The Cumberland Throw

Finalising The Eels Roster – Who Fills The Remaining Top 30 Places?

Don’t bother speculating about the Eels Round 1 team. There might be an abundance of NRL team previews on offer over the coming months, but the pundits will vary little in their crystal ball prognostications.

Assuming that Waqa Blake is fit, Round 1 will be a universally agreed upon 13 of: Gutherson, Sivo, Jennings, Blake, Ferguson, Brown, Moses, Brown, Lane, Matterson, Paulo, Mahoney and Campbell-Gillard.

You can then lock in three of the bench – Niukore, Evans and Alvaro.

I’ll nominate Stone to get the contested 14 jersey ahead of the versatile Takairangi.

This is where the debate opens up.

At this stage, there are only 27 players players on Eels NRL contracts. This leaves ten players on the current depth chart.

Assuming my 17 get the nod, that chart reads as follows:

Backs – Salmon, Smith, Takairangi, Parry, Dunster, George Jennings

Forwards – Kaufusi, Davey, Terepo, Gower

By round 1 of the 2020 season, the Eels will be expected to list 29 players.


Of the six backs listed above, five boast NRL experience. They also manage to cover all positions through either specific skills or versatility. On the other hand the four forwards are expected to be able to cover the middle roles, with Davey also noted as backrower. At this stage, the only cover for Reed Mahoney is Ray Stone.

Taking all of this into consideration, the likely roster need sits around back row and dummy half. Which brings us to possible solutions.

In my opinion, the dummy half solution will come from within. Rhys Davies is currently on a development contract, but I’m tipping an upgrade to a Top 30 deal by the beginning of the season.

Dylbags and Davies

The 2019 Wenty half has been outstanding during the early preseason, leading conditioning runs until the return of Gutherson. He’s completed skills sessions in both dummy half and halfback roles, and could come into consideration for the 14 jersey.

Another factor in Davies’ favour is that it would only require a small upgrade and he is a known commodity.

Spot 29 becomes more interesting. Initially, it was straight forward – upgrade Stefano Utoikamanu. This might still be the path chosen, as again he is a known player and the cost is minimal. However, his contract with the Tigers for 2021 might muddy those waters.

Should the Eels decide to recruit externally, I don’t expect them to spend up big. The top 13, even 16 of the top 17 places, seem settled. Furthermore, the depth in middle forwards is impressive, with Hollis and Hughes on the cusp of NSW Cup and Duggan included in this NRL preseason. I expect all three to start in Jersey Flegg, but it’s difficult to envisage an established NRL forward being lured to the club with the level of competition already at the club.

Andrew Davey

Another consideration is versatility. Whilst it could be argued that an injury to either Lane or Matterson would expose a lack of depth in the back row, there are answers to that problem. If Davey is available, he could slot straight in. Takairangi also becomes a back row option, or Niukore could easily switch to that role, meaning that Kaufusi, Gower or Terepo come onto the bench. I’m also of the belief that all of these players would not only fill a spot, they could also put pressure on the bench to claim a place in the 17.

With that in mind, I’m anticipating either an internal upgrade or the signature of a fringe NRL forward. The club won’t be in a rush. The Eels have the depth to cover their needs, and this was in evidence last year when Kaysa Pritchard was granted extended leave to determine his future, effectively forfeiting a roster spot until mid season.

Of course, things might change. The Newcastle Herald has reported that Brock Lamb is considering a return to Maitland. Were this to occur, and though Lamb’s only on a Development contract for 2020, his status as Top 30 in 2021 might mean that the Eels decide to sign another half.

As usual, it’s unlikely that the 30th place will be filled until midway through the season, and will probably be determined by market availability and injuries to the roster. It’s difficult to speculate at this stage, as you can never predict who becomes available or what changes are forced upon a roster. It’s why coaches like to have that last spot up their sleeve.

Looking ahead, I’m buoyant about the potential that sits in the Development contract players and the Flegg squad. Though a large number of juniors have been lost in the last six months, there’s plenty of talent coming through the system. TCT was critical (and rightly so) in our pathways post, but we took issue with the processes that led to the departure of players, some of whom (not all) should have been retained. Despite this criticism, I believe that the strength of the Eels roster and emerging players to be better than at any stage during the last decade.

Big Dave Hollis

Eels supporters will have the opportunity to watch four rounds featuring three grades of football at Bankwest Stadium this season. Most people are familiar with the players who’ll take the field in Canterbury Cup, so make sure you get there early to watch the Flegg games.

Coach Dean Feeney will have forwards such as Hollis, Schneider, Hughes, Tasipale, Clements, Duggan, Tepu-Smith, Colovatti, Betham-Misa, Tohi, Mataele, Skinner and Small at his disposal and a backline that’s likely to include Arthur, Murray, Loizou, Nohra, Penisini, Komolafe, Russell, Naiduki, Tuimavave-Gerrard, Tuipulotu, Tuigamala and Chappell. I believe that around one third of that list will play NRL. If that happens, it would be an extraordinary strike rate for any Flegg roster.

With so many players in the Eels NRL squad in their mid 20s or younger, the pressure to secure high profile signatures has been reduced. This hasn’t happened in the last 12 months – it’s the result of years of roster tuning/recruitment and junior development. Though it doesn’t mean that the club ceases to chase quality recruits, the switch to an emphasis on retention and internal promotion should be a healthy scenario for the club. It means that the club can afford to be very selective about who gets added to the roster – a far cry from recruitment announcements in the not too distant past.

Eels forever!






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I’m also of the opinion that Stone gets first crack at the “utility” spot on the bench. Do you think it’s possible for Stone to cover on the edge? He’s only played the one game on the edge in the 20s but I think it would suit him well. And he did score 4 tries in that one game.


ray stone played left edge in the harold matts and pretty sure he made nsw


Enjoying reading your coverage of their training and your thoughts on the teams. As I have a son in the system and live quite a distance away it gives us good information good or bad along with our insights and sharing this journey with our son. We managed to watch our son play 19 games last year sometimes doing a 12 hour round trips with SG Ball and then Jersey Flegg . I have to agree with you there are quite a lot of exciting young players coming through. Looking forward to watching as many games as possible bring on… Read more »

Colin Hussey

An interesting and informative post sixties. Watching the CC grand final last year (gee its good to have the new season as against last, a year gone but need to move on with a year that should e exciting) the player that did well in almost the whole game was the half back in Rhys Davies, overall he had a pretty good game but he also showed some poor areas especially in some wayward passes and line kicks, with a couple of other areas that had us lose the game. Not totally his fault though but its often the small… Read more »

The Mayor

Thanks for the great post. Another factor impacting recruitment is the Salary Cap position. Do you have any feel for where we stand, could we afford a big-name if one becomes available


Sixties what is Rhys Davies history. He seemed to burst onto the scene all of a sudden.

Is he an Eels junior or was he recruited? I don’t know anything about him.

John Eel


Dragons junior, played 20s for the sharks

John Eel

Thanks Ham. He did arrive without much fanfare


For small bloke he’s a tough defender and kicks goals at about 80% which will come in handy


Thanks Parrathruandthru that’s a superb clip of his defence. V good.


Thanks PTT great hit and stick in defence. The short kicking game will be very useful as a fourteen.

I see now why Sixties has a high opinion of him. Look forward to seeing him play.

John Eel

Colin Hussey

He played that way in the CC Grand Final as mentioned previously. He is a top front on defender especially considering there’s not a lot of him. IIRC he missed a vital goal in the GF and some poor kick options but he certainly provides the club with a handy young player with various talents that only need some fine tuning.


Craig whats your take on the roles played by recruit and retent dept , whats there main areas , who do you think identifys who we do or dont want .


Very insightful read again Sixties. Thank you. And how good is it to have parents of young players reading and replying to your posts. That’s great Wendy and we hope your boy has a good season and injury free. Sixties, i can definitely agree with the promoting from within and why. I just do not want us to solely rely on the local players and know you have not said this as we do not want to be in a situation like some clubs in this respect. I have been v impressed with our retention thus far and sincerely hope… Read more »


Agreed mate. Spot on again.


Great read Sixties. Although there is at this time of the year an opportunity to reflect on many aspects life temporal and eternal which we celebrate such as Christmas, and the hope that comes from the New Year but the abundance of tragedy with the bush fires has also had many footy fans getting a bit anxious waiting for some good news and any reports on our footy squad would certainly bring some hope in these perilous times.

The excellence of the content has given me a welcome and positive distraction for 2020.


Excellent post as always. What about Schneider as development contract and possible backup for Mahoney? Is he ready yet for NRL? Yes Davies has a very good tackling technique and has no problem stopping the big players head on dead in their tracks. A good skill to have especially if playing hooker, can he teach Mahoney that?


Taka and Salmon would be wasted on the bench I really don’t like “what ifs” in the team. Stone I think is the best choice. Forward. Backrow. Hooker. Young.

John Eel

Sixties my details keep dropping off. Is it my phone or the site.

Maybe you are trying to tell me something. Hmmmm


Finally our 13 is pretty solid across the park, no makeshift centres or reserve grade forwards or halves in starting roles.Also we have quality reserves, things are going good when you can not decide who goes on the bench.Apart from Jennings for whom we have replacements already waiting in the wings, most of our roster is quite young so we should remain strong for a few years and in fact apart from a Toumololo or a Fafita style wrecking ball I really don’t think we are desperate to sign anyone which is an awesome feeling heading into a season.

Sharron. D. M

Interesting thoughts around Davies. Never played hooker and although has a good skill set #9 is something different. His service is not the greatest and although you speak of his defence last year he struggled. Speaking to rip it was an area the needed work on.. Schneider is an interesting one What is the club doing with him and do they see a future at the club with him. There has been so much hype around the kid and the injuries he sustained obviously took a toll. I personally still think he is quality and has allot to offer. Time… Read more »

Jonathan Collins

Is Brock Lamb in the roster, if so he would be included in the 17, his versitily is the best option to wear 14 Jersey.


That’s a really good picture of our roster sixties. Such a shame about Utoikamanu,but as you say, a long time since we’ve looked in such good shape. This time last year we were already seeing the benefit of signing Fergo and he’s hardly warmed up yet. Waqa Blake, Nathan Brown, Gutho, MJennings, Sivo likewise. Do you think the Rep season disturbs things too much or the squad is gelling well? We seem to have leaders all over the park now as well.


We have a very strong talent pool in the outside backs. They really do pick themselves. Sivo, M Jennings, Blake, Ferguson. Guys like Takairangi, G Jennings, Parry all provide decent cover with Salmon and Dunster also in consideration. Halves seem to be of some concern regarding depth. I absolutely cannot deny the talents of Moses and Brown, but aside from this I’m not sold on any long-term backups. Salmon I see as a long-term center and Smith has great utility value but is not an out and out first grade half. I also think if Davis gets an upgrade it… Read more »

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