It was a bit of a hike over to Revesby for the Harold Matthews and SG Ball trials versus the Bulldogs, but the surprisingly mild and breezy conditions made for pleasant spectator conditions. Importantly, the players themselves would not be subject to the energy sapping heat of the past six days.
Even though there were omissions galore across the two grades, something like one hundred junior players pulled on the blue and gold jersey today in front of Eels coach, Brad Arthur.This included the boys from New Zealand and interstate who visited NRL training on Friday.
Players from these trials might go on to represent the Eels in the Harold Matthew and SG Ball competition, or in the Laurie Daley and Andrew Johns Cups. For others, the camps and trials have meant a journey away from home, and they might return home and remain part of the Eels system from their home base.
The other aspect is that with so many players, you can’t expect combinations. For the coaches, Joey Grima and Anthony Field, the keen football eyes they possess will pick up the one percent moments that the genuine football players provide and that might not show up to people like myself on first viewing.
Many people like me will notice bigger moments as they happen, and with trials, young players are trying to create an impression. The players who can do things to make others look good are the jewels to look for. This is where the real talent spotters are worth their weight in gold.
The Matts were organised into two teams for two halves – a Blue team and a Gold Team. The Ball was organised into three teams for three contests. Circumstances created an additional contest in the Ball match.
With so many players in action, you’ll have to excuse any incorrect identification of players or lack of recognition for young blokes who didn’t get highlight moments but still got their job done.
Here’s a quick run down of the action:
Harold Matts (under 16)
Blue Team Trial
The Eels played expansive footy to start the game and were rewarded by a powerful try to Eels prop, Larry Muagututia. Immediately after this, trouble ensued.
This was a big Bulldogs team, and they started to find the going far too easy down Parra’s left side. The hit and stick was missing as the Dogs ran in four unanswered tries.
On the right side, winger Patrick Luatuanuu did a good job shutting down a number of Dogs raids.
A try to standout player of the match, Miles Martin, narrowed the score to 4 – 2. On the back of an Eels break he charged through a scattered ruck defence.
The big Dogs centre who’d been causing problems all day was then back to his old tricks with another try down the Eels right, to extend the Dogs lead to 5 – 2.
After a couple of nervous moments early in the match, Cody Parry, the younger brother of Ethan Parry, imposed himself on the match. The young fullback grabbed a close range try next to the ruck and then followed it up by picking up a loose ball to outpace the defence in a length of the field dash. This reduced the score to 5 – 4 and concluded the scoring.
Players to provide moments to catch my eye included dummy half Vlado Jankovic, Ezra Howe, Daniel Ah Chong and big prop Felix Faatili. My aforementioned standout, Miles Martin, is a genuine footballer who reads the game very well. Though playing in the 3 jersey, he was in action around first receiver. His defensive altitude and technique caught my attention too.
Gold Team Trial
This was a tighter match in terms of opportunities created by both teams. There were less last play options executed from both teams, with Parra in particular throwing a big forward charge at the line rather than getting expansive or going to the air.
The Dogs opened the scoring with a try down their left side followed by a try from dummy half.
The Eels replied with a try to Spencer Tuala on the back of a big run from Josh Alhazim.
The highlight moment of the match was provided by Declan Murray who brought down a likely intercept try with a superb 70 metre chase. The scrambling defence then kept the Dogs out for the rest of the set.
No more scores were added. Two tries to one to the Dogs.
Others to impress included middle forward Cayne Nicholas who provided high energy in both attack and defence, and fullback Danny Gabrael who provided one magnificent carry from his own in goal when under extreme pressure.
S G Ball (under 18)
Unfortunately, a serious ankle injury to a Bulldogs player in what was planned as the first of three thirds seemed to change the course of the trial. With an extended period of medical attention required, the players were brought off the field.
My apologies for what then becomes a less detailed report as three further periods were then played, but the combinations appeared to have changed. I was under the impression that when play resumed, it was players listed for the second period. I might get players incorrect or not give appropriate credit.
There also seemed to be a huge number of likely S G Ball squad members missing from this trial.
Given the nature of this trial, I’m going to write it up as a single event.
Prior to the injury, the Dogs had opened the scoring with two tries. The Eels had then responded with a try to prop Taylor Mauala off a delightful ball provided by lock Desmond Raukete.
Mauala provided a highlight later in the trial when he took three hit ups in a set of six, and provided an offload off his final carry.
The TCT standout player, Charlie Murray, provided the next try with a superb kick and regather. A try to Queensland based dummy half, Cameron Bateup put the Eels in front, before the Dogs levelled the score soon after.
In the last ten minutes of the trial the Eels added three tries, to Logan Jones, Sunia Siasau and Braithen Vaughan – Aspin. Credit to Samuel Loizou for a great pass to set up Vaughan-Aspin’s try. The final try tally was Eels 6, Dogs 3.
As noted earlier, Charlie Murray had a particularly good trial. He’s quite big for a first receiver, but competes in everything and is very tough. Like Miles Murray in the Matts trial, he reads the game quite well and his kicking game caused problems for the Dogs.
Another player to deserve a mention was back rower Uinitoni Mataeli. His work rate was first class across the entire trial.
The next trials will be at St Patrick’s, Blacktown.
TCT extends our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured Bulldogs player.