What is it that all NRL clubs hope to have with their roster?
Obviously you want your players in form, but first and foremost you’d like to have everyone available. Today, the Eels took another step towards that goal with Maika Sivo commencing contact work, removing the orange singlet for the first time since arriving at the Eels.
There’s been no shortage of supporters asking me about the big Fijian, but it’s next to impossible to assess a player without them participating in full contact. From this point, the flying winger can push his case for NRL inclusion.
Will he be another Semi? Let’s remove that from the table. Let’s take away that pressure. There will only be one Semi. We want Maika to simply be Maika. He still has plenty to learn, so it’s essential to keep that in mind.
On the positive side of the ledger, he’s worked his way through bush football, Ron Massey Cup and ISP. He may not have a star junior rugby league background, but when he eventually plays first grade, he will be older than Semi when he debuted and boast more rugby league games on his resume.
The early signs today were good. There were enough glimpses of his pace, evasiveness and power to suggest that he will feature in first grade this year. Whether he will be ready to play in round 1, time will tell.
Aside from Sivo, both Will Smith and Nathan Brown continued their rehab journey. They participated in the field session, though wearing the orange singlets – meaning no contact.
This will be a busy week for the football department. Half of the squad will be preparing for Friday’s trial against the Raiders with the other half travelling to the Northern Territory for four days of clinics, open training sessions and important community relations work.
With the players departing to the Top End, today became the big opposed session for the week. Brad Takairangi, Bevan French and Blake Ferguson were on All Stars duty, and won’t be involved this week. Of course this opens up opportunities for some of the younger players to mix it with the NRL team in Friday’s trial.
The execution this morning was very sharp, with errors at a minimum. Overall, this was possibly one of the best sessions of the pre-season.
* Mitch Moses was totally in the zone. His vision was arguably the best of this pre-season, making good call on good call and converting half chances into clean line breaks. His decisiveness was reminiscent of his 2017 form when he first joined the club. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
* A fine individual try by Dylan Brown. Rather than describing it, I’ll leave it as a surprise should he produce something similar in a match.
* Ethan Parry and Haze Dunster both having the opportunity to play in Blake Ferguson’s vacant wing spot. Ethan was one of the best on field in last Thursday’s ISP trial.
* Jaeman Salmon returning to the centre role and making a long break which ultimately saw Gutho crossing for a try.
* Reed Mahoney performing strongly in both attack and defence, ably supported in both endeavours by the middle forwards.
* Junior looking to be the fittest he’s ever been and showing the benefits of it.
Friday night at St Marys Stadium will provide Eels supporters with the opportunity to watch many of the NRL players in action. This isn’t an ISP trial. It will be treated as a genuine first grade trial.
I hope to see about seven thousand of you there.