The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 20, 2019: They Hit Them All Morning Long

Defence wins titles.

It’s a truism applicable to all team sports, not just the NRL.

Nonetheless, the 2019 NRL Grand Final epitomised the importance of defence as a 12 man Roosters team held out the Raiders for a critical  period in the second half. Indeed, the Raiders themselves came close to winning the title on the back of a vastly improved defensive resolve. for the Eels, pundits will likely point to a number of blowout losses in 2019 and declare that Parra cannot claim a Premiership with defence like that. It is, without question, an aspect for the Eels to improve.

This morning’s field session put the spotlight firmly on attacking without the football. That’s really what defence is – attacking the team in possession.

Here’s how the morning unfolded:


It seemed to be an extended warm up period this morning – at least 30 minutes. Some of this included running mechanics – and it did lead into sprint technique. But given that the players were about to undertake almost three hours of field work, a thorough period of warm ups and stretches was obviously beneficial.

Jaeman Salmon

Repeated sets of 30 to 40 metre runs at half pace were a feature of today’s conditioning. The players were expected to keep a straight line. This wasn’t just about individual conditioning, it was getting them to work collaboratively.

Between each set, the players ran over to a designated area to practise play the ball technique.

This was smart stuff. We see some of the simplest errors in play the balls when players are fatigued. So if you’re going to work on such a fundamental skill, do it under fatigue.

When the Malcolms were introduced towards the back half of the session, they too were followed by play the ball drills.

The final set of running was a contest, and the players to catch the eye today were Haze Dunster and Jaeman Salmon. Both players pushed out to the front and led the group home.

At this early stage, Haze is ticking plenty of boxes. Last season at Wenty didn’t end how he would have wanted – he saw minimal game time, coming off the bench as a winger. He might only play Canterbury Cup again this year, but he’s certainly fronted up with an excellent attitude and it’s what you want to see from a young player who’s been given a full time contract.


Apart from play the ball technique, the emphasis fell squarely on defence.

The work began with education about our defensive system and structures – practised via left side and right side drills. The attack always appeared to be given a numbers advantage, but the mix of lines run meant that the drill was not just how to defend an overlap.

David Hollis

Though the contact was only meant to be a grab, the sound of impact was quite audible. At one point, Dave Hollis took Andrew Davey down with a significant collision around the chest.

As the morning unfolded, the coaching shifted to individual technique. Bump pads were introduced, with players expected to drive in with a solid hit and then stick with the player in the tackle. The methodology was also changed up to ensure that the defenders could use each shoulder equally well.

The highlight was definitely provided by Ray Stone who absolutely levelled someone – the victim remaining unidentified.

The session concluded with on the ground contact/wrestle technique. Watching this, there’s an art in gaining a dominant position in the tackle in a quick period of time. This ensures that the tackler/tacklers get to their feet first, but don’t concede a penalty.

The Final Word

The move to Kellyville is not too far away and the facility is taking shape. I don’t have a move in date as yet, but the modular buildings and turf can be seen in these photos.

The modular buildings are being set in place.

Though this is only stage 1, and there’s still work to be done, the temporary structure will immediately provide improved facilities for the players and staff, as well housing both Eels management and the football department at the same venue.

The Kellyville training centre is coming together.

When complete, the permanent structure will be a superb community facility as well as providing a match day venue for lower grades and junior representative teams.

Eels forever!





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Colin Hussey

Sixties, please keep these reports going, great stuff.

Had a chuckle about Ray Stone, and the tackled player, he has always been a rugged defender, and for me a player to watch and have faith in, despite his size, to wit many say he’s too small for an NRL forward. For me a pocket torpedo can do as much damage as a big one, often more owing to being unexpected.


Hey Col, I recall Peter Johnston from the early 90’s (played for South’s too if I am correct). I saw him line up Ian Roberts one day at Brookvale, and nailed him in the ribs. Roberts ended up on the bench after this and he was v strong. Johnston to me was superb and nailed a few players in his time.

Colin Hussey

Milo, there is a player we do not hear much about when discussions about tough and no hold bars in defence are mentioned, I just did a check on him through search, Peter Johnson was name, a link here for some details on him
IIRC he generally wore headgear as a player.


Yes Col he did. During that tough Parra era he was one of the highlights for me. Great tackler and he hit like a train


Johnno was renowned for wearing his trademark Maddison headgear. His nickname was “the hitman” and in a match v manly at parra put an absolute pearler of a hit on spud carroll when we wore the promotional blue m&m jerseys.


I Think some players may been careful running at him Dean at times.


Thanks for write up Sixties.
For me the defence is a huge key and as mentioned Canberra showed what one good off season can with a change in maybe attitude and focus on defence.
If Parra can do something similar we can give things a shake.
I noticed the squads being added to the NRL site; Can a player who is listed in the development now (2020) be upgraded over the off season? as in Utoik? as he was listed in the development group I think.


Cheers mate; lets hope we can see something here.
BTW I just ate a Magnum….did not taste too great 🙂


Someone has to do these chores….. 🙂


Sixties – how did Andrew Davey go at training (other than getting axed by Stone)? I’ve kept a close eye on him since he came down from Mackay and, once he found his feet and got up to speed, I think he looks the goods. Do you think losing Tepai and Manu and only picking up one recognized 2nd rower in Matterson creates an opening for Davey or Stone to step up?

John Eel

Sixties BA has had a year now to look at AD. Given his age and experience I find it hard to believe that he would re-sign him unless he thought he would play some Nrl this coming season.

Paul taylor

Great work as always mate … what is your take on RCG ? I saw a picture of him on the eels site and he didn’t look too fit ? Early days but we need him 2017 fitness levels .., Also any trial for contract new players ? Thanks mate


Sixties, just when I think your reports can’t get any better, they do! The way you take us on to the training fields……Thanks. I look forward to Andrew Davey having a really good season.
P.S. I’m nervous about no Jenko news.


Like yourself, I’m really looking forward to AD getting a crack in the big show.
His development throughout 2019 was an eye opener – played every game, played every minute – good motor, reads defense well, runs some great lines and has a very nice little offload in his toolbag.

John Eel

Michael Chammas on is reporting that the Eels are talking to Andrew Johns regarding a possible position to coach the spine

Not wishing to take anything away from the current coaching staff but this would be a great ploy especially for the halves.

Colin Hussey

John, that will be a good move by the club if they can secure him for that role, little doubt also that he can work with the other players in the same positions in lower grades. He was not a bad defensive player either and should help in that area also, although we would be better served by a strong defensive coach. Have said it for a while now since Dymock was signed at the Titans and reports that some of our players were working out at Spud Carrols gym at St Marys, he would be a very good pick… Read more »

John Eel

Colin he also played a bit at Hooker for the Blues so there should be something in it for all in the spine


Really interested to see how Ray Stone develops. He surprised me the few times he played top grade last season and he looks like he could possibly develop into a versatile player off the bench.


Well that didn’t last that long for Stefano. Thought it was weird for parra to put him on a development contract, would’ve thought he’d be past that by now. Pretty much can’t blame him considering he wouldn’t be able to play first grade until round 17 I think it was. Can you give us an idea of what Hollis and Hughes are like?


Big, strong and aggressive Scott. Just how we like them mate! A couple of big white props in the pack to support our big black pacific islander props will give us the balance we need going forward too! They could develop quickly now that Stephano has signed with Wests. I wish him well he really looked the goods coming through and although he had to overcome a few injuries early last season? I didn’t think he brought the toughness required for NRL when playing against men in Canterbury Cup. Don’t get me wrong, Stephano certainly held his own, but big… Read more »

Colin Hussey

While Stefano’s on a development contract with the eels, I have to admit to my complete disappointment in losing him to Wests, I also understand Salesi has also signed there as well. Two big players and while I have not seen much of either of them more especially Salesi it actually makes me wonder what point is there in development contracts at all? While this stuff goes on for NRL players and we have a couple signed with us for next year, I don’t agree with how these things happen unless there are serious issues between players and clubs with… Read more »

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