The Cumberland Throw

What We Learned – Jersey Flegg & ISP Trials vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

The first fixtures of the preseason are in the books and while the Eels failed to register a ‘W’ in either the Jersey Flegg or Intrust Super Premiership trials – it was far from all doom and gloom. Naturally anyone trying to read the tea leaves or peer into the murky depths of a crystal ball for either grade in the first week of February have more in common with a gypsy fortune teller than a predictive mastermind. With that said, there are legitimate concerns to come out of this evening for both teams so let’s jump into the good and bad from today’s action.

 

Jersey Flegg – South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 def. Parramatta Eels 4 (No conversion attempts)

 

This match started out surprisingly clean with both teams generally executing well through the first quarter. Both the Eels and the Rabbitohs laid down the wood with some crunching hits in defence. Parramatta had a number of early opportunities to post first points but the touch on finishing passes and momentary lapses of concentration saw South Sydney take first blood against the run of play when a J.P. Nohra grubber kick was returned 65m down field with the visitors then scoring on the next play.

Souths would add one more try before half-time and another after the break before the Eels finally replied via a Joe Small scoop and score following a line break from new recruit Arron Shelford. A soft error in the resultant kick-off set allowed the Rabbitohs to score one last try leading to our final score of 16-4.

As you can imagine at this time of the year, fatigue and a very apparent lack of match fitness quickly crept into the affair for both teams. Anecdotally it felt like both teams made a similar amount of errors but the Eels were more consistently coughing up possession in their half – which quite likely resulted in the 12-point differential on the scoreboard.

Jesse Cronin was comfortably the best Eel on the park today. Damaging with and without the ball, Cronin created turnovers and (positive) penalties for Parramatta with his hard-hitting defence and surging carries.

Making his long awaited return from North QLD, halfback Bailey Biondi-Odo started the game in terrific touch. Well laced kicks, heads up defence and steady involvement in attack were the hall marks of his first two quarters of play. He struggled to maintain that level of play later into the game, partially due to a weaker forward platform, but equally a learning moment for the young play-maker.

Hailing from way of Burleigh, backrower Arron Shelford looked a fair imitation of a young Tepai Moeroa when he first took to the field. Working down the left-edge with Biondi-Odo, William Kei and Taufa Afu, Shelford looked sharp with the ball in hand and laid down some crunching hits in defence. He also laid the ground work for our only try of the day after slicing through the defensive line via a pass from Jayden Yates. Arron would beat the fullback with a right-foot step only to have the ball reefed out of his possession by a cover defender at the last moment. Fortunately, heady support play from Small saw the winger dive on the loose pill to score.

Right now I would caution fans to show a pretty hefty dose of patience with this young roster. Not only are seven of their best players (Ethan Parry, Haze Dunster, Dylan Brown, Jaeman Salmon, Kyle Schneider, Oregon Kaufusi, Stefano Utoikamanu) likely to be unavailable for the majority of the season due to senior responsibilities, they are also missing key players like Joe Taipari, John Fonua and Noel Aukafolau care of long-term injuries sustained in 2018.

Big picture, it feels like Parramatta will need to find both more strike power and greater consistency from their middle forwards and there is perhaps a lack of genuine speed out wide. We are but one game into the preseason mind you so I will save the scorching hot takes for a later date!

 

Intrust Super Premiership – South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 def. Parramatta Eels/Wentworthville Magpies 4

 

It was more of the same for the Eels in the ISP trial as South Sydney exploited a fragile right-edge en route to a comfortable 16-point victory. Unlike the Jersey Flegg result, where I find it easier and perhaps more reasonable to rationalise the loss away on account of factors like inexperience, injuries and unavailability – there are starker takeaways to come out of this match.

Two of the most senior players on the field struggled mightily today in Bevan French and Kane Evans. It isn’t exactly uncommon knowledge that both French and Evans are caught behind other players in their respective positional groups and they did not help their causes today. French (3 knock-ons, 2 passes into touch) and Evans (3 knock-ons) were criminally guilty of over-playing their hands and gifting the Rabbitohs possession and field position.

It would be horribly unfair to write either player off given it is just one week into February but they have a mountain of work ahead of them at this stage.

Peni Terepo, on the other hand, looked like he had not missed a beat following his breakout campaign in 2018. South Sydney struggled to contain Terepo through the middle and it was a trademark barnstorming run from ‘Baz’ that allowed Kyle Schneider to rip a monstrous 40/20 that led directly to Greg Leleisiuao’s try. The battle for a place on the first-grade bench will be fiercely contested but Terepo definitely struck an early blow for his cause today.

It was a day for the new guard beyond that with the likes of Ethan Parry, Kyle Schneider, Salesi Fainga’a, Oregon Kaufusi and Stefano Utoikamanu all shining in limited opportunities. Fellow rising rookie Haze Dunster was dealt a tougher hand today, bleeding two tries to his opposite number but I fully expect him to rebound in the coming trials.

Halves depth might be something of an issue in the ISP for Parramatta. Jaeman Salmon struggled to make an impact at five-eighth today but he projects to centre in first-grade. Indeed, the Eels have a number of back-up five-eighths at their disposal. From Will Smith and Brad Takairangi to the Wenty-contracted Rhys Davies and even French if needed, they can certainly fill the #6 jersey. Instead, they lack a stabilising ball-handler or use more conventional terminology – a controlling half. How big of a handicap this could prove to be remains to be seen but on first take I do think Wenty might struggle to close out tight games as a result.

We have come into seasons prior billing Wenty for great things on the back of solid NRL depth. Regardless of whether the Eels have soared (2017) or flat-lined (2018) in recent seasons, the Magpies have found ways to be singularly ineffective. It is hard to champion for lofty expectations in 2019 in light of that but I honestly do think there is a healthy dose of talent and potential in the ISP roster this year – both helped and hindered equally by its accompanied youth. I am intrigued to see what new coach Rip Taylor can do for this roster brimming with youthful talent given he is one of the most storied coaches in the history of the NSW Cup/ISP.

The coming weeks will give us a clearer indication of exactly where our ISP expectations should lie, be sure to join us at TCT for all the coverage and breakdowns in the run to Round 1!

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Poppa
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Poppa

Agree with the summation, Flegg early days…..BUT that ISP is a disaster. Before I get carried away, I understand and accept that “one swallow” does not a summer make……BUT….that side was face value very good with a number of players participating strongly in all the contact work pre season. You would have to argue that Souths should have been behind us in preparation given the coaching disruptions etc…….our blokes had so much to play for including the motivation of last seasons disaster. Now I didn’t see the game and so I have no intention of analysing why…..but the face value… Read more »

Hamsammich
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Hamsammich

Funny how you blame the coaches for French and Evans trying to be heroes and making massive mistakes yet don’t praise them for the well-played games of: Terepo, Parry, Schneider, Kaufusi, and Utoikamanu. Nobody’s happy with the result but it is good knowing that French and Evans aren’t as coachable as the young guys.

colin hussey
Guest

Ham, my comments below were written after your post but before I read it. The highlights on French and Evans and their mistakes no doubt will have them totally assessing their futures along with the coaching staff, also especially with French as I mention in my first post, has he put too much pressure on himself to succeed and therefore overplayed his hand, I did not see the game so no idea on that. As for the coachable aspect, I am still of the belief that coaches do their best with all players, and the players themselves are responsible for… Read more »

Hamsammich
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Hamsammich

Even before this trial I didn’t think French or Evans would’ve been in contention for first grade come round 1. Both need to settle down and play what’s in front of them. That means looking to run the ball and hold onto it as much as they can. Both possess a good pass (or offload in Evans’ case) but currently neither know how or when to do it. It seems they are in two minds about what they want to do. Their first, and second thought should be run. For both, outside of their mistakes both made some good runs… Read more »

Bob jay
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Bob jay

Ham lets just try and find a buyer now , both duds .

John Eel
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John Eel

They tried during the off-season without any luck. Here’s hoping they can rediscover their form

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Ham, don’t misunderstand my critique to the extent of criticising the coaches with respect to just French and Evans, the positives you refer to I will not in a paragraph respond to say ” besides my criticism’ lets congratulate every one that played well, and the coaching staff”. That would be disingenous in this type of forum and invokes a feeling that we are too precious to critique. Notwithstanding the performances of some both positive and negative the reality is they lost the game 20-4. Yes I am disappointed in that and yes I aknowledge it is early days and… Read more »

Poppa
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Poppa

Sorry that last comment was me and not Anon…..seems I didn’t login properly. Apologies.

sixties
Admin

Poppa. I only saw half of the Flegg before being having to leave, so I can’t comment on what I observed. However, I’ve spoken to about six people last night and today and I’ve drawn some conclusions. 1. We wanted to know how the young players measured up after a strong preseason. It was mostly a huge tick. Couldn’t have asked for more. 2. We know the exposed form of players such as French and Evans. Both committed far too many errors and appear to be moving far away from what they need to be doing. No problem with attitude.… Read more »

Drew
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Drew

My question is, if this was a trial and they wanted to see the young guys step up, why did they play Salmon at 6 instead of showcasing his pre season training at center? and in regards to that has he been training at left and right side? Did they not have anyone else to trial at 6? I was disappointed seeing him play 6, very curious about his progress in regards to switching positions. Sad to hear about French I’m a massive fan of his at 1, I still think Guthos best spot is centre not taking anything away… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Drew, I’m fairly sure that Will Smith would have played in the halves if he was fit. I wouldn’t worry too much. It doesn’t hurt a young player like Salmon to play in a trial.
For me, a forty minute trial in ISP was more about looking at individual performance rather than team goals. Obviously you want communication and line speed to help attack and defence gel, but my feedback is that the young players produced what they were looking for.

mitch
Admin

I think this is a great question, albeit one with a clear answer. Shame we dont have greater depth available at the moment.

colin hussey
Guest

sixties, regarding French. I can only say this from the perspective of someone who did not see him play, but as you also mention, his attitude at training, his interviews all point to a young player who is positive, yet he is still showing the signs of his poor form last season. Your earlier comment of them both overplaying their hands (including Evans) makes me wonder if that overplaying is more of panic or impatience in his play and is trying to hard to show what he has and falling down as a result. I believe he has a lot… Read more »

Hamsammich
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Hamsammich

You’re being disingenuous because you’re saying the coaching staff has failed because 2 players had woeful games whilst not acknowledging those that had good games. “Too precious to critique”? Good one mate, French and Evans were bad, the young guys were the best and a lot were average. To me that says more about French and Evans than it does anyone else. You’re trying to shift the blame onto those who don’t deserve it, all because you didn’t watch the game. The staff adopted a very trial-like atmosphere? In the first half 15 players were used. That’s all I care… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

Ham, thanks for the clarification, especially with the time on the field aspect. How long did French play for? I said earlier that I am not that impressed with Evans, but I am concerned for Bev, but hopeful that he will see things as they are and he’s really the only person able to fix things, I just hope he does.

What was the injury to Stone and how bad is it?

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

Bev played 40
Stone thinks its not that bad but unsure until he has scans today

Walpie
Guest
Walpie

I would also like to add, in a positive way, that the younger players looked really powerful. They really bent back the line and this indicated to me the work done on strength/body type has been very successful. In terms of Bev and Evans…..both tried hard but both made errors first graders should not. Their performance is not on the coaches. They don’t catch the ball for them. What I witnessed was way too many witheringly poor mistakes along with some very positive and at time awesome displays from young players. What does that mean, Kafusi’s touches were dynamic! his… Read more »

Poppa
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Poppa

I think you are being to defensive as to what I was saying, read it again and try and comprehend where I am coming from. I was being defensive to my view because I did say I didn’t see the game. You would swear that I ripped them to threads whereas I was saying they should have/expected them to do better. What was Souths excuse for winning the trial? When I read the defense of the critique my first view is why? Just put it into perspective, there is no need to fall on your sword. Accept they were disappointing… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

It certainly is a concern with losses in both grades, early days syndrome? I also wonder if the heat was a factor, as not a pleasant day, but if Souths could go through the games without the same affect, and they train in different conditions as well, so that should not be an issue. I wonder how many of those players, especially reading what has been said with French and Evans, are putting too much pressure on themselves as they are off contract end of this year. Sometimes when players have that sort of pressure on them, as well as… Read more »

Bob jay
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Bob jay

Reflect on the coaches ??? Wow what a statement , these guys dont have it its that simple and thats not based on one swallow thats on a whole last season . Kick yourself hard .

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

Consider your rear end kicked Poppa.

You refer to blind Freddy’s ability to guess what might have been? Fair enough I’d say, but to blame the coaches for giving both French and Evans “their head” in their first barrier trial is a little presumptuous wouldn’t you think? Although they did overplay their hand it was with determined commitment and enthusiasm not lack of it. And it didn’t stop either of them from having another go time and again. Unlike you Poppa, I was there!

Poppa
Guest
Poppa

{“Nobody could be happy with that result given the emphasis and type of work that has reportably been put in. French and Evans response has to reflect on the coaches, if those guys were not told to go in with a specific attitude of control and don’t blow it, then the directions were poor. Blind Freddie would guess they could/would go in “overs”.} I wasn’t there and said so….I am now going a step further and suggest that French and Evans have “ruined” their initial thrust by being either “lacking confidence” “over eager to impress” or “just not being interested… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Nice honest report, thanks mate

paul taylor
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paul taylor

Be nice if we could get a little critique on the ISP players. Is DAVEY a potential NRL player. Anything other than poor handling ? I am worried too. I actually think FRENCH is cooked and wont see NRL and EVANS the same,

mitch
Admin

Needs more caps.

West Coast Eel
Guest
West Coast Eel

There seems to be a bit of an over reaction from fans after an ISP trial that lasted 40 mins. I wasn’t expecting French or Evans to be in first grade anyway, and last night proved they are stil a fair way off. Did Salmon spend anytime in the centres? Good write up. I’m glad the footy’s back!

parrathruandthru
Guest
parrathruandthru

The coaching review should be easy this week
“hold the ball and get to the kick”

Big Derek
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Big Derek

Looking ba k on last nights games , the end result was possibly a tick. The contribution of the young players was probably the most important thing. The whole go forward changed when Oregan and Stefano came on,alongside Salesi and some good service from Schneider, the team actually won the forward battles. However, the halves were poor in most of the plays and did nothing to control momentum. Parry was outstanding in the centres, with I think every try scored down the channel between Hoffman and Dunster , apart from a terrible miss from the Wenty contracted 7 that gave… Read more »

Bob jay
Guest
Bob jay

Good assesment , 8 mistakes to 2 players in 40 mins gets souths and anyone else home , forty didnt mention that french also had ball stolen 1on 1(again) 30 metres out from line ,all south trys were directly related to 2 players mistakes!!!!!

Terry
Guest
Terry

Toughest preseason ever

sixties
Admin

Meaning? What were your observations Terry?

Terry
Guest
Terry

Like I posted in a previous blog sixties…anyone player can perform at training but they need to show it on the field.

Bob jay
Guest
Bob jay

Most did ,reckon every clubs trials will emulate the same , its a trial for christ sake . Ever the pessimist terry .

Walpie
Guest
Walpie

Bev didn’t, Evans defended very strongly and made some mistakes..all other Eels younger players performed beyond what I was expecting

Clive
Guest
Clive

It’s never nice to lose but at the end of the day it’s a trial. On French I’d much prefer to see him trying too hard than drifting around not having a go. I believe his poor form is a mix of poor coaching, external pressure and a lack of confidence. I know I’ll probably cop it for blaming coaches and I must say I’m a big fan of Brad but to me Bevan has never been able to feel safe in the fullback role. To me he has been moved around too much and has always felt he has… Read more »

rowdy roddy
Guest
rowdy roddy

In regards to “pick and stick” I can only assume you’re referring to Gutho’s come back games last year? That being the case I can only recall my own views on those two players at the time. Gutho was coming back from a terrible injury with equal amounts of enthusiasm to play and fear of injuring “that knee again” and was therefore not considered for fullback. Bevan on the other hand was given first crack at FB over Haynes return and Gutho’s absence. Bevan did not play well at all IMO. Any logic around BA not having confidence to play… Read more »

DDay
Guest
DDay

Great live blog yesterday and summary Forty, thanks. How good to have the football back even if its only a cameo. There was a good turnout of 1st graders watching from the sideline. As I saw the ISP trial, there was some impressive punch from Terepo & Fainga back through the ruck. Salmon was solid in defence and linked up nicely with the outside backs (looked like he was channelling Norman). Schneider looked sharp, Stone was very effective until injured, Davey looked solid & Leleisiuao looked good including under the high ball. The errors by French and Evans heaped pressure… Read more »

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

Good the hear about the young boys playing well. I am really interested to watch and see them come through, especially Parry, Schneider and Stefano Without being disrespectful some of the experienced players played because the coaches thought they needed to and after last year I can understand that. Obviously some need to keep working on things, preferably in Wenty until they improve. It is a trial and I would say the coaches got some questions answered Perspective needed by some. How many players in that game will be in our first 17 to start the year? I would argue… Read more »

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

Shelley which three did you have in mind. I was thinking Peni, Salmon and ?

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

Like you I think Peni, he brings a lot from the bench and Salmon ( little unsure on him, I would like to see him in the centres) with Oregon also a chance.
I have a feeling that Ethan Parry will in the team at some time this year. Only watched him twice last year but both games I saw he was a class above most if not all on the field.

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

Shelley I have not seen much of Parry but sounds like he played well last night. He will be good to watch to gauge his progress. Kaufusi was a player who never really caught my attention in U20’s but really caught my eye in his two NRL games last year. After replying to your post I went to Parra.com and looked at Oregon’s stats. Coming off the bench he averaged 90 metres, 77 post contact metres for the 2 games and almost 90% tackle efficiency in his only two NRL games. However the two games were against the Storm and… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

Oregon is going to be hard to keep out of the main 17.

Big Derek
Guest
Big Derek

Parry was just about best on field last night, he spent almost 2 years out due to injury. Prior to that he was regarded as a better prospect than both Zac Lomax and Cameron Murray, he has had one NRL pre season compared to their 3 and 2 , and the way he played last night underlined his real potential. Stefano is an enforcer and Oregan is now fearsome with his bigger physique. For a trial it was exactly what they needed, basically all the NRL players attended which showed how good the club spirit is. On a side note,… Read more »

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

Derek I loved your earlier comment that Parry looked like a man playing against boys. Well that was my interpretation of that comment.

JJ-The Eel
Guest
JJ-The Eel

Thanks for the write up guys, wow can’t believe some of comments from the doomsdayers they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the club. Incredible how a Flegg & ISP trial can turn into witch-hunt in February.
Fair game when the comp starts but up until then chill out. It’s a trial game of footy !!!!!!!

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

Bevan French finished the season in Wenty, was shopped around by the club (according to media reports) in the off season. To have any expectations of him at this point is premature.

What is required now is for him to spend some time at Wenty under Rip Taylor to regain his confidence and form. Rip has form working with the young players and getting results. He is in good hands if he is willing to put in. We all know that he has the talent to make it.

colin hussey
Guest

John, I tend to agree, I have been saying for a while now that its a confidence thing with him, in part owing to his injury as he was likely worried that he might do it again if he tried his old magic form too soon.

This year he has sounded ok, but I suspect his mind is still putting him back to the post injury. Time under Rip, as well as perhaps a bit of positive talk and getting him to watch his game in 2016/17. Get last season and tentativeness out of his game.

Fuuuuuuui
Guest
Fuuuuuuui

So many people are concentrating on our attack. Balls over the sideline and dropped ball is normal at this time of the year. Players over playing their hand is expected when they are trying to show that they belong in first grade.

It was the DEFENCE that has me worried. Just pathetic on that edge. Way too compressed again… Nothing much has changed there unfortunately!

Let’s hope the first graders don’t show the same defence against Canberra.

Michael Formosa
Guest
Michael Formosa

Thanks for report. It’s just a trail and no big deal but it’s no a good look to have a team mixed of NRL hopefulls and NRL experience players get smashed like that but it is what it is. Remember Penrith first grade team got beat by the Bulldogs reserve grade team in a trail and went on to have a good season.