After a two week sabbatical for the Eels squad and staff, today marked Day One for the second half of this most important pre-season. Judging from the two hours plus on the field this morning, there was no easing into the new year.
Firstly, the answer to the question everybody would be asking.
Yes, Maika Sivo was at training, which was contrary to some reports that he had, or would be, missing sessions. One of the issues with reporting during breaks is that some columns are written without checking facts, and accuracy is sacrificed.
Typical of January training, the ball skills and opposed work increased in this session, though I would estimate that there was at least 6km of pure conditioning. Throw in warm up and opposed and I reckon it’s over 8km today in total.
The weather was mild and dry at Kellyville despite the skies threatening to deliver much needed precipitation. Hopefully we get some rainfall this week.
Here’s how the morning was structured:
After an extended warm up period, the players were timed over a distance that I estimated to be between 1.2 and 1.5km. Unfortunately, I was doing a mental roll-call as the players were running and didn’t keep an accurate count. Bad Sixties!
For the remainder of the conditioning the players completed sets of about four runs, each timed, with the total of just under 1000 metres covered across the runs. These sets of runs were repeated between each period of opposed work.
Three players deserve wraps for pushing their limit consistently across every single run (approximately 16 runs in total). Gutho, Davies and Schneider were in the top 4 for each run, with Kyle bettering the King in a couple. Just behind these three were Dylan Brown, Will Smith and Reed Mahoney.
Dylbags makes running seem effortless. The longer the session goes, the more he seems to glide over the distances.
It’s also worth mentioning Ray Stone and Haze Dunster. Stone shone during the early sets, displaying the surprising pace that I’ve detailed in earlier reports. Impressively, Dunster took on Gutho in a few runs, beating him home in a couple and pushing him to his limits in some others.
But just when you think that others might have his measure, Gutherson keeps finding an extra gear or greater stamina in the next set to remind everyone about his gold standard. His hair might be from another time, another place, but he remains the King.
The final run of the morning became a pleasant surprise. With Elkin lining the squad up and barking orders, instead of blowing the starting whistle, he blew full time on the session.
After just over two hours, it was welcomed.
Skills and Opposed
As usual, the squad was split into Red (CC) and Blue (NRL). This doesn’t necessarily mean that a player’s grade has already been determined. Depending on the number of players, forwards might switch between teams rather than spending time off the field as they would in an interchange scenario.
Nonetheless, it was interesting to note that Oregon Kaufusi was given extended time in the Blue team today. The young bull looks really fit and might just be putting some pressure on. Though I won’t read too much into this as yet, the coaches do start to develop combinations after the new year, so it might be a good sign for fans of Oggy.
For the most part, the footy was a combination of opposed and unopposed sets of six. The unopposed involved working downfield through their standard shapes to a kick. The opposed was an attacking set within the opposition half.
Not too much was revealed from the unopposed – I’ve been watching set starts through to kicks for most of the preseason. However, there were some standout collisions in the opposed work, and I’ll single out Kane Evans (who was wearing Red today) for holding little back.
I’d also like to give a nod of the head to the young middle forwards – Hughes, Duggan and Hollis. There were some fearless carries into the NRL boys today. Congrats fellas.
In the final skills work of the day, the squad was split into middles/dummy halves and edges. As you’d expect, the 9s and middles worked on plays in and around the ruck, whilst the edges practised variations of attack to create opportunities against edge defenders. From my perspective, I could see evidence of some of the skill set developed during the drills with Andrew Johns.
Although this was a solid return to work, I’m going to offer a critical observation. Despite the typical talk from Gutho and the spine players, I thought that the majority of the squad was a bit too quiet.
As far as I’m concerned, a noisy session is generally a good one. I’ve reported this on many occasions, whether it be communication in play or just encouraging each other.
I’ll be looking for this aspect to improve in the next session.
Images courtesy of Eels media.