Watching training on Tuesday wasn’t in my plans. With Monday’s opener done and dusted, the next field session was set for Wednesday. The team was only due to work on basic shapes around set starts on Tuesday. However, a bit of outdoor time before the heat set in seemed a reasonable activity in the morning, and as it turned out, fronting up to watch on Tuesday was a good decision.
But first – a disclaimer.
Last year the young players in the squad made an impact from day one of preseason as they took on the established NRL players in conditioning and physical contests. This year, though the staff are impressed with how the younger brigade have fronted up, the absence of NRL stars in week 1 removes any chance for me to make a comparison.
Indeed, the start of this preseason is akin to watching the 2018 preseason when players were involved in the 2017 World Cup.
That said, the early weeks of the 2018 pre-season introduced TCT followers to the efforts of one Reed Mahoney. The 2019 preseason foreshadowed the arrival of Dylan Brown. So, if someone starts to garner attention in these early weeks, note their name. If they continue to gather mentions, they might just be ready to make a splash.
There were a couple of extra bodies called up from the Flegg to make up the numbers needed for today’s work.
In the set start drills, the team transitioned from hit ups through the ruck, to shifts two and three passes wide. After about fifteen minutes, the work shifted to completing sets of six with a kick. Rhys Davies, Ray Stone and Kyle Schneider all spent time at dummy half during the skill component, but when the group worked into the set of six, Schneider was exclusively at 9.
I took particular interest in watching Ryan Carr taking a group of players for an in-goal skills session. This was my first chance to observe him communicating with the players. The players were required to make appropriate decisions about fielding the ball – be it getting into the field of play, taking it dead, or forcing the ball.
Murf then took the players through a similar drill in the field of play and with a chaser putting the pressure on. Haze Dunster was an absolute stand out, as I can’t recall a single error across both drills.
What I expected to be merciless conditioning, and then some, became two hours of conditioning and skills.
The conditioning component involved short sprints (with a focus on technique), the ever popular “Malcolms”, and 200 metre sets. Within this group I anticipated that Haze Dunster would lead the group in – and he did. But the player to surprise me was Harry Duggan. The young forward has a good motor and placed himself as a leader in each run.
The team also did plenty of running with the ball in hand. Shapes off the ruck, 4 on 3 grid work, and 7 on 7 two hand touch had the players gasping for breath whilst looking sharp passing the footy.
Interestingly, defensive techniques also featured today. It’s not that defence doesn’t feature in preseason. Indeed, specific contact sessions are scheduled every week, and the ferocity in the sand pit is a sight which would surprise some punters.
In pairs, the players worked on their first up contact and grip (hit and stick). The collision was surprisingly solid for day two of the pre-season. They also honed their work on the ground, especially the communication and movement involved in peeling off the tackled player and getting into defensive position. Most Parra supporters will recall that having defenders left on the ground was an issue in the first half of the 2019 season.
A Final Word
In addition to putting some younger players under the microscope, noting the differences between the pre-seasons and watching new staff such as Ryan Carr and Trent Elkin makes these early weeks interesting. At this point early emphasis on ball work and defensive technique during these field sessions has been an eye opener.
Report 2 done!