The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – You Make The Call

The phone rings….

“Hey mate, BA here. We’re a player down after Browny’s brain snap last Thursday. I’m interested in your take on our starting pack and bench.”, that call won’t be coming. But imagine if it did.

Every supporter is an amateur coach and selector, and that’s what makes rugby league great.

Everyone has an opinion.

Just for a moment, imagine that you are some sort of footy savant, a genius at understanding a team’s needs and what particular players provide. A secret society of NRL coaches know your talents as Jack Gibson reincarnated, but it’s a closely guarded secret and they don’t abuse your wisdom. 

But now, it’s crunch time for the Eels and the call has come.

What do you recommend?

There’s a few factors at play that you’ll probably consider.


Blake Ferguson Returns

In this likely scenario, Fergo comes back onto the wing, with Taka shifting to the bench to take a forward role.

You then need to find a middle forward to take Brown’s place.

Is this Peni Terepo? He didn’t play on Thursday night but he produced a solid effort for Wenty in their victory over the third placed Dogs at Ringrose on Saturday.

But does Peni possess Brown’s defensive mobility? Can he play Brown’s minutes?

Perhaps there are other options.


Other Forward Options

It’s arguable that the bench has failed to produce the necessary impact over the last two weeks.

Is the time right for change?

Oregon celebrates his first NRL try.

Tepai is moving on to rugby union and has been given minimal game time. Would there be more value in playing either Oregon Kaufusi or debuting Stefano Utoikamanu?

It would be a big call to introduce less experienced players against Brisbane or Manly, with a finals match looming. Both Oregon and Stefano will have NRL careers, and both have been producing the goods for Wenty.

In yesterday’s Canterbury Cup match, Utoikamanu was a standout. He played 60 minutes, topped the tackle count with 44 and made 133 running metres (54 post contact), one line break, five tackle breaks, one offload as well as scoring a try.

Coming off the bench, Kaufusi played 51 minutes, ran for 94 metres (33 post contact), and made 26 tackles.

Would you take a punt with the young guns at this stage of the season?

Kaufusi hasn’t let the team down in his limited NRL appearances, and Utoikamanu looks like an NRL player in every Wenty match. They are the future. Is the future now?

Does a warhorse like Tim Mannah come back into calculations? His career could be coming to a close, but he has the NRL runs on the board. He also produced a stunning 189 running metres (69 post contact), 5 tackle breaks and two offloads yesterday.

Any of these options are probably more appropriate for replacing Tepai, not covering for Brown and his mobility in the middle.

Does the club have a suitable like for like during Brown’s absence?


Resting Reedy

Earlier in the season, pundits were calling for Reed Mahoney to be given a break. That was initially provided via the inclusion of Jaeman Salmon on the bench, and more recently, by Clint Gutherson slotting into dummy half in attack. 

Ray Stone in action for Wenty.

Though this time in a match has not proved costly to the team, the down side of using Gutherson is that it removes the fullback from our attacking shapes and makes the Eels attack less effective.

Is the time right to revisit using Salmon off the bench?

Last Saturday, Ray Stone returned from injury off the bench in Wenty’s clash with the Dogs. What was significant is that he played dummy half during his stints on the field yet still produced 81 running metres. If he pulls up fit and well, he could be a viable option for covering Mahoney.

Do you decide to have a bench spot for Stone? His aggression and mobility is similar to Brown, and he can cover for Mahoney. His selection would change the dynamic of the bench and he could remain on the field after deputising for Mahoney on either side of half time.



Both Manu Ma’u and Shaun Lane can play a middle role. Ma’u especially could cover for Brown’s mobility, but then the team would miss the impact of either he or Lane on the edge. It would go against the rule of never weakening one position to cover for another.

Were you to consider moving either to the middle, their role on the edge in the starting team could be taken by either Brad Takairangi or Marata Niukore. Both have experience there, though each seems to have found their best form in other roles.

Niukore in particular has brought the impact off the bench to the middle. Is it best to leave him there or could he be considered for a starting role to replace Brown?


Your Turn

Arthur is just over 24 hours away from naming his team. Let’s assume that Ferguson is returning.

If that call came for your input, what would be your starting pack and bench?

Do you decide to do more than simply replacing Brown?

Over to you.


Eels forever!



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Alright, interesting enough premise – I’ll go first. 8 – Evans 9 – Mahoney 10 – Paulo 11 – Lane 12 – Niukore 13 – Ma’u 14 – Stone (cover for Mahoney & 13 if Niukore needs a rest). 15 – Gower (reliability) 16 – Mannah/Terepo/Alvaro – (the best form middle to be chosen) 17 – Takairangi (gives injury coverage for many backline positions can play roving lock or back row if needed) 18 – Tepai/Kaufusi/Utoikamanu This is our most versatile bench imho. It’s not incredibly explosive but it’s reliable & our bench offers little as is. Niukore was playing… Read more »


Fair point Sam; i like your bench besides Taka; i would have same bench except Utoik in for Taka. And yes Mannah / Terepo with Gower and Stone.


Not in the forwards at this stage Sixties; as I am not convinced he is better than others put forward who specialise in the position. Maybe if he trained there for a pre-season but I am at the stage where some youth is needed.


I agree with you guys, but you may have to sacrifice the impact from bench Niukore for minimal flow disruption with Ma’u in the middle.

Taka has to be in the team simply because with 4 forwards on the bench there is no cover for a backline injury – taka solves that problem.

It’d suck if Jenko went down and had to shuffle manu from 13 to the centres mid game. There goes your shapes in attack and defence.

Colin Hussey

Why a worry, surely if Stone was on the bench in place of Taka, and a centre goes down why not Marata to the centres as he did play there for the Warriors before coming here?

Longfin Eel

I know that BA won’t want to shift the deck chairs just to find a Brown replacement, so I reckon he will go with Terepo at 13. He has played there earlier in the year and likely has trained in that position. Bench would likely be Niukore, Gower, Alvaro. The last spot is the hardest. BA would look to have Taka play off the bench, but I really feel we need to have a dummy half on the bench. I would go for either Salmon or Stone, who have both played there before. Taka would feel unlucky to miss out,… Read more »

Longfin Eel

To be honest though, I don’t think Terepo is in great form and I would rather see one of the younger players given an opportunity at 13.


For me its simple- we pick the best 17 players available. I would bring in Utoik to play off the bench and have Alvaro fill in for Brown this week to play 60 mins or so. Ferguson on wing and Taka out. I am not confident that he should take a fwds spot on the bench. Utoik and co are the future and imo should have had more game time before now; but i have not watched wenty etc. We need players who can play mins. Stone to play on bench for me in place of Tepai. He can do… Read more »


I thought he would go better on the dry open style field of Suncorp and would have chosen Beau Scott if he was free.


We miss his defence and old head.


Lets not forget BA likes his edge forwards to play minutes in the middle so I reckon he will select Lane to 13 and Taka to the edge. I cant see BA demoting Taka and also BA has a liking for the Moses/Mau combination in attack so I dont think he will alter that. Personally Id find a spot for Stone so hopefully we can remove the ridiculous Mahoney/Gutho situation. My picks would be. 8. Jnr 9. Reed 10. Kane 11. Lane 12. Mau 13. Marata 14. Stone 15. Gower 16. Mannah 17. Oregan I realise I havent selected Taka… Read more »


Hey 60s. Sorry for interrupting the subject matter but I dont do twitter or snapchat or anything like that.
Ive been enjoying your memorabilia items very much. The collection is amazing.
I have the odd item that may also be of interest having been a fan since 1964.
Maybe you could provide an avenue where fellow posters could share some of their cherished items. Not sure how one would do this within this site but hopefully food for thought.


Likewise sixties. Is it possible to post a readable copy of the Fairfield v Cabramatta page on this site? Back in the 60’s some of the old players used to hold court at my local, real characters. Just wanted to see if I recognised any names. No probs if you can’t. I’ve got some early 70’s programs that my wife and kids will probably bin when the cupboards are cleaned out. Happy to mail them to a willing recipient.


PDJRFL GFs 70,73, Final 74, SemiF 75. Names include Olling,Hilditch and an interesting one – Len Stacker.
Tks sixties.


This week against the Bronco’s I think I am looking for dependable and reliable to get a job done, BUT I also want some aggression. So with 5th or 6th spot feeling pretty comfortable I’m also feeling generous. Tim Mannah comes in to take the 13 jumper to replace NBrown. Ray Stone to the bench to cover for Reed AND slot in and around the middle rotation. Stone, Niukore and Kafusi provide the aggression and impact (hopefully). Taka on the bench for versatility. 8- Evans 9- Mahoney 10- Paulo 11- Lane 12- Mau 13- Mannah 14- Stone 15- Taka 16-… Read more »

The rev aka Snedden

Id swap stone and mannah


We could name both Uto and Kaufusi.
The Brisbane pack is full of young guns as well. Maybe like for like and they won’t be over awed facing them!


I’d put Nuikore to the starting side.
Drop Moeroa & Alvaro.
Bring in Kaufusi & Mannah.
Stone on the bench.


This is a hard one because I don’t see enough of Wenty to make an informed decision but here goes. I would put Gower into thirteen. While we will miss Brown offensively but I think our attack can deal with that if we offload against Brisbane. Gower is a very reliable defender and will hold our middle together. I would replace Gower on the bench with Stefano. He will give us some strike from the bench and will be able to expose a tiring Broncos defensive line ( they are vulnerable last ten minutes each half) From what I have… Read more »

John Eel

The good thing about being an armchair couch is when you get it wrong you can move forward forget your previous mistakes and and stand up with your pious confidence and throw in your criticisms again the next week. BA on the other hand has to front up to a presser, irate fans and a board looking at him over their glasses However with no dents in my confidence and full of opinion would say that normally I would go for Peni but sadly he looks out of form. I would be happy with either of Oregon or Mannah. I… Read more »

Colin Hussey

John, sadly I think he has been turning up, but not on the playing field.,

Jimmy P

What I love about this site is the various and informed opinions and no critical back biting comments in return.
It’s great.
Please as good as Taka is I don’t believe he is a hard nose forward.
Keep Gower and bring back Mannah on the proviso he is playing first grade standard.
Against Brisbane we need fast strong mobile forwards who will tackle hard.

Colin Hussey

Since the loss on Thursday night, along with the way Tepi has been playing now for some weeks I have had the view he should not be in the 17, or even the extended bench, his form is too far down and his mind is more on next year and simply playing out his contract. May sound hard/harsh but its how I see it, with sorrow being I also supported him and not happy to say that about him, he had so much potential but sadly never attained it enough to really be what he could have been. The question… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Sixties it would seem a lot of changes but by how many really? Basically I am only picking one new face for the team and that is Stefano. Putting numbers on them here I go. 13: Kafusi, 14 Stone, 15 Marata, 16 Stefano, 17 Taka. Certainly I have left out Alvaro, Tepai and Gower, but I really do not see Alvaro and Tepai as NRL standard ATM. Gower is hard to leave out, and I only have Taka in based on Fergo being short of a run, but I am sure he is champing at the bit to knock some… Read more »

Colin Hussey

I will be flabbergasted to say the least if he is even chosen on the extended bench, how many minutes has he played over the last 4 games, and what has his ratings been in that time? While BA was responsible for giving his shot in the top grade against the Warriors a few years back, and over the time at the eels he has shown what he could have been, he should not be in the top 17 again. In saying this, I do not mean to be attacking him as a person or his character rather its to… Read more »

John Eel

Colin I went for Oregon over Stefano simply because he has been there before. I would not argue with Stone as a replacement for Meoroa either.

Do you think that Peni is playing like he has already been told he won’t be re-sighned for next season. I hope not.

That would be a total of two replacements for Brown and Moeroa. That also means I have left Taka out which seems a bit harsh.

If they can return to playing with patience and resilience again I think that they can get the job done against Broncos

Colin Hussey

John, I am sure I saw somewhere where Peni, like Alvaro had an Player option for next year, yet I cannot find that anywhere now. I really am not sure about whether he is worth keeping as a player, unless he can genuinely lift his whole game back to the standard we know he can play at, but turning 28 this year and with him being put back to Wenty this last game in favour of Tepia does not bode well for him, unless he was put back to give an 80minute audition. The problem what I see for players… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Sixties, some few years back I believed that (at that time) that Alvaro and Alex Twal were front rowers that could be mainstays of our teams for some time, of course Jnr was gone and Tim was still here doing ok, today, I could understand the aspect of Dan taking up his PO for next year, but I cannot understand given his performances this year, and over the last few weeks, why he could have warranted an extra year over the single PO for next year. At best he is a year by year proposition at the moment. Peni, is… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Fair calls sixties. The aspect that its a 30 man playing roster means some (not the best choice of terms) lesser standard players can get a spot, I do know that Daniel has played well in the past, with him signing on again, lets hope that this year is an aberration for him. We currently have 33 players in the roster, of those there are 9 players listed as off contract, including Peni, so if he’s staying it means there are 8 spots available for upgrades and/or new signings, I guess as I look over the players off contract, I… Read more »


Start with Gower for Brown. Without Brown I think Alvaro and Moeroa should go to Wenty. We could be vulnerable again behind the ruck, so the bench has to look like Niukore x 4…strong, athletic.lateral agility. That suggests giving 3 young blokes a run, Stone, Oregon and Stefano but maybe too light in NRL experience. Even without Pangai Jnr the Broncs will field a pack that might see Reed needing a break, so Stone and bring in Mannah to bolster experience for either Oregon or Stefano. Just on benches, Manly, even without Sironen, fielded a bench that mixed it with… Read more »


Great proposition Sixties. I guess we can all make a call, but we have zero accountability if we get it wrong. On the other hand BA if he gets it wrong we have lost 2 in a row..and he will be blamed by many (after the event) for making the wrong call. You could call back Mannah for a swan song..but I think something non form related is keeping him back i.e. random call to the Tigers coach… I have been wondering why Kafusi, Salmon and Parry have not received many chances ..Ive wondered why Stefano hasn’t been blooded. I… Read more »


Looks like BA blocked my calls.


Coming off a loss where our bench lacked impact and with Fergo back there will have to be some significant change. With NBrown out I’d play Gower as #13, minimises change to the run on team and BA doesn’t like to change the team. Stone comes in to cover Reed & Gower’s breaks and will provide some impact. Marata (covers an injury to a back) and Alvaro hold their place, Stefano comes in for Tepai to add punch. If Ferguson is back I would not have room for Taka. He was trialled in the forwards last year and just doesn’t… Read more »

Michael Formosa

I’m good to go if and when BA makes the call but in the unlikely case that doesn’t happen I’ll go with Taka on the bench and also bring in Peni for Tepai. It also seems like Utoikamanu has over taken Kaufusi in the pecking order (hopefully we’ll see them both in first grade next year). I also like the idea of Stone on the bench but I guess we can’t have all of them in yet.


Stone to 14, Tepai to 13 and Terepo on the bench.
Takas back to Wenty.
BA will do predictable BA and waste a spot on the bench for Takas who can only really cover the outside backs or 6 at a semi competent level. If we’re gonna spell Reedy it has to stop being at the expense of having a fullback. Our attack suffers having Gutho there both in terms of service and not having a 1. Its stupidity.


I think hes done a fair job after last season but still not sold on BA. I think he got lucky with blooding Sivo as it seemed going into the last trial he has going to start with George Jennings but injury forced his hand. We may have seen Sivo at some stage anyway but he sure helped us from round 1. Replacing Norman for Brown was a good decision. IMO Parry wasn’t close to ready, hence why we’re now playing Takas on the wing. I think BA has to make the hard call and see Takas for what he… Read more »


Yep. 4 forwards on the bench and we’ll just have to cover any backline problems via Mau and Marata and make sure Kotoni Staggs isn’t given acres to work in.

The rev aka Snedden

The rev aka Snedden
Rd 24 line up should be like this.
1# Gutherson
2# Sivo
3# Blake
4# Jenko
5# Ferguson
6# brown
7# Moses
8# junior
9# Mahoney all 80 minutes of him.
10# Kane
11# Mau
12# Lane
13# stone ) but Brad will go with Moeroa

14# marata
15# kaufusi
16# Gower
17# Stefano. But Brad Will Go with takarangi.
18th man salmon

It’s the future. It’s time we start giving these young guys a Fair crack at NRL.

Not bad going got it right almost with the starting 17.


TEREPO (last chance)


Time to make a change. Gower, Meroa, Alvaro have had enough chances and have shown they can’t consistently produce what is needed and often cause any and all momentum to be lost and that is something that is hard to get back.
Stone does not get a look in, he tries hard but gives away silly penalties and in all honesty has very little meaningful impact.

Taka gets a bench spot due to his versatility but as a forward he is ordinary.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x