There was probably a time, long ago in most people’s lives, when sport wasn’t called off because of a little rain.
If you’re like me, playing footy on a drenched track as a kid was one of life’s great joys. The deck was a bit softer, the post contact slide could gain as much yardage as your run, and the mud soaked jersey was something for your mum to worry about.
For the Eels, the rain that’s brought relief across the state also seemed to add a spring to the step at today’s training.
The voices were louder. The calls of encouragement and urging for effort echoed across the field.
If anything the precipitation had brought greater exhortations.
From a footy perspective, it’s been a big week of training for the Eels. The opposed work has really kicked in as the trials and season opener get closer. But if you were watching from the sidelines today, you’d never guess that this was the third physical contest of the week.
Here’s how the morning unfolded:
Reed Says “Bring It On!”
In one of his most impressive days of this year’s preseason, Reed Mahoney absolutely exploded out of the blocks in the conditioning work.
In addition to the running, the players were asked to complete Malcolms at pace. Reed seemed to be loaded with springs as he bounced up off the ground at each turn.
That’s not to say that the Gold Standard – King Gutho – wasn’t featuring. You can generally take that to the bank on a daily basis. Therefore, I take Gutho “out of the market” and look for who else was shining. Today, Mahoney seemed to thrive in the wet conditions.
Maybe “Cash” is a mudder!
Just like Monday and Wednesday, the opposed work formed a major component of the session. Referees were again in attendance. And as far as the collisions were concerned, the intensity remained.
The “game” was played in two halves, with the senior middle forwards swapping teams after “half time”. You can add Oregon and Stefano into that senior forward list.
Obviously the wet conditions produced a contest through the middle. With NRL forwards featuring in both the Blue and Gold teams, the contest seemed evenly split in the battle for supremacy.
This division of the players was good from two perspectives. Firstly, it strengthened the “Gold” team which in turn provided support for the younger players, and made their defence an even tougher proposition to crack. Secondly, it provided the likes of Stefano and Oregon with more opportunities to combine with NRL playmakers, and this helps them to push their claims for a spot on the bench.
There were a number of highlights worth noting:
* Oregon Kaufusi swooping on a dropped pass to sprint 20 metres untouched for the first Blue try.
* Blake Ferguson chip kicking and regathering in the in goal, with his grounding unluckily ruled as a knock on.
* Stefano knocking defenders off their feet with a bulldozing charge.
* Ryan Matterson taking the aerial route to touch down in the corner off a Fergo tap back.
* RCG surging powerfully through the ruck in the quarter to set up a try, only to see the ball put down by his support runner.
* Kyle Schneider chasing down Reed Mahoney after the Eels rake had picked up a dropped pass and scooted around 30 metres downfield.
Although dropped passes received a couple of mentions in the above highlights, I thought that the handling was quite good in what was very challenging conditions. The rain absolutely belted down throughout the morning and was still falling when the session ended after just on two hours.
As the title of this post suggests, the talk on both teams was very impressive. After three demanding opposed sessions this week, it would have been easy to excuse players if they were down in energy or couldn’t find their voices.
No such need today.