was swapped into the Reds he was straight into them about their body language.
* Dunster smashing French in a powerful kick/chase and tackle
* Dylan Brown’s composure and quality service in the halves.
* Stefano making a try saver with a one on one wrestle to keep his opponent from grounding the ball.
* Jimenez prowling behind the defence line, snapping at everyone to work harder, reminding them that this is what they’ve been preparing for
Apart from a period of two hand touch, the physicality of the contest was impossible to ignore. Every time I glanced away from the tackle to watch the work off the ball, my attention was drawn back via the sound of the collisions.
The attack wasn’t perfect. There was the odd pass not finding its mark but I’ll also make some allowances for the conditions. It truly was oppressive, but then again the NRL do insist on scheduling afternoon games in March.
The session was concluded with around 10 – 15 minutes of defensive drills. The squad was split into three groups so that every player would be involved as they practised their tackling around the ruck. The ball carriers hit it up hard so that there was value in the contest for the defenders. It was an opportunity to fine tune the techniques they practise in the sand pit.
In this report, I’ve highlighted the talk from David Gower. It’s worth expanding on.
There were some supporters surprised by Gowie going around for one more season. Long acknowledged as one of the sharpest minds in the playing group and a go to man at press calls, David also has an important role with so many young players in the squad. He’s a fantastic role model and mentor. He doesn’t just lead by example, he’s continually barking reminders and providing advice.
Such was the case today, and we were fortunate to be close enough to the action to hear him at work.
For anyone visiting Old Saleyards, keep an eye on the contribution of Gowie. You’ll have no doubt about why he earned his current contract.
A Final Word.
Over the final weeks of the pre-season I’m going to monitor the efforts of the more experienced players.
The round 1 team will mostly comprise experienced NRL players and I’ll be looking to make my predictions on the starting team.
Just on that – apart from Brown, I’m not expecting any early season debuts from the younger brigade. (Note – Kaufusi debuted last year.)
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, the younger players will be expected to display and consolidate their form at ISP level to earn their shot.
Secondly, unless one of them earns a Top 30 spot, most of those younger players won’t be eligible for a call up until after June 30.
This pre-season has been the start of their NRL journey. If they transfer what they are providing on the training paddock to match days, their time will come soon enough.
Will I be crazy enough to turn up for Friday’s training? Refer to my questionable sanity for that answer.