The long weekend is now in the rear view mirror.
Parents are rejoicing with schools open for the new year.
Supermarkets are stocking up for Easter.
All the road signs are indicating that the footy season is getting closer. Can you feel it?
I guarantee that the players are, and they’re champing at the bit for the trials.
For anyone who’s forgotten, the first trial is next Thursday at Ringrose Park when the Eels take on the Rabbitohs. Though this is listed as an ISP trial, I’m expecting plenty of Eels contracted players to take the field. As such, it offers a brilliant opportunity for supporters to check out some of the younger Eels that I’ve reported on this pre-season.
Hopefully people are including a trip to Wentworthville in their calendar for next week.
For Eels players, the footy focus has definitely kicked up a notch at Saleyards. That’s not to say that they aren’t still pushing their conditioning. The players continue to have their stamina tested via “Malcolms” during breaks in the opposed work.
However, the balance is definitely shifting towards combinations and execution in the training.
This was the scenario today as the squad came off a long weekend break and kicked into the fourth week of training for the new year.
After commencing the session in the hands of Lachlan Wilmot for warm ups and running mechanics, the squad worked on their ball skills via some grid drills. This would be the prelude to an extended opposed session.
There were no NRL referees in attendance so Mick Potter donned the pink shirt. Given that he was offering coaching advice whilst officiating, he looked and sounded the part.
Though the play was stopped and started for instructions and conditioning, and a quick game of two hand touch, there was a bit of match day element as Moses took conversions and penalty kicks. All were successful.
The Blues team were dominant and as they were running towards our vantage point, the talk and calls were clearly audible. It was encouraging to hear both the senior players and younger blokes calling out their reminders and encouragement.
* George Jennings running a tremendous line to cross for the first four pointer
* The composed decision making and selective passing of Dylan Brown.
* Manu Ma’u hitting space close to the line for a try.
* A Mitch Moses 40/20
* A solid performance from Marata Niukore in both attack and defence, with a couple of big moments celebrated by his team mates.
* Mannah and Polar gaining great metres in their carries
* A number of players having opportunities with the Blue team, including Hoffman, French, Terepo, Evans and Takairangi. I’m prepared to call Terepo a likely bench inclusion.
* A terrific offload from Fainga’a in traffic to put Rhys Davies into space
* Nathan Brown calling out instructions to the younger players during his rest periods in rehab
* Mannah mentoring Utoikamanu during extras in techniques to get a quick play the ball
I’m very grateful for the tremendous images captured by Ben from Eels media, as there were a couple of images that I wanted to include to emphasise the defensive commitment and intent on display today.
Such is the focus of the players, those in orange sometimes forget their restrictions, and the tacklers rely on calls of “orange” from their team. Obviously all the impacts aren’t up to NRL match days, but the odd collision sometimes challenges that notion. For a reference point, look at the expression on the face of a player like Peni Terepo as he prepares to make a tackle.
Conversely, those carrying the footy look to win the contest just as much.
In this included action shot of Ferguson, you can see him straining to break free of the tackle of Stefano Utoikamanu. The senior players, like Fergo, are raising the bar now. This augers well for learning curve of the younger blokes.
For any supporter, this is what you’d want to see.
At the end of the opposed work, the players split into two groups. One group stayed with trainers Alex and Adrian, with additional conditioning on the menu. The others worked on extras such as kicking, catching and passing.
This will be my only training report for the week.
Normal transmission will resume next Monday.
Credit to Eels media for the images used.