The Cumberland Throw

Eels Early Pre-Season Report Card – With Team List Predictions

We’ve now completed the pre-Christmas component of the preseason and things are just beginning to take shape. The return of Michael Jennings and Clint Gutherson to training in the last week or so means that the currently contracted players are all finally back on deck.

This staggered appearance of the squad has been the result of a busy post season representative schedule, something that supporters will have to accept if the club continues to enjoy more successful campaigns.

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When the players return to training in early January, there’ll still be significant conditioning for the first month, and though it will remain a very important aspect of training into February and then the season proper, I expect to see a greater emphasis on footy. Combinations will be honed, and the full team opposed sessions that were not possible during most of the pre-Christmas period will feature more frequently.

A quick note on my reports is worthwhile before we dig any deeper.

The training reports on TCT will rarely mention players in rehab. This is because most of the players will, at some stage, spend very short periods of time out of the main group for conditioning purposes. Minor niggles are a part of any physical training, and players might need to have kilometres put into them in individual programs – eg on bikes, on rowing machines or on specific running courses under the watchful eyes of trainers and physios.

If players are returning from significant injury or surgery, reporting on this is the domain of the club. If the club or the player has documented a current injury, I might then refer to their return via rehab.

And so to a quick assessment of where some players are at, and after taking the crystal ball out of storage, there’ll be a prediction or two about individuals and likely teams.

 

The Younger Brigade

Hollis with BA.

As can be noted in photos, Dave Hollis and Sam Hughes are massive units. When you see these young blokes training amongst NRL professionals, it’s easy to forget that they were part of the SG Ball team in 2019. As such, this is their first full time preseason, as it is for Johnny Fonua and Harry Duggan, and all have impressed with their capacity to meet the conditioning demands.

Kyle Schneider is in his second NRL preseason, and has physically transformed over the past twelve months. Ten to twelve kilos have been added to his frame, but he’s still pushing into the top five in the more demanding conditioning tasks.

Schneider fires out a pass.

I’m expecting Kyle to start in what should be an incredibly impressive Flegg pack. With a front row of Hollis, Schneider and Hughes, a back row of Tasipale and Clements, and Duggan at lock, coach Dean Feeney has a terrific engine room to work with. Others such as Tepu-Smith, Colovatti, Betham-Misa, Tohi, Mataele and Small might also push their claims (to be fair, I’m probably not giving recognition to everyone who’s earned a shot) but to have full time squad members available will be a huge benefit.

Throw in a back line that’s likely to see Arthur, Murray, Loizou, Nohra, Komolafe, Russell, Naiduki, Tuimavave-Gerrard, Tuipulotu, Penisini, Tuigamala and Chappell all aiming for spots, and Eels supporters will have some future talent to cast the eye over in the four rounds at Bankwest that will be staging three grades of football.

Will any of the younger full time brigade push into Canterbury Cup during 2020?

We are most likely to see this in the back half of the season when the club starts considering those worthy of full time or development contracts for the following season. From a talent and physicality perspective, it’s most likely that the four members of the preseason squad – Hollis, Hughes, Schneider and Duggan will fall into this category.

 

Canterbury Cup Predictions and NRL Debuts

I shan’t be examining the second tier contracted players today. I’ve seen a few of them at Cup training, but for this post I’ll focus on the full time squad.

The Reggie’s team should regularly include Fonua, Dunster, Parry, George Jennings, Smith, Salmon, Lamb, and Davies* in the backs. The pack is likely to feature Kaufusi, Stone*, Utoikamanu, Gower, Davey and Terepo. (* could come under consideration for the dummy half role or for the 14 jersey in NRL).

Smith, Dunster and Parry.

I’ll predict both Davies and Davey to be next to make a top grade debut. Davies is currently on a Development deal, so that would need to be upgraded. Similarly, I would be comfortable listing Utoikamanu, though he also is a Development player and would need an upgrade to debut before June 30.

Were an injury to occur in the NRL outside backs, Parry might get another call up. If the injury occurred in the halves or centres, Salmon is ready to step into the mix. There could also be a reshuffle, with the versatility of Takairangi and Matterson covering those positions.

 

NRL Team List

I don’t think we’ll see too many surprises, so I’m prepared to nominate a starting 13 even at this early stage.

Gutho, Sivo, Jenko, Blake, Fergo, D Brown, Moses, Paulo, Mahoney, RCG, Matto, Lane, N Brown. That seems fairly straight forward. Last season’s regular starters have already looked the goods at training, leaving little doubt that it’s up to others to do something special to force a change.

Matto

Matterson will be a huge addition on the right, and his combination with Moses could even be more lethal than Manu Ma’u. RCG has had no issues settling in and I’ve been impressed with the directness of his runs during opposed sessions.

Most of the bench takes care of itself – Polar, Niukore and Evans. Niukore and Evans both created impact in the middle in 2019 and Alvaro is back to his mobile best.

The 14 jersey becomes the most contentious. Takairangi could land this, or he could even push Evans out. The Cook Islands and Kiwi international can cover for the forwards and backs off the bench and has proven this versatility in the past. He might even start the year in the centres, depending on the date of Blake’s return from injury.

Stone and Davies could also come into calculations. Arthur has demonstrated that he prefers to rest Mahoney if possible during games, and has used Gutherson on either side of half time. However, this is not ideal as it weakens the fullback role.

So at this stage, I’ll nominate a team list Tuesday 21 players

Team: Gutherson, Sivo, M. Jennings, Blake, Ferguson, D Brown, Moses, Paulo, Mahoney, Campbell-Gillard, Matterson, Lane, N Brown.

Interchange: Takairangi, Alvaro, Niukore, Evans, Stone, Kaufusi, Davey, Davies


The Surprise Packets

Davies

Currently, the front runner in this category is Rhys Davies. The former part-timer has rocketed into calculations with fitness levels that have pushed Gutherson to find another gear.

Pitched against Davies in the battle for 14, Ray Stone has also surprised on the training track. The tough as nails forward looks to have found a couple of yards in pace, and his passing game looks far more natural than in previous seasons. But don’t worry, attackers will still feel the sting in his shots.

Next cab off the rank is Andrew Davey. This Queenslander could well be the next David Gower.

Don’t get me wrong, Gowie will have himself in peak condition for when he’s called on – and you just know that will likely happen. But he will also have a mentor role with the young forwards at Cup level, and that could yet be his greatest value in 2020.

Now in his second full time preseason, 28 year old Davey finally looks to be on the verge of an NRL debut. Regarded as one of the better players in the Q Cup to not have played NRL, the 195cm tall back rower has maturity and leadership qualities on his side – unique assets for someone lacking top grade experience. He has the size to also play as a middle forward and may just get the call up ahead of Gower.

Oregon Kaufusi striding out

Finally, I’m going to include Oregon Kaufusi in this category. Oregon possibly weighed in a little heavier than his ideal weight in 2019, but he still impressed in his top grade appearances. This year, the young prop looks somewhat “cut” – and let’s use this image from training to explain that description.

 

Having just extended his contract with the Eels, Oggy seems destined to feature in the NRL this season. I believe he would have jumped Peni Terepo in the pecking order, so he’s potentially next cab off the rank as a middle forward when injury strikes.

 

Preseason training should resume around January 6.

Thanks go to the sponsor of these posts – Starr Partners Real Estate, and to the thousands of Eels supporters who regularly read the reports. I especially appreciate those who take the time to add a reply. Your contributions are a huge part of the respect that TCT has earned over the last four years.

 

Bring on 2020.

 

Eels forever!

 

Sixties

 

 

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Jpe Briffa
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Jpe Briffa

Well that was great i never miss these reports i have to say that i consider this one to be up there with one of your best, look forward to your next one already. great to read about young Kyle you know how long i have been following his progress. Chris sorry to hear about your loss please accept my condolences hope we can catch up soon

Kein
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Kein

Another fantastic report that satisfies the footballing soul whilst waiting for kick off to arrive.

BDon
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BDon

Looks a strong NRL squad, if we’re lucky enough to avoid a high injury toll and Evans doesn’t play too rough, we might be sniffing around top 4.
Have a great Xmas and 2020 sixties & co at TCT. Thanks a ton for keeping us informed and entertained all year round.
In your relax time over the festive season have a look at Ringo – YouTube Ringo Starr Robbie Robertson The Weight. The Eels and The Beatles seem to be your fix, you might enjoy this recent cameo.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Very informative update and enjoyed your views on the younger brigade & team selections.
Enjoy your Xmas sixties & the TCT team

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Great Finale’ for the year sixties and I would suggest most are like me and that is impatient for season 2020. I really have enjoyed the training reports, but this one just seems to gell the talent and makes for a season of anticipation with the very strong hope that we will go much better next year as a team, also to go higher in the match stakes as well. Looking forward to seeing new faces in the games and hopefully a fair shake from the men with whistles. All the best for Christmas to all at TCT and followers… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

And i like your comments Colin. Always insightful and informative.

Hamsammich
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Hamsammich

Interesting you see RCG starting over Evans. I thought in the middle of 2019 right through to the end Evans had done more than enough to be one of the starting props in 2020. RCG won the inaugural “interchange player of the year” at the Dally M awards in 2017.

Terry
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Terry

RCG on his day is quality, he’ll get back to his best and be the buy of the year.

Mark Camman
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Mark Camman

Thanks for the great report as usual Sixties
I live on the Sunshine Coast in SE Qld and want rh o come down to Sydney next year to watch a couple of games at Bankwest. Can you please give me the details/dates of the 4 games where all 3 grades will be playing at Bsnkwest
Cheers

Milo
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Milo

thanks sixties. I will respectfully debate the Taka one with you one day soon. I cannot put him ahead of others in the pack, but can see him as a centre if needed. Kaufusi for me must be on the bench. He is the future and could push Peni and Evans out. Davey would be good to get a spot too and this is where i have an issue with Taka being a second row. I know he is tall etc but for me his defence needs a bit of work and i see other natural forwards in front. Interesting… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

Sixties another great read with great analysis. You and your family have a great Christmas and enjoy a little break. I see a big season coming up in 2020. I see a big season coming up with the great work done by Joey I see our spine rising to the next level. I think MM and Matto will build a combination that will prove most fruitful for the Eels. I can see this becoming a great partnership I am also hoping to see Ray Stone get a crack in the 14 jersey. He won’t let anyone down. He can fill… Read more »

Paul taylor
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Paul taylor

Hi mate Enjoyed that update . Thank you as Alwayx for providing the best update on the team possible, I have a few question marks about the team . A 2017-18 version of RCG would be fantastic. But I found after his two jaw breaks . He changed his running style , instead of coming off the back fence running style he began to turn his body and would often back into the defence . We need him charging. He will be enormous for us if he fires. Finally ? Are we up to 27 or 28 players now ?… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Paul, something to consider re RCG and the way he turns his back into the defence is that he is less likely to be tackled at the point of contact by the defence. He’s not the only prop who does it either, Klemmer is very much the same but both do not do it every run either. The primary reason is not to do with his jaw though, its more the aspect that by twisting around and going backwards to go forward he is able to use his legs in a much stronger way with gaining more ground with the… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Colin i agree in part with PT about RCG style of running when he first came on the scene for Penrith i noticed this back then. I am in two minds and will respectfully see how it pans out. He could be gold for us with new confidence and form. You don’t play origin for nothing.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

sixties I don’t really remember much on how he ran in his early days, but from what I have seen of him in matches, even last year he seemed to mix his runs with both the backing in and normal runs. For me he’s more than just a battering ram type player and would like to see him running more angles than just straight into the defence, either face or back first. Thing I noticed with him and I took more notice of his play at the riff when the rumours were hitting the media as to his possible move… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

That’s a very very encouraging snippet sixties. I often thought of how he must have been when he wanted out of the riff, his mind may have been very much in turmoil as to the move away from his junior club and team mates. It would not have been an easy move as, he would have thought about the financial aspects as well. The big thing though may have been the wondering of how he would be accepted by his new team mates, having other ex Penrith players in the squad would have helped him with the settling in, more… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Sixties, I pondered a bit regarding your post, & in no way in a negative vein but more so it reveals and builds on what I said above. With the pondering I have the feeling that there is more to RCG not just the player, but the personage of him. I watched the first interview on the eels web site and thought he was not the best in it, but being his first interview and not really that long after he got to training he was a bit of a stumbler in his answers. I thought and said at the… Read more »

Pou
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Pou

Is that the same Tepu-Smith who was poached by Manly a couple of years ago?

Grunta
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Grunta

Loving the reports as always.
The aspect of preseason I most look forward to are the combinations that develop. Both RCG and Matto are renowned for their ability to offload and our second phase play will be a major reason we go deep in the comp come 2020 imo.
Really looking forward to seeing how Dylan Brown handles the ‘second year ‘. I’d expect he will really benefit from having Matto and RCG in the squad like his combo with Lane last season.
Plenty to look forward to this season, can’t wait!
Thanks again and merry Christmas to all.

John Eel
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John Eel

Can’t wait to see Matterson running off those short passes from MM out on the right edge

Rocket
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Rocket

Thanks for all the updates and content on the TCT.
Great site for this rusted on supporter.

All have a xmas

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

It’s a very strong and complete looking team line up.
The best thing about our team next year is that 95% of our team positions is just about locked in. We are not calling for young guys to get a run before their ready because we are desperate. Just one or two spots on the bench.

Great off season reports again guys. Have a great Christmas and looking forward to season 2020!

mark
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mark

Great work guys let’s show up in 2020 with a great start to the season..Go you mighty Eels

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

Thanks for yet another great year sixties and Merry Christmas to all TCT crew and readers. It looks like we will have something to cheer about long into season 2020. Mitch, are you going to do a player gradings based on pre season training? That would give a very good insight into individual performances. Best wishes to all for 2020

Jeronimo
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Jeronimo

Very little has been mentioned about Harry Duggan. What kind of player is he? And how does he compare to the other young bulls?

The dead man
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The dead man

My team list Tuesday for rd 1 will be as is.

1. Gutherson
2. Sivo
3. jenko
4. Blake
5. Ferguson
6. brown
7. Moses
8 jr paulo
9. Reedy
10. Evans
11. Lane
12. Matterson
13. N . Brown

bench.
14. salmon
15. kaufusi
16. nikoura
17. RCG

18th takarangi