Christmas is nearly upon us, and today Santa paid a special visit to Eels HQ.
Well, Santa did look suspiciously like Trent Elkin, and from what I could see there must have been around 30 blokes in Blue and Gold who were on the naughty list because old St Nick delivered some pain.
But for Eels supporters, that pain might well be the best gift of all, because the team’s conditioning just went up another notch. It was an afternoon session, and not the sort of weather that players would have enjoyed wearing footy jerseys.
Blue vs Gold
NRL referees were in action for the first time this pre-season. I’ve watched plenty of these sessions involving refs, and their fitness can never be called into question. They match the players in most conditioning work, with the exception of Malcolms. Refs don’t need to be fit enough to get up off the ground repeatedly, so whilst they join in with a chunk of the players conditioning, they don’t hit the ground in Malcolms.
The players looked to be in game mode as they entered the field kitted out in match day gear. It was NRL (Blue home jersey) vs Challengers (Yellow away jersey). Given the weather conditions, this would have been tough going.
But to get prepared for the opposed work, there had to be kilometres in the legs.
And so it began.
After the warm up and running mechanics, it was time for 40 metre timed runs and 20 metre Malcolms. I won’t list how many sets of each were completed as I don’t like to get too specific about a planned program, but suffice to say that the first period of opposed was under significant fatigue. Indeed, each subsequent period of opposed was probably under even greater fatigue.
The players to catch the eye during conditioning were, of course, Gutherson and Dylan Brown. With the young challenger seemingly gliding through his runs and pushing Gutho to his limits, the King let him know his opinion with some choice “advice”.
Others deserving of a mention include Reed Mahoney, Jaeman Salmon, Ethan Parry, Daniel Alvaro, Mitch Moses and Rhys Davies.
It’s best to list the sequence of activities to provide some context about how demanding this session was. The run down read: conditioning, opposed, conditioning, opposed, conditioning, opposed, conditioning, opposed.
Red Zone Opposed
This was not the first time that the squad has been split into two groups for relentless attack/defence within the quarter, but it was the first under the control of referees.
And it only took two tackles for the first penalty (offside) to be awarded against the Yellow.
The Blue team then made them pay with three “tries” in the next six tackles. And for good measure, it was first on the left edge, second on the right edge, and third through the middle.
A try on the left edge to Sivo was soon followed by two tries to Fergo on the right wing and a barnstorming try to Matterson. That all took place in the following few minutes and wrapped up the first opposed work. It typified the dominance that the Blues enjoyed over the yellows.
Although the coaches would not have been happy with the Yellow team’s execution today, they would have allowed them some leeway as a number of their team were playing out of position. Consequently, it’s difficult to highlight much of their work in either attack or defence.
Nonetheless, there were some players in the Blue that would have earned a tick from BA and the coaching staff. The spine of Moses, Brown, Gutho and Mahoney looked sharp. RCG was running very direct lines and Matterson caused problems with every carry.
In the negative column, a soft try to Harry Duggan was a definite black mark. The defenders seemed to over read what was a simple hit up, allowing the young prop to score.
All up, the session ran for just over two hours in energy sapping conditions. Even the drone needed rest time in the shade!
Friday’s session will be held at Old Saleyards and is open to all 2020 Eels members.
Flegg Trial vs North Sydney – Macquarie Uni Sports Fields Thursday Night
Cool conditions made this a far cry from the heat earlier in the day. The extended squad, including a number of blokes who will likely start in the SG Ball, were given a run across a match consisting of 3 x 25 minute “thirds”. It was very close to three different teams per third.
Overall, the Eels scored three tries to the Bears two, with no conversions taken. Across the thirds, this was broken up into one try to the Eels in the first third, two tries to the Eels in the second, and two to the Bears in the third.
Overall, the football looked like a trial, with a bit too much dropped ball from both teams. Though the squad has been training for six weeks, with so many players in action, the attack was a bit clunky. A big tick goes to the contest through the middle with some willing carries and solid defence.
There was a bit to like in the football from the Eels players in the first two thirds. Try scorers for the Eels were Joshua Tuipulotu in the first third, and Matthew Komolafe and Mark Tepu-Smith in the second.
Though it’s unfair on those who don’t get a mention, I thought that there were some players worth noting. Jake Arthur played at halfback in the first trial and really impressed. The first try came of his kick and at least two other tries should have resulted from his passes which put players into space, only to see the ball put down. In that same third, Sam Hughes got through a mountain of work in defence, Kyle Schneider looked composed and confident at dummy half, providing excellent service and centre Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerard looked dangerous whenever the play went in his direction, both in attack and defence.
In the second third, Matthew Komolafe’s try on the wing was all down to him, as he somehow bustled his way through defenders after a shift close to the line. In that same third, big prop Mark Tepu-Smith was a handful in every carry, and was rewarded with a barnstorming try of his own. Another try should have resulted from his offload close to the line, but the ball was spilled with the line open. I was looking to see more of back rower Oliver Clements, but not enough ball went his way on the right edge.
In the final third, I noted Jack Colovatti. In one of the few highlights of that third, the young forward surged into the clear through the middle. The Bears surged in the latter part of that third and deserved their two tries.
As noted earlier, this looked exactly what it was – a trial. I think that coach Dean Feeney will have plenty to consider as there could be some young players who push for Flegg rather than playing SG Ball. Perhaps they will start at Ball level as that season start earlier, and then potentially be looked at for elevation.
The Eels senior coaching staff were all in attendance, with Dylan Brown (naturally) there to cheer on his mates. I look forward to the next trials.
Vale John Losco
Today we said goodbye to a wonderful man, John Losco. John was a passionate Eels supporter, and father of TCT’s Chris Losco. I’ve known the Losco family since childhood, but I was stunned to learn more about John’s incredible life and achievements at today’s service. His passion for life and generosity of spirit were celebrated by the many who attended. But if his legacy is measured through his children, and indeed his grandchildren, then to quote the great Jack Gibson, “played strong, done fine.”
The Cumberland Throw extends our thoughts and sympathies to John’s family and friends, and particularly to Chris and his family.