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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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.

!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.


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.

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


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.


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.

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.

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..


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.


Milo, I’m going to be following the progress of Oliver Clements. I believe he’s from up your way.

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

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


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?


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… Read more »


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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