Is too much footy ever enough?
No doubt all teams are warming into the season with an increase in opposed work. For a regular at Eels training like myself, it’s almost as good as being at the footy. And the bonus of it all is that Parra get plenty of possession and no matter the penalty count, it’s still won by the Eels.
I’m going to pose a couple of questions.
Where are we at in comparison to last season?
Is it possible to assess how well the squad is travelling when the opposed work is often NRL vs Canterbury Cup?
From a conditioning perspective, you might have already gleaned that these reports focus on players who stand out each day. As a group, the team looks as fit as last year, and if anything, seem to have more power in their running.
From a football perspective, I report on highlights from opposed work, with an additional emphasis on some of the emerging players (where possible). There are obvious omissions of the types of plays that the team are working on or likely tactics.
Even though the NRL squad are mostly running against the likely Canterbury Cup team, (just as all NRL teams would be training against their lower grade players), there are times when it is obvious that the attack would challenge any defence. It might be the deception involved, it might be the bodies in motion, it might be the speed of the execution, but when watching, you can almost predict that the play is about to create an opportunity.
The defence is more difficult to assess. I can watch what they are doing in terms of structures and techniques, but NRL match conditions are the testing ground, and defence is about attitude. The proof will be in the pudding.
I like what I’m seeing, but there’s a reason for trials. And there’s a reason for the saying that you don’t win Premierships in March. This is merely the start of a long campaign.
Ultimately, the hopes or expectations of supporters matters little. If the roster is strong enough, the attitude of the players becomes paramount. The mindset appears to be good right now, but the 2020 journey has just begun.
Here’s a recap of the last couple of sessions:
An early morning Saturday event, which looked more like an internal trial, began with a 7am kick off. With Old Saleyards unfortunately closed for the scheduled Junior Rep trials, the young players from the apprentice camp who had expected to play became spectators at Kellyville instead.
The NRL (Blue) and the extended Canterbury Cup squad (Gold) went head to head and the clash was forty minutes of close to match condition action. Both teams completed a warm up that was very similar to the warm ups that you see before NRL games. The coaches remained on the sideline during the session.
After a week of solid contact I didn’t think it was possible for the collisions to get any bigger. I was wrong. There were no orange shirts. If a player couldn’t be exposed to full tackles in either attack or defence, he didn’t play. There was some interchange of NRL squad members between the two teams.
Whether or not RCG was best on the field matters little. What was important was that he caught the eye with his imposing carries. He was also the beneficiary of a spectacular Oregon Kaufusi pass which gave him a free passage to cross between the posts. I have no doubt that Reg can already be marked down as a starting prop.
Blake Ferguson was another to shine, with powerful carries and a try thrown in for good measure. This made up for his unlucky no try call in Friday’s session,
There were numerous interchanges for the Gold team which kept them fresh and made the contest more challenging for the Blues. They were eventually rewarded with a try to Ethan Parry who grounded a grubber kick which had rebounded off legs into the in goal.
Footy, footy, and even more footy!
After resting the aching bones and sore limbs on Sunday, there was no time for resting on the laurels today. The focus was attack and defence in and around the quarter. There wasn’t quite the power of the impacts of last week, but that was hardly surprising for the first day of the new week.
It was Blue (NRL) vs Red (Reggies) with the session split into two halves – the first period giving the Blue the majority of possession in attack. The second period saw the Reds get their turn. The footy would break about every 10-15 minutes for Trent Elkin to run the players enough to add some fatigue.
My highlights included:
* The talk on the field – quite good for day one of the week.
* A try generated by quick hands to the left corner.
* Junior straightening in his run to score close to the posts
* A clean break made by Moses down the sideline after the Blues earned a turnover deep in their quarter. A kick ahead when he was confronted by the last defender should have resulted in a try but Fergo couldn’t quite haul in the bouncing ball.
* The defensive reads out wide by the Blues which shut down what looked like near certain tries.
* The Reds scoring a try in their final play of the day, after two outstanding passes in their shift to the left.
The session concluded after close to two hours.
A Final Word – Specialist Coaching
Forwards, backs, spine, defence, kicking. There are sessions each week that deal specifically in each of these aspects. The most publicised of these has been the addition of Andrew Johns who has been coaching the spine.
I enjoy watching Joey’s coaching, though I rarely report on it. Running, passing, kicking, he covers it all with technique and decision making an emphasis.
Whilst he and BA take the spine, the assistant coaches (Carr, Murphy and Kidwell) work with the backs and the forwards. Kicking and catching is often drilled with the backs. Passing, carries into the defence and combinations are developed with the forwards.
It’s always interesting to watch the coaches create games for training. Players are practising the skill but having fun doing so. One such game is the offload game. Two teams compete in a small grid, one with possession and trying to build up a long sequence of offloads, the other trying to shut it down armed with bump pads. The players look like they are having far too much fun during this game!
More to come as the week unfolds.
Images courtesy of Eels media