In a recent interview, Tepai made reference to how many “Malcolms” the squad have been completing at training.
These strangely named conditioning drills have the players running different intervals, hitting the ground frequently during the run. Imagine a middle distance runner hitting the ground every ten or twenty metres and you get a sense of what the players are asked to do.
There was no shortage of Malcolms towards the end of today’s session. After asking a couple of the players after training about the name “Malcolm” – and my thought is that if Jimenez has named it after someone, that person was obviously a bastard – a “generous” offer was made by Dylan Brown to our group of spectators.
“Would you like to join in?”
“Thanks. But no thanks. Not unless you’ve got an ambulance on standby.”
The opposed work under the control of NRL referees including Gavin Badger was undoubtedly the feature of today, but I suspect that some of the greatest benefit was the way the squad was forced to dig deep in their conditioning. For me, they’ll draw great confidence from this pre-season.
The opposed session was far from perfect. There were some scrappy moments, especially from the Red team, though on occasion this was the result of defensive pressure. Nonetheless, there were definitely some coachable moments to arise from the hit out.
* An impressive high take of a kick by Sivo to score for the Reds
* Sivo’s spectacular fingertips catch of a line dropout – he’s still not doing full contact but we saw more of his skill base today
* Marata’s incredible chase to round up a flying Will Smith after the fleet footed back had taken an intercept and looked certain to score – this type of effort in a training run, in the heat, says plenty about a player’s desire to compete
* Kaufusi hammering the line with powerful charges
* Kane Evans busting into the clear after hitting a gap next to the ruck
* Tepai Moeroa being very vocal, urging his team mates on
* David “Jason Smith” Gower again directing the young Reds
* Kyle Schneider sharp and very composed at dummy half for the Reds
* The Blue forwards delivering plenty of defensive muscle
Some of the opposed session was played as two hand touch. This brought speed to the ruck and caused the defence to back peddle, giving the attack an opportunity to show if they could take advantage of an unsettled defence.
After the “Malcoms” were thrown in at the latter stages of the session, the players were still expected to complete a very physical defensive drill.
Apart from the usual suspects, two players to catch the eye during the conditioning were Manu Ma’u and Michael Jennings. They are looking very fit.
Jaeman Salmon, Nathan Brown, Blake Ferguson and Brad Takairangi were all running in rehab today. I can’t comment on how long that will be for, but they all looked to be running freely.
However, watching Ferguson in action was an eye-opener for me and I’d like to share it with fellow supporters. Not only was he busting a gut in his work (and I reckon he was revelling in how demanding it was), but he was also yelling encouragement to the players on the field during his breaks.
Furthermore, he spent time mentoring Salmon as they watched and discussed the backline play, then worked on some ball skills themselves.
This type of leadership and mentoring from a premiership winning player will be invaluable to the young backs coming through the Eels system.
Quick Reminder – Junior Reps
For those interested, the Junior Reps will be trialling against Penrith at St Pats High School, Blacktown on Thursday and Friday evening.
The Tarsha Gale, 15s Development and Laurie Daley Cup teams will be playing from 4:30pm on Thursday.
The Harold Matts, Andrew Johns and SG Ball will take the fields from 6:30pm on Friday.
After many of the players were rested from last week’s trials, you’re likely to see a bit more team work with some established combinations on show. These clashes with Penrith are always highly contested, even trials. It’s well worth getting to, especially if you’re a local.