The wait is finally over for many of the squad. The first of the pre-season trials will take place this Thursday at Ringrose Park, and the players involved are champing at the bit. It’s also a significant event for our opponents, South Sydney, who’ve recently severed ties with Norths and will now field Rabbitohs teams in the lower grades.
For those supporters unaware of the details, the Flegg will be kicking off their trial at 5pm, with ISP starting at 7pm. This will be a tremendous opportunity to watch some young Eels talent up close.
Of course, the inclusion of a match in the week’s schedule completely changes the training program for the week. As a consequence, I’m putting the last two days together into the single report.
Only half of the squad were involved in the field session. Every player involved in Thursday’s trial was given a lighter load, with some morning gym work placed on their agenda.
After warming up, the squad worked on their left, and then their right side attack, with play restricted to the respective corridors. The combinations are definitely starting to warm to the task.
The team then worked full field through their attacking shapes, as they took sets of six unopposed. This was basically like observing a Captain’s run.
An important inclusion today was Nathan Brown. After returning from rehab, this was his first run in a field session since before Christmas. He was still wearing orange (no contact) but today was a big step in his return.
Contact was eventually included as the squad completed a tight defensive drill. Players were singled out for praise for their impact and communication.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a pre-season session without Adrian Jimenez taking the squad through a sequence of runs. The players finished with sets of sprints – it appeared to be 50m, 70m and 100m
The four players to catch the eye were Gutho, Will Smith, Dylan Brown and Reed Mahoney. I had my money on Will Smith over the 100 metres and he was right up there, finishing second to Brown in one sprint and second to Gutho in the final sprint. Typically, the King finished the session with a win!
We caught up with Dunster, Fainga’a, Kaufusi and Utoikamanu as they left Saleyards late in the morning. Thursday can’t come soon enough for them.
The full squad worked together in a decent opposed session. There was a collection of media there grabbing footage as the team completed skills work with Murf, but they were moved along as the opposed became serious.
Brad Arthur provided guidance for the ISP players who were in Gold for the hit out. With Thursday’s trial two days away, and the chance to keep pushing claims for an NRL berth on the line, the players looked to have their game faces on.
In a willing contest, the NRL team (Blue) had too much firepower for the Golds. The highlights were:
* Tepai’s powerful charge to the line after a great ball from Polar (Chugga)
* A determined effort by Gutherson to carry two defenders over the line then force the ball
* Taka providing a glimpse of his best centre form as he first charged into the defence then offloaded in traffic to his support.
* Salmon, at five-eighth for the Gold, swooping on a loose ball about 20 metres out from his line and only just being brought down short of a try
* A clever kick on the run from Schneider for French (Gold) that was only just denied a try
* Marata, the big human, proving unstoppable from short range in his try
* Junior Paulo looking fitter than ever
* Will Smith interchanging with Dylan Brown at five-eighth
* Great scramble and defensive energy off the line from the Blues to deny the Golds multiple scoring opportunities.
The session concluded with the typical extras. Players regularly drive this additional work. Sometimes they might grab a coach to work on a particular skill. On other occasions, the players will work with another player on kicking, passing, play the balls etc.
We were fortunate to grab about five – ten minutes with Adrian today. Amongst other things, we learnt that the “Malcolms” were named after former English International and Newcastle Knights coach, Mal Reilly.
Anyone who saw Reilly in action knew he was a tough bastard, so this revelation had me nodding my head. With a reputation for being a hard head who was incredibly fit, Reilly demanded that same toughness and fitness from his players. The Malcolm is a legacy felt by players at a few NRL clubs.