The Cumberland Throw

Rookie Watch – Sam Hughes

In the first instalment of the 2020 Rookie Watch series we took a look at one of the most promising front-row prospects for the Parramatta Eels in David Hollis. It is only fitting that his running mate in the engine room gets the call for part two so let’s get acquainted with Sam Hughes.

The Player

Hughes was scouted by the Eels as a Harold Matthews prospect and plucked from the nursery of the Cronulla Sharks before debuting for Parramatta in 2017. He proved to be a dynamic weapon off the edge in his first campaign at the Eels and was particularly lethal in the red zone where his superior size and athleticism relative to the age bracket made him a mismatch nightmare.

The halcyon days in the backrow were short lived for young Sam though as Parramatta envisioned a future for him in the front-row where he would form a dynamic duo with Hollis. It isn’t hard to see why the Eels were keen on uniting the two talents; Hollis casts an imposing figure at 196cm and 110kg while Hughes is every bit as fearsome at 193cm and 112kg.

Whereas Hollis brings a Klemmer-esque pure North-South running game to the table, the legacy of Hughes’ origins in the backrow is still apparent with his respectable lateral agility for a big man. It serves him well in both attack and defence, allowing him to better target weaker tackling zones when running the ball while allowing him to take superior defensive positioning on the flip-side.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hughes, like Hollis, also earned representative honours for NSW in the Under 16s and Under 18s. There is no doubting the physical talents of this young bull, the challenges facing him will be on the mental plane.

The Comparison

Finding a comparison for Hughes proved to be an interesting challenge. Physically he matches up well against the likes of Paul Vaughan or even new Parramatta recruit Reagan Campbell-Gillard. Vaughan is exceptionally light on his feet and puts that to devastating use with the ball in hand while Campbell-Gillard has a penchant for vicious defence. There are elements of both players in the way Hughes play to a degree but it is hard to project him to the explosive offensive ceiling of Vaughan – and to be fair, very few props compare in that regard so it is hardly a slur.

Instead the player that perhaps is best reflective of the prospect that Hughes can blossom into comes in an entirely more compact physical package. At 185cm and 106kg, Matt Scott doesn’t share much in common with Sam Hughes at first glance but the nuggety representative prop was legendary for his ability to work between defenders. The fact that he was a plus defender up until his body gave way doesn’t hurt the comparison either.

Hughes has the physical edge on Scott but what set the North Queensland bookend apart was his single-minded determination and competitive drive week-in and week-out. Naturally these sorts of qualifying statements are a recurring theme in any sort of rookie watch article because when evaluating any crop of physically outstanding prospects the biggest questions are invariably going to be about their mental aptitude.

In that regard we will find out plenty of Sam Hughes, David Hollis and more in the coming seasons as they are tasked with increasingly difficult challenges in the pursuit of a first-grade debut.


The Outlook

I could honestly cut and paste my outro statement from the first Rookie Watch post here! Hughes and Hollis will be expected to lead their brethren in the Jersey Flegg with consistently excellent showings in the ruck. NSW Under 20s selection should be a realistic goal while a taste of Canterbury Cup later in the year isn’t out of the question. Not having to throw talented prospects into the crucible of first-grade before they are ready is the privilege of a well-built roster – a privilege the Eels have earned after some serious blood and sweat.

Naturally TCT will provide you with a glut of updates on both their teams progress in the Flegg as well as their own individual development throughout 2020 but if possible you should also take advantage of a quartet of Flegg games hosted at Bankwest Stadium throughout the year!

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20 thoughts on “Rookie Watch – Sam Hughes

  1. BDon

    Tks Forty. Two good front row prospects, both looking suited to the modern game, size and mobllity. That mention of lateral agility catches the eye, the top level defensive packs have it in spades. And if they have represented at U16 & U 18, an early indicator of mental application. Maybe two Bears here, good luck to both David and Sam.

  2. !0 Year Member

    Thanks Forty. Will be tracking the boys through the year. No harm in having choice for the engine room. Props are just as important as anyone in the team.

    1. Forty20 Post author

      A good stable of props is a must really. I don’t think any other positional group feels the wear of attrition over the course of a season more than them and considering you need ~4 of them in any given game, the more the better.

      1. Anonymous

        Thanks for your report 40/20. SH who turned 19 today has read the report and made favourable comments especially with regard to the Matt Scott comments.

        Keep up the good work at TCT.

  3. John Eel

    Forty I do like Sam Hughes and I enjoyed reading this report with your reflections.

    I saw a game in 2019 at Wyong. I thought Sam played a blinder that day. Hollis was good also but I think Sam had a blinder

    Looking forward to the progress of both of these youngsters in the seasons ahead.

    I was a bit surprised at Hughes height. I did not think he was that tall. I have seen him and Hollis standing shoulder to shoulder and Hollis looked to me to be considerably taller

    I think I need Specsavers

    1. Anonymous

      That was a hot day up there – We were under the pump for long periods of the game and got away with a narrow win – Sam’s defensive technique gave us the edge. He got a lot of raps from the Central Coast supporters after the game.

  4. Gary

    Both Hollis and Hughes will be 19 this year. Is this correct?
    I’d imagine some NSW cup may be on the cards and pending if good enough NRL perhaps in 2021.

    1. Forty20 Post author

      Assuming they stay healthy and play well throughout this year that is pretty much my optimal time line Gary.

  5. Colin Hussey

    Good article 40’s & thanks.

    Both these players look the goods, and where they end up is in their own hands, with more than a few off contract end of this year, they can certainly make an on field statement as to their desire to go further than just the jnrs,

    Comparing the two of these players together, Hollis makes Hughes look small in his general body shape, but when looking at other similar players such as Lane & even Klemmer he very much looks a bean pole type but a thin one at that, similar to Lane.

    1. Forty20 Post author

      Both of them are starting to fill out proper now which is a reassuring sign. Hughes always had a well proportioned athletic build but I can understand why there might have been some trepidation about Hollis potentially ending up as a beanpole but from what I have seen of him in recent times he should end up considerably thicker through the upper body than Lane.

      1. Colin Hussey

        Don’t disagree mate, to me the bean poles can show a lot more agility and elusiveness and still play hard compared at times to the bigger players.

        Its very much early days, but for me its early excitement that can bring on a fair degree of eager anticipation for both the players and supporters..

  6. Milo

    Thanks again Forty and i look forward to seeing Hughes and Hollis come through, albeit i hope we have them in our sights for the next few yrs to come….
    Is there anything in our backrow depth coming through as i heard one of our boys has been linked to the knights.

  7. Jpe Briffa

    Good O
    on ya mate well written. We have been following these young men for a while and it is good to see. Catch up soon keep up the good work

  8. Jpe Briffa

    Great to hear mate.We have been following these young men for some time now.Keep up the good work catch up soon

  9. Zero58

    Sixties, comparing young bulls to older bulls helps to determine their future prospects providing, of course, all goes to plan.
    A comparison of Hughes and Hollins against Fifita and Haas might provide us with a better insight because they are close to the same age.
    Both Fifita and Haas started a tender age, more so considering their relative playing positions.
    Can you provide some thoughtful comparisons between these four in terms potential and abilities?

    1. Forty20 Post author

      I don’t think Hollis and Hughes really compare to Haas and Fifita – and that shouldn’t be read as a slight to either of the Parramatta prospects. The two Brisbane forwards are generational athletic talents that each have the potential to be the best forward in the NRL.

      Conversely, the Broncos rushed their two talents into first grade into what can only be described as a toxic playing environment and while the two young bulls have starred, they also have been rushed in their development to a degree.

      Knock on wood but Hollis and Hughes should enter first grade with a really strong grounding because Parramatta have that luxury at the moment. Obviously there will still be rookie moments for both of them but look for them to be first graders with genuine upside rather than Day 1 stars like the Brisbane duo.

      1. sixties

        I agree wholeheartedly with Forty on this. The two Broncos boys are capable of being spectacular game breakers, but the measure of their youth is in the quiet games they play. Both will be winners in the future. The Broncos played so many young players, and their inconsistent season reflected that.
        I don’t think too many young players in the NRL can be compared in style to Haas and Fifita. At Parra, Stefano can make destructive runs, and has a bit of pace in open spaces, but I wouldn’t draw a comparison to their explosiveness. Oregon is closer in style to a compact Bromwich- he has a good step as he hits the line. A running Junior can create havoc, but his despite his mobility for a big man, his frame is very different to the Broncos boys. His offloads and capacity to link like a big half are a massive strength.
        The comparison of Hollis and Hughes is best made against the players that Forty has mentioned. Even so, they will make their own path, their own way. Comparisons are made, not to hype them up, but to create a reference point for those who haven’t watched them play.

  10. DDay

    Sounds like an exciting prospect and I like the fact the Eels have 2 more good middle forward prospects keeping the established NRL forwards on notice.

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