The Cumberland Throw

What We Learned – Super Saturday Trials vs Penrith Panthers

The Parramatta Eels closed the books on the preseason with a full-day of trials against the Penrith Panthers on a near-perfect Saturday afternoon. Narrow losses in the Jersey Flegg (18-8) and Canterbury Cup (10-8) were mitigated by an excellent display in the main event as the Eels routed the Panthers 20-0 on the back of an outstanding team-wide defensive performance.

With three games to breakdown there is a mountain of takeaways and talking points so let’s jump right into it.

 

NRL Trial – Parramatta Eels 20 def. Penrith Panthers 0

 

We are just one year removed after a champagne trial performance against the Newcastle Knights that was most certainly not predictive of regular season success. It is safe to assume that both the Eels and the Panthers kept a good chunk of their powder dry last night given they meet again in Round 1 but it was important for the Eels to build from the results of the Canberra trial and they did that just that. Brad Arthur’s men out-hit, out-ran and out-enthused the Panthers all across the park as even the second-team unit rallied to shutout the home team.

 

No tickets left on the Dylan Brown hype train

I say this only because there is no way the media take the spotlight off this young star after his effort against the Panthers. He will have his ups and downs in his rookie campaign and fans need to reconcile with that but his performance on Saturday was a tantalising glimpse of just how dangerous he can be.

From a gorgeous line-break assist to unleash Manu Ma’u to a deft grubber kick to earn the Eels their first line-drop out of the night, the full repertoire of Dylan Brown’s skill set was on show. Most importantly he backed himself to take on the defensive line all night and his the quickness of his feet and his all-round explosiveness proved to be a handful for Penrith. Seriously, he was shedding would-be tacklers or carrying defenders nearly every run.

Interestingly, the Eels eased Brown into the contest against Penrith. He was clearly playing second fiddle to the more senior play-maker in Mitchell Moses in the first half but took more control of the team in the second half. He looked equally at home with both levels of responsibility but striking the right balance there will be just as important for Moses as it will be for Brown.

 

Forwards step up in the absence of Paulo

Junior Paulo was a late scratch as the Eels manage a minor hamstring niggle for the mountainous prop forward. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this might have been the best thing for the Eels as it posed an important challenge to the embattled forwards returning from the 2018 season. They responded in imperious fashion lead by the likes of Tepai Moeroa and Peni Terepo through the middle.

Indeed it was hard to fault any individual effort among the forwards. One errant offload from apiece from Nathan Brown and Shaun Lane asides the only real dampeners from the night were injuries to Manu Ma’u and exciting young prospect Stefano UtoikamanuDaniel Alvaro and Tim Mannah were excellent in the roles as foils to Moeroa and Terepo while Lane and Marata Niukore cemented their claims to starting roles on the edges.

There is little doubt that the Panthers will looking to make amends for their embarrassing showing yesterday and the Eels will need to put together a similar performance come Round 1 but for now they deserve their plaudits.

 

Ferguson’s big audition tape

Lavishing out big dollars for a winger is still an unfashionable thing in the NRL, even considering that they handle the ball more than any other non-spine role. Regardless of any concepts of notional value that wingers hold to teams, Blake Ferguson seriously impressed in his first hit-out for the Eels. The man is a load to tackle and consistently dominated in his role as the designated second tackle ball-carrier.

Attacking opportunities were hard to come by for Ferguson but he did nearly engineer a try with a deft bat-back from an attacking bomb. Meeting the insane benchmarks that he set in 2018 for the Roosters seems improbable right now but he certainly seems like a man possessed on the field.

 

P(arry).S(ivo). with love

After the first-string team landed a sequence of body blows on the Panthers, an exclamation point was put on the night by emerging talents Ethan Parry and Maika Sivo. Both backs were strong rucking the ball out and were credited with some exceptional goal line defence. Sivo in particular made the sort of the tackle that ends up season highlight reels as he gunned down a linebreak in the middle of the field.

The big Fijian flanker also wrote his name up on the scoreboard after finishing off an excellent pass from Manu Ma’u. Given that George Jennings, who posted a good individual game himself, left the game with a potential knee injury the call possibly goes out for Sivo immediately if the Eels are committed to adding size and power to their flanks.

Parry once more gives the Eels the best sort of problem as he continues to strengthen his case for a position in the Top 30. Adding depth to the hooker position is clearly a priority for the team given our paper thin depth at the position but Parry is doing his darnedest to complicate things.

 

The Fence, I love the fence!

At 16-0 on the scoreboard and following Brad Arthur ringing through the changes to give game time to his depth players, you could probably forgive the Eels for conceding a couple of late tries. Add in the fact that the Panthers left plenty of core players on the field until late in the game and it seemed a fait-accompli for the home team to add some respectability to the scoreboard.

Instead of allowing any consolation points the Eels rallied to stone-wall the home team in a focused display of single-minded willpower that honestly dwarfed anything Parramatta put on record in 2018.

I realise of course that one swallow does not make a summer but a defensive shutout is a rare occurrence, trial or no, and it reflects just as well on our second-string team as much as it does our starters.

 

 

Canterbury Cup Trial – Penrith Panthers 10 def. Wentworthville Magpies 8

 

The Wenty Magpies were narrowly pipped in a game where they pulled the vast majority of their starters at half-time. The defensive effort was commendable in this game too and Wenty will likely take plenty out of this game from that viewpoint. Putting the focus of any prospective NRL talent, the best player on the field was easily Salesi Faingaa.

The big backrower with a flair for play-making was every bit as impressive in defence as he was with the ball in hand. He unloaded plenty of bone-rattling shots in the first half and proved to be a constant threat running the ball. Faingaa is a likely candidate for one of Parramatta’s six development spots and those sort of performances will quickly enhance his standings at the club.

Jaeman Salmon fared much better at five-eighth in this trial as opposed to his prior game against the Bears and constantly threatened the Penrith defensive with his running game. He also sent Salesi over for a try in the shadow of half-time with an excellent short ball. It is clear he has the talent to make it in the NRL, the question now is whether he can carve out a niche at centre.

While he probably boosted his stocks more with his great little cameo in the NRL trial, Maika Sivo was strong on the right wing for Wenty. Interestingly, he switched sides to play on left sideline in first-grade but that is more than likely giving deference to Blake Ferguson.

Oregon Kaufusi and Kane Evans were strong up front while the aforementioned Ethan Parry made the most of his limited opportunities at left centre when he crashed over for the opening try of the game.

On the injury front it would seem like Josh Hoffman got banged up very early in the piece and was quickly replaced at right centre.

It feels like we have been primed for a big season from Wenty for the last couple of years only for it to blow up in our faces every time. With new coach Rip Taylor at the helm they look to be a pretty tough and well-drilled squad thus far. Even considering they are definitely missing a steady shot-caller in the halves, they should be competitive most weeks.

 

Jersey Flegg Trial – Penrith Panthers 18 def. Parramatta Eels 8

 

Given the magnitude of junior stars unavailable for the Eels (Dylan Brown, Jaeman Salmon, Ethan Parry, Haze Dunster, Oregon Kaufusi, Stefano Utoikamanu) it wasn’t a shock that the Eels fell short of the Panthers who are a traditional powerhouse in the Under 20s. Still, much like with their senior cohorts in the Canterbury Cup and NRL, the Eels battled diligently throughout the game and showed plenty of grit in defence.

Kyle Schneider made his debut in the grade and was masterful at hooker, lacing his second 40/20 of the preseason and directing his team around the park with gusto. As I mentioned before, Parramatta are clearly short for depth at the position in first-grade but rushing Schneider at this stage of development is asking for trouble. Let him play out the season in the Flegg and build towards 2020.

Notable performers included Bailey Biondi-Odo, Charbel Tasipale and JP Nohra but the best performance of the day came from new recruit Jack Jordan who added plenty of grunt from the bench for the Eels.

Star fullback John Fonua left the game early, presumably due to injury, prompting Nohra to switch from centre to his preferred position of fullback and he certainly looked more comfortable at the back.

Much like Rip Taylor in the Canterbury Cup, coach Dean Feeney looks to be running a pretty tight ship heading into the regulation season. So while they may be missing some of the best talent due to higher callings, they should be ready to front up every week.

 

Forty

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Terry
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Terry

I will start this post by saying Mahoney had a great game big difference to the game he had against the raiders.
Dylan Brown and that slick step….wow
Parry (excellent mtrs rucking up the ball) and Sivo (what a cover tackle) love to see more of them
Ferguson, well it just shows why he lead last year on every stat you could think of.
I sense Paulo was held back not because of injury but more so not to show Panthers how we will attack them….plenty of offloads!!!

Grunta
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Grunta

Thanks Forty and that’s about how I saw the NRL trial too.
Speaking of centres, it appears that both Parry and Salmon are well credentialed to fill a centre role if Taka ends up with an injury or is required to fill a back row spot because of injury. Both Parry and Salmon have the talents and it should be a great battle throughout the year to see who can step up and who is chosen too if needed.

Big Derek
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Big Derek

Strangely enough the Riff forum excused their loss with comments that they only played their first grade team for 25 minutes and treated it lightly. Not sure what anyone else thought, but they were pushed off their best by tenacious defence and a game structured around half pressure. The forwards impressed and should be good for the run, disappointing to likely lose Manu for the first game or so, but that’s the physical nature of the game. As long as they bring the same sort of effort in 2 weeks time, and hopefully the temperatures are more reasonable than last… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Their supporters have a hatred towards the Eels. I doubt that their coaching staff will be treating the Eels lightly next week, especially after this shutout.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

/A good win and will be many more I believe. The injuries to Ma’u and Stefano are a worry especially to Ma’u as he was going well, the tackle and injury looked very similar to the one that knocked French out in 2017 and still to get over it confidence wise. The big concerns to me is the backup 9 and one hopes that Kaysa can get back ok. I understand Luke is staying where he is, so who takes that role? Is Schnieder ready? The other spot is in the centres, Parry looks the goods but can we really… Read more »

Feelings
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Feelings

Any clue on what’s going on with us apparently signing McInnes? Could be huge for us

mitch
Admin

That was a furphy mate. No truth to it.

Bert Kenny
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Bert Kenny

To be honest. I think Schneider will need more time. The kid is only 2 games back from a 12 month layoff due to a shoulder reconstruction. So far his 2 games have been solid and very promising. His 12 months behind where he needs to be with strength, Weights and the rigors of performing at that level week in week out. I have no doubt he will play ISP at some stage this year But i think he is at least 12 months away from being NRL ready. Another NRL pre season would be beneficial for his development.

mitch
Admin

Schneider 100% needs a lot more time. Not because he’s not going to be capable, but because of his age, his current build (see age) and the fact that he’s just come back from significant shoulder surgery.

The Eels are actively looking for a back up hooker, which tells me they believe he needs more time, too. Kyle will be terrific, but not yet.

Poppa
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Poppa

This purely a speck on my part, but there has been a lot of talk about how well Gower is going. My view was that if we had to use Gower as a middle or edge forward, things would not be going good. BUT and I suspect he has had no experience at hooker but he is such an intelligent player and reads the game so well, is he a potential backup for Mahoney? In saying that I am not so much thinking as a bench backup but as a backup from the beginning if Mahoney is “out” injured. Any… Read more »

Matthew Sweeney
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Matthew Sweeney

It might be akin to playing kenny at hooker a few years ago against the roosters which turned out to be a mistake. It’s hard to be effective at dummy half if your tall , making it harder to bend down. Plus u should be very zippy. I like gower and as u say hes intelligent so it’s not out of the question.

West Coast Eel
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West Coast Eel

I watched the replay of the game today and I was pretty impressed. Although it was only a trial, the fact we kept them to zero is pleasing. Hopefully the injury to Ma’u isn’t too bad and Paulo will be right for round 1. I’m excited about the year ahead, just as I was this time last year. Geez I hope there’s more to cheer about in 2019!

BDon
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BDon

Good calls Forty. Although Penrith kept interrupting their own momentum via errors/penalties, we just looked better organised, with indications of good defensive attitude – getting numbers right, scrambling and staying in the play.
Was I seeing things, or were the Panthers constantly testing the refs with holding down? ( Not a ref bake – will Cleary risk this Rd 1 ?)

sixties
Admin

They definitely tested the refs. The penalties were warranted. The “commentators” criticised a sin bin in a trial but it was an outrageous holding of a player trying to play the ball and even in a trial demanded a response.

Pou
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Pou

Brilliant guys. Thanks for such great coverage of the pre-season.

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

great reports !! Hopefully in 2 weeks we get to read the same

Rob
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Rob

I’ve only seen the last ten or so minutes of the 1st grade trial but, geez, these reports (and their quality!!!) give me hope!

Surely we will exceed expectations this year? We can’t be worse than last year!

mitch
Admin

Ha, I guess that depends what your expectations are, mate. I will say we looked a lot more competitive than I was expecting, and outside the first 20 minutes or so, much more cohesive in attack.

This is not new or original, but it all happens in two weeks. Injuries aside, Saturday went as well as it could go, but so did the Maitland trial in 2018.

John Eel
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John Eel

Mitch maybe Rob has been reading the same tabloid experts as myself. Almost all picked the Eels for the wooden spoon or there abouts for season 2019. Maybe his expectations are that we don’t get 2 spoons in a row.

Like you I think that they look a whole lot more competitive this season. I feel that ultimately our finish to the season will depend on whether we can land another experienced Spine player or not.

Rob
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Rob

Expectations are low, but better than wooden spoon. I’m hoping for top ten and a >50% win rate.

John Eel
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John Eel

If we can get another experienced player in the spine you just may get your wish Rob

DDay
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DDay

Thanks Forty, great coverage across the 3 grades. Eels looked good defensively and were also patient with the ball. Defensively they were efficient, closing down the play and breaking quickly from the tackle – gone was the costly wrestle attempting to slow the opposition play the ball. The Panthers attempted to dominate in the tackle and a lot of their second efforts were penalised – the resulting extra defence and lack of ball strangled them just as it did the Eels in 2018. Our sliding defence also appeared better organised with more numbers. Thought the attack was good; apart from… Read more »

Eel Nut
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Eel Nut

Defence wins matches. That has been our most noteable weakness. How can you have a good offense when your players are tired from tackling all day? Parra compounded their poor defence with poor discipline last year. Constantly on the back foot is a dumb persons way of playing any sport let alone Rugby League. Let’s hope they have improved in both these departments because the likes of Brown and Moses will capitalise on this and win us a lot more matches than most pundents suggest.

John Eel
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John Eel

DDay you make some good points. One of the things that stuck out to me and you pointed it out also was their patience in attack. This resulted in a lot of possession and the pressure on the Panthers told late in the game

Micky
Guest

Great effort by the boys. I was at the game and one thing I did notice was the talk in defence. Forty, you mentioned Faiinga in the Wenty trial, yes he was Good, I haven’t checked but is he in our top 30?. Out of the Wenty game I thought Gower was the standout, lost count of how many offloads he did. Overall it was a pleasing performance.

mitch
Admin

Hey Micky, currently Salesi is outside the Top 30.

Hearndo
Guest
Hearndo

Both Mannah and Tepai looked strong, i was very impressed with their defence and how well they carried the ball. Taka probably surprised me the most, he was looking sharp and lighter than last year. It’s a shame we came away with some injuries. You really feel for the players who have worked hard all preseason to be injured in the last trial.

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

I am happy for Salesi Faingaa. He had an injury interrupted year last year and to see him come back in this sort of form is reward for his efforts.

I love his running and defence but most of all the passing game. I for one would be very disappointed if he were to miss out on a Development contract. The big man deserves one.

mitch
Admin

He’s got one.

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

Great reporting! It’ will be interesting to see how BA handles the great crop of young players coming through. It seem like so many of them are just about ready to go and so many of our current first graders coming off contract at the end of the year.

What do you make of our current goal kicking? Is Moses the best we got? We lost about 7 games last season scoring the same amount of try as our opposition.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

The aspect of last year that disappoints me is the seeming refusal to take goal shots when awarded a penalty in kicking distance. Had those been taken and even at a 50-5O% success rate we would have not got the spoon, I sincerelly hope that this year the kicks will be taken.

Bob jay
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Bob jay

Be optimistic col , stop worrying about things out of our control mate , pretty sure people are working very hard in all areas that need addressing , no team or player ever gets it 100 % right but you just keep giving your best , that wins for me anyway.

sixties
Admin

Ah, hindsight Colin. I reckon the biggest impact on our score lines last year were the bombed tries. But the past is the past. We move forward.
I’ve watched Moses, Gutho and Schneider work with the kicking coach. Dylan Brown has kicked in the lower grades. As I see it, Gutho and Moses are on a par with their kicking.
If all else fails, throw the ball to Tepai for a kick!

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Mate, this is a real peeve with me, and it sits in my mind for some time, the best example I have was when Norms took over the C role a few years back when Mannah was out, DeGois was in the team at the time, and on two occasions in a game Norm as Captain called up our kicker of the time, (forget who it was and against at this time) on two separate occasions when penalties were awarded in front. They were gimme kicks and the opposition were deliberately giving away penalties on the last tackle know we… Read more »

Poppa
Guest
Poppa

Yes Col, I agree always take the points, in both rugby codes it always works, whether its two points or 3. The other advantage is that defensive side’s get used to your attack and it takes that advantage away. The kick off or the drop out ensures possession back and the resultant 6 tackles is on many occasions can result in a penalty as the defense becomes frustrated. The discipline of the captain aside, the coach needs to hammer this home. Wayne Bennett on many occasions (against us especially) used to run up 6 nil score lines from goals by… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Three penalty goals and a converted try is 12 points, that’s a lot to catch up on, and often 6 penalties are given in a match against the defending side, and is the same number of points 12.

By way of entertainment perhaps the one converted try was great but the scoring of one try against 6 penalty goals means that try scoring team is still behind or even at 3 penalty goals, they are equal, with less energy taken in the goal kicks than the play making the try score.

Rob
Guest
Rob

I know it was a trial, but I think Moses kicked the ball out on the full more than once? I hope that’s an off-season anomaly.

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Your telling me that tepi can kick goals ?

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Bob, believe me I am an optimist, and no way do I believe anyone on this earth and still breathing can get things 100%right, I maybe 10% at best in being right in many areas.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

What has changed at the eels???
They look like a footy team discipline, fitter, stronger!!!
I know it is a trial but keeping the opposition to zero!
They look like a different team!!!
BA must of been cracking the whip!

sixties
Admin

It’s only a trial anon, but it’s what they’ve worked hard to do in the pre-season. We can but hope the attitude and commitment continues.

!0 Year Member
Guest
!0 Year Member

Exactly sixties, trials mean nothing, zero zilch. When it comes to playing for points, then is when it matters. Why have all the tops team lost their trials? I will tell you why, it is a game of poker and I hope we have not been bluffed again.
On a positive note, have recieved my membership card today, vague about seating for the first few games at ANZ, in a zone or something. Bankwest, seats were specific and as I had ordered

Longfin Eel
Guest
Longfin Eel

I didn’t see the game, but can anyone comment on Parra’s error rate and giving away penalties at crucial times? This is what killed any momentum we had last year, and often led to tries by the opposition. By the sounds of it Parra were on song in this trial, which is great to see. A positive focus goes a long way to better performance, and in fact is crucial.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Fin I saw it on nrl com. We tackled hard and played some good enthusiastic footy. Little errors and penalties from what I saw. And to me the refs seemed to put away the whistle for periods of the game. I was happy with this. IMO we competed in virtually all areas; we were good and Penrith albeit a bit hap hazard looked less enthusiastic. Round one will be telling. Look we can do much better than 2018; no doubt. I just hope we do not have key injuries to our half/halves or hooker. Our fwds were v good imo.… Read more »

BDon
Guest
BDon

Very rough guesses, penalties 10-6 our way, errors 7-5 our way. We rarely looked in trouble, discipline was good and there was an alertness about our defence. Penrith put their best forwards back on mid second half, increased the tempo and ran hard. They forced only one break which Sivo ran down. The only thing I say, is that Penrith has got bit of upside with their discipline ( off the field too it seems).

Grunta
Guest
Grunta

Penwiff made 1 line break all game and penalties 15-6 eels.

sixties
Admin

The Riff’s discipline was atrocious. I don’t expect the same penalty count in two weeks time.

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

I think that I heard the commentator say that they completed all bar 2 sets in the first half.

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

I don’t take trials too seriously but one thing really pleased me. Michael Jennings made good quick defensive reads. Last year, even in the first trial against the Knights, Jennings looked a step slow with defensive decisions and this made him indecisive, then totally lost.
Only early days and granted Penrith did not show any real moves but good signs and he looks much fitter.

rowdy roddy
Guest
rowdy roddy

Trivic report 40. You have giving a wrap where it was due IMO, but cannot fully cover the wonderful efforts of our boys across the park as there would be cries of “who didn’t play well” from the narks. I thought Gennings under the high ball ball early in the game was a highlight that would have lifted the rest of the boys. His carries were also very strong and there was no sign of surrender when he was hit by the defensive line from Penwiff. With George having had a great off-season and also being coached on-field by Blake… Read more »

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

I like the look of this Parry kid he looks big n strong not sure about his speed but maybe because his tall.
If brads looking for a big tall centre instead of Brad takarangi why doesn’t he upgrade parry or is he looking at salmon ?

Can anyone tell me Parry’s stats plz

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Rev. go to this link https://www.parraeels.com.au/teams/
It lists NRL players and pics of them, if you then click on the player it directs you to an info page on them.
There has been an update on the players and there is now 31 photo’s with a couple having no details though.

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

Thanks anonymous

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

No stats on parry anonymous

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Rev. having computer problems and for some reason it came up as anonymous.

Parry is one of a couple who do not have full profiles ATM.

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

Ok my brother

Bob jay
Guest
Bob jay

Not in top 30 yet , we need to unload a few to free up space before june 30

Shane
Guest
Shane

Was very happy with the win and most of the players, thought they played well for a trial. My main concern is Moses as our dominant half, he has too many brain snaps and I can see us failing when the pressure is on. He has never shown me to be a dominant half, actually he seems to me he should be a dummy half as it would straighten up his running game and use his pace on slow markers and retreating defense as when he is out wide he runs too much sideways running his support players out of… Read more »

Ant_406
Guest
Ant_406

Sixties, just wondering what you think our likely 17 will be now that Ma’u is out for about 6 weeks. Would Smith join the bench as his replacement or do you think we could possibly go with Gower instead? He offers similar coverage to Ma’u, being able to play both middle and edge, plus he adds that extra experience and professionalism to our side. Also very solid in defence

sixties
Admin

Starting 17 will be close to Panthers Trial I reckon. If George Jennings is out, Sivo is a contender. With Munz out, players like Gowie and Kaufusi come into contention, or if they want a utility, Smith. I’ll nominate Smith at this stage.