The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 18 & 20, 2020: You Want Footy, You Got It!

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.

Oggy offloads to RCG for the try

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!

Dylan in action

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.

Junior charging into the ruck

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.

Eels forever!



Images courtesy of Eels media

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There it is, much appreciated sixties.


Three weeks of January gone. NRL is charging at us, although I feel like I’m charging at it with your reports sixties. Interesting mention of Blake F, will be good to see him start the new season rested and fresh , he soaked up a lot in 2019, including that early battering the Raiders forwards put on him.

paul taylor

Great report as usual mate. Your excitement is coming through loud and clear. Pleased RCG is going up a notch as we really need the RCG 2017 version and that running game. Imagine getting an 110kg front rower with decent pace coming off short balls 20 metres out. Unstoppable. Looking good mate.
SIVO ? Getting bit nervous about old mate.


He was sick the whole of last week together with a couple of other players and were given a days off until they full recover


Sixties, can you elaborate on combinations between certain players developing and looking promising, or is that needed to be kept confidential?


Thanks mate.
Yes, I believe in today’s game all forwards should possess an offload and not only that, but many should be mobile enough to get back up for support play. Both big named forwards recently recruited have a nice offload. I’m hoping to see both the forwards offloading to certain players, halves but also attacking forwards and the reverse, halves with little passes to supporting forwards hitting at speed like the Brown / Lane combo last year. This is where I think Matto will prove to be a very good buy. Fingers crossed.

Colin Hussey

sixties, I am very encouraged by these reports & see this season as really a vital one for the whole club and moving forward. The two big signings for this season give us real grunt and power, but also strength in more ways than we could have thought following last year and before these signings happened. Can just two new bodies take the team to heights we could only dream of even 6 months back? The pack and bench selections are going to be very vital to where we will be heading, and what I am wondering and mentioned in… Read more »


Colin, your whole theme of having players that fit together I reckon has taken a leap with our recruitment/retention. It’s not all that long back there were regular comments on here about our ruck defence being shredded when certain combinations of players were on the field. We were doubling up on lack of agility, effort on effort and concentration.

paul taylor

Thanks mate, Watched a bit of Penrith training today in the heat. The have nice line speed in defence but nothing else jumped out at me.


It’s an interesting year for the Wiff, Paul. Who can honestly predict how they will go this year? They have let go of a heap of talent (thankyou Ivan!), but who replaces all that talent? No doubt there are some great young players from that massive nursery, but geez they’ve parted ways with some talent. How will Ivan go post Gus etc?

Paul taylor

Grunta , really think they will struggle . Kikau and fisher Harris ate guns but they will seriously miss Moloney . They leak lot of points too which isn’t going to get you near the top 8. They do blood young blokes and can bring a rookie through .. we have them covered mate ..



!0 Year Member

Let us not be unicorns. Training is just that, training. I like the reports and appreciate how much time you invest in the team, very commendable. We are going from being the hunter to being the hunted. We showed in 2018 at how hopeless we were in that scenario. The coaches can make all the games they want, but when teams come up against us, they are going to show us what they think of us and the hype around us. I hope we stand up to the pressure and as a great coach once said “coal is just a… Read more »


Thanks for these reports 60s. We have the potential but do we have the attitude? I’d like to think so, but my big worry is defence, which in reality is all about attitude. Our problems last year were the amount of tries scored against us thru the middle. Also we were 2nd worse (after Titans) at letting tries in when they were in our red zone. From your observation has there been extra emphasis paid to fixing these problems, and defence in general? As Raiders have shown defence wins a g/f (or almost).


Hey Sixties. Thanks for the reports. It keeps the tragics entertained during the off season. Question: you’ve been doing this a while now, a few seasons. With hindsight can you now nominate any particular trait or attitude that separates a successful season (2019) compared to say the debacle of 2018? Looking back, were there warning signs in the preseason of 2018? Do we just have greater talent now?

John Eel

Great summation Sixties. Very accurate in my opinion.

I think there was a hint of over achievement in 2017 and a lack of recruitment for 2018.

Colin Hussey

Interesting call sixties, I hope a similar worm does not come out of the ground for this coming season.


Outstanding as always!
Have you noticed a change in Mitch Moses taking on the line and passing game under the mentoring of Joey?


Thanks sixties! Looking forward to seeing how he develops/matures under Joey!


Jersey Flegg trial tomorrow night against the Riff. Think it’s 7:00 pm kick off at Panthers.


Miscommunication – thought there trials tomorrow- probably not – have you heard Sixties?


Thanks again Sixties, and another v comprehensive report has me salivating again.
I am intrigued how our dummy halves are going and more importantly the back ups of Schneider, Smith and co. I think its an interesting area we have for 2020 and v vital.
Our depth seems ok barring bad injuries etc.
Do we know if BA and team will venture for anymore short camps up the central coast?
I know we are only speculating but i trust the club has plans to update Lane,,,,he has been superb.


Hi sixties, thanks for the comprehensive updates, wondering how much the Andrew Johns factor is having on our halves and spine please. Ta

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