This season the Parramatta Eels will be returning to their spiritual home – Cumberland Oval/BankWest Stadium.
Today, it was another return to the past as the Eels gathered on the hallowed fields of Richie Benaud Oval. The event had been kept very quiet, but it was definitely one of the “highlights” of the pre-season.
More on that later.
Earlier in the morning, the field session unfolded at Old Saleyards with more opposed work under the control of NRL referees. This was one of the more contrived sessions with first the Red team, then the Blue, given extended periods of possession.
As noted in previous training posts, this provides the defenders with varied scenarios, depending on where the restart was dictated. This could be from a drop out, a scrum, a tap or a turnover. There was very little set for set exchanges.
Once again it was not a perfect session. That said, the commitment and execution in defence was impressive, and the standard of the footy improved during the course of the morning.
Unfortunately, with some phone issues impacting my morning, I was not able to jot down my usual reminder notes. My apologies for this post not being as detailed as usual.
Opposed and Defence Drill Highlights
* A powerful Shaun Lane charge at the line was rewarded with a try close to the posts
* Strong lead up work by Schneider and French created a try in the corner for Haze Dunster
* Maika Sivo was able to showcase some of his pace after being put into space by Rhys Davies (Wenty)
* A classic wingers try was scored by Blake Ferguson. The way he used his pace to get on the outside of his opposite from about 30 metres out following a backline shift was a thing of beauty
* Tepai Moeroa continues to demonstrate that he is stepping up to a leadership role with plenty of talk directed at his team mates, urging them on
* Tight defensive lines and good communication was a feature of the defence drills
* Marata Niukore and Salesi Fainga’a ensured the defence worked hard with impressive post contact metres during the drills
* The team finished the session with a solid set of “Malcolms”
* Mannah and French both addressed the squad at the conclusion of the session with strong words about staying focussed and setting goals for the following week – the players know that they need to take ownership of their play and it’s good to see a range of players stepping up.
The Cricket Cup – Gold Caps (Australia) vs The World
In a superb afternoon of fun, coupled with a healthy dose of team bonding, the Parramatta players organised their own prelude to long weekend celebrations with a cricket clash at Richie Benaud Oval.
With the Rest of the World team in their specially made cricket whites, and the Australian team in their gold caps, the banter flew thick and fast as the players demonstrated why they chose a career in rugby league.
It was not exactly the classical cricket encounter between two first 11s. There were few spaces to be found with about twenty fielders per team. The staffing “ring-ins” bolstered each team, but the standard of fielding compensated for lack of open spaces.
Wickets and boundaries attracted raucous celebrations, and a few select players earned the honour of retiring not out. Unless my score keeping was sadly astray, that magical retirement seemed to arrive after scoring a grand total of 12 runs or more.
A junior cricketer of some renown, Nathan Brown retired with two scoring shots off about four deliveries. Others who looked “comfortable” wielding the willow included Fergo, Gutho, Salesi, Moses, Baz and Stoney.
A big over from Dave Kidwell for the World team nearly turned the match on its head with what seemed like 20 dismissals. The finger of umpire Adrian Jimenez looked to be permanently raised in a sequence of decisions going the Rest of the World’s way.
Ultimately, the World couldn’t quite defend its total and the Gold caps were victorious.
This was an enjoyable gathering for the players, organised by the players themselves, before they get a few days break. Earlier in the post I used the term “highlight” to describe the afternoon. Whilst there were no C grade cricketers around Sydney under threat of losing their spots from this afternoon’s highlight, you could watch the fun and bonding in action for a squad who’d been all business at every session.
Have a wonderful Australia Day everyone.
(Photos courtesy of Parra Eels and Parrathruandthru)