The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Painting A Roster Change Picture

 

Over the past month and a half we’ve been inundated by Eels roster news. Departing players were announced, and newly contracted players have been added in relatively quick time.

As Eels fans we collectively thank those leaving the club and wish them well in their future endeavours. Likewise we welcome the new recruits and look forward to what they will bring to the  Eels.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburn

Now, with the Eels official 2021 roster currently sitting at 27 (Michael Jennings included) – or 28 with Cartwright unofficially added, it seems like an appropriate time to compare the outgoing with the incoming.

For the purposes of this post, only those on a top 30 contract will form part of the comparison. Though they remain critical to the overall squad, Development Contract players released or signed will not be included.

It should also be noted that spots in the NRL squad have not been finalised. This might mean that the final composition of the Top 30, and the potential loss of Michael Jennings, could change some of the averages determined in this analysis.

As things stand, the Eels have parted ways with ten of their 2020 NRL players. The list below includes the players, their age at Round 1 2021, the total number of top grade appearances, the number of 2020 NRL games and their preferred or most frequently selected position.

Please note that David Gower’s English Super League games are included in his statistics.

 

Player

Age Rd 1 2020

Total NRL Games

2020 Games

Position

Davey

29

10

10

back row

Davies

24

0

0

half/hooker

Evans

29

117

16

prop

Field

23

17

6

half

Gower

35

138

3

prop

G. Jennings

27

35

8

wing

Salmon

22

17

0

centre

Takairangi

31

178

10

centre

Terepo

29

123

6

prop

Utoikamanu

20

3

3

prop

This next table provides similar details for the Eels 2021 recruits. I’m not including Sam Hughes in this list as he was elevated to the NRL Top 30 during this season and is in practise not a new recruit. Likewise, Will Smith was a contract extension, not a new addition. As a Development Contract player, Nathaniel Roache has also been omitted from the comparison despite his previous NRL experience.

Please note that, like David Gower, the numbers for Michael Oldfield and Joey Lussick will include ESL appearances.

 

Name

Age Rd 1 2020

Total NRL Games

2020 Games

Position

Cartwright

26

112

7

back row

Hipgrave

24

40

13

back row

Hollis

19

0

0

prop

Lussick

25

60

17

hooker

Oldfield

30

102

6

wing/centre

Opacic

24

43

5

centre

Papali’i

22

63

15

back row

 

Has the roster been improved with these player movements?

The proof will be revealed on the field, but a comparison between basic statistics of the outgoing and incoming players produces some interesting results.

 

Michael Oldfield (credit Canberra Times)

The average age of the departing players is just on 27 years of age (26.9). The figure for the recruits is 24.5. This makes the additions (thus far) around 2.5 years younger across the group. The Eels parted ways with six players 27 years and over. In contrast, only one player in that age category (Michael Oldfield) has been added. I regard this as highly significant, as the recruits are mostly a group of footballers in the early to mid life of their careers.

 

The average number of top grade appearances for the departing players is 63.9 games. This is not significantly different to the recruited players who average 60 games per player, just 3.9 games less.

Curiously, though regarded as depth signings, the recruited players bring more recent experience to the squad, having averaged 9 top grade appearances each in 2020 compared to 6.2 games for the released players. I’d be surprised if some of this group don’t add significant appearances to their resume next season.

 

As things stand, the changes to the roster have added:

* younger players into the squad

* similar overall NRL experience

* more recent top grade playing experience

Cost? Though I don’t like to report such figures, it is my understanding that the average salaries of both groups is significantly different, an outcome needed for both the overall salary cap, and providing some capacity for a quality signing to be added in the future or to upgrade existing deals.

Of course any analysis of these players cannot ignore the options that they provide via their preferred positions.

At this stage, the Eels have released five forwards, a hooker/half, and four backs. They have added four forwards, a hooker and two outside backs.

Dave Hollis and Marata Niukore

Of the five forwards released, four were middle forwards. Of the four added, only one is a specialist middle – David Hollis, a pathways player yet to debut.

Perhaps Papali’i could be considered as a middle. Does this suggest that the Eels need to recruit another middle forward or are they suitably stocked with middle forwards for the 2021 campaign?

The roster for next season contains the following middle forwards: Paulo, Campbell-Gillard, Brown, Niukore, Kaufusi, Alvaro, Hollis, Hughes, Stone (lock). That means one third of the 27 confirmed players are middle players.

The question that will be asked is – forget about numbers, what about quality?

If the starting point is three Origin players and a fringe Kiwi player in Niukore, that’s a reasonable platform. Outside of signing another middle, it would seem that the opportunity is there for one or two players to step up and/or establish themselves as regular inclusions next year.

Of course, should the Eels not recruit an established NRL prop, there could be options outside of the above listed players.

Shaun Lane

Currently, the back row list reads as follows: Matterson, Lane, Hipgrave, Cartwright, Papali’i.  To my way of thinking, the three new players could be viable considerations for a starting back row spot, leaving the potential for Lane to move to prop. It was a move that Brad Arthur experimented with in 2020, perhaps foreshadowing his intent for 2021?

What stands out like the proverbial dog’s wheels is that the Eels have parted ways with five backs with the potential for losing Jennings. At this stage only two outside backs have been recruited. It seems obvious that a back up half and potentially a strike centre would be on the radar for two of the last roster spots.

I’m giving the incoming group a tick of approval, with the proviso that the aforementioned backline additions remain critical. Should the club get the last couple of signings correct, another Top Four finals appearance awaits.

 

Eels forever!

 

Sixties

 

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Big Derek

A very balanced and sensible comparison of the new signings, despite the bleating of those who view any new player not of origin level as useless and the fault of the coach, this shows that there was a method behind each player recruited. The elephant in the room is the gaping hole at left centre due to the Michael Jennings suspension which may be a long term saga not completed before the start of 2021. The success of this off season may well be decided by who is available to fill that position and can the club sign them. A… Read more »

Hamsammich

Very good post as always Sixties. I can see Hipgrave moving into the middle. He seems to be a bit like Nathan Brown before coming to us, bit of a hot head but capable of big things; he just needs the right guidance, BA and Kidwell have done well developing forwards to make that next step in their careers.

There’ll be some serious competition for bench spots with only Niukore having a spot locked down at this point. For mine, that’s already an improvement on last year where we didn’t have all that much competition for spots on the bench

Hamsammich

He and Papali’i may be fighting it out to play that middle/edge hybrid that Marata was previously playing?

Colin Hussey

The addition of younger players I believe is a plus but the sobering aspect really is what to in regards to MJ. I read the reports that says the club has indicated that Fergs will not be offered a contract beyond 2021, for me its not surprising, & could mean a fair hole if the two backs are gone.

What or who other signings might be, will also be a topic of interest, I certainly hope that Dunster gets more recognition and NRL game time than he has had so far.

Colin Hussey

Hi mate. Not enjoying best of health ATM, have had a lot of cortisone injections this year and affecting me more than the actual pain I think. Turns out that I have probably had more than I should, anyway have had a Lumbar spine CT scan and go to see nuero surgeon in December, at Macquarie Park, possible surgery at Penrith Hospital coming up. I have to admit I have been unable to work out how to become involved with those posts/blogs as I have tried to link in without any success. As for Dunster, I would much prefer to… Read more »

Milo

Stay strong mate and hope all holds up health wise.
Yes Dunster has been strong and needs some time in the middle.
Could be an interesting off-season.

Colin Hussey

Thanks all round sixties. I have an appointment at Macquarie Neuro Surgery, 9am on Wednesday morning following a cancellation, head down on the 0547 train ex VIctoria St so this may be my defining moment. Latest CT scans show both arthritis in the joints as well as some narrowing at one level which is also labelled as laminectomy, which is not as bad as a fusion. One thing for sure the surgeon wont touch areas that he considers will not work. Have had a crook day today and worst for a while. Here’s hoping and that’s all I can say.… Read more »

Milo

‘What stands out like the proverbial dog’s wheels is that the Eels have parted ways with five backs….’
Thanks sixties as I have images of those Boxer dogs and their wheels….it does not get much better.
Seriously we need a good centre and back up half; and i for one would look at Waqa Blake to the wing and then a specialist centre like the Curtis Scott mould (tough and gritty), and I know we need speed but who is free? and also reliable as Roberts is deadwood for me and Naden needs some time.

Colin Hussey

Milo, my feeling is rather than go for old players we should be looking at bringing through some younger ones, especially in the backs. The talk of Mansour coming to the eels is a play I don’t agree with, not because of him but it means we have 3 players all speciality wingers, in Fergo, Oldfield and Mansour, should MJ be ok to play next season it makes for an old backline, ok with MJ but not so sure with the others though. The idea of depth signing is fine but I would like a change. A number of clubs… Read more »

Milo

Colin its interesting the chatter about Mansour, and something tells me its not all right…or maybe its me hoping. I know we need some pace in the backline, but looking who is available I have no idea mate; someone like Scott for me ( I know he is at Canberra) would be good, as he is defensively strong and also tough. Time will mate. I saw how Parra are now interested in Matt Doorey (a junior who left…..seems like parra to me). Matterson came back, Moses came back etc. and of course Junior too! I know its hindsight but why… Read more »

Colin Hussey

My only thoughts on this in regards to the junior players, is that there is possibly some sort of hope/wishful thinking on behalf of the club, knowing they have a lot of good young players, and we cannot fit them all in, having them join other clubs and have them provide the early years development and giving them a leave pass with good report and telling them the door is open later if you knock. Problem then is what they cost us if they come back. I wonder about our backline for next season, as mentioned the aspect re MJ… Read more »

Anonymous

Make Sivo into Olam mould, but twice as big

Rowdy

IMO the only problem with that proposal would be, Olam is a tough footballer. Maika is neither.

Colin Hussey

Tends to make me think that the number of one year deals on offer to the new recruits along with the those already part of the team who also are off contract end of 2021 makes a total of 13 off contract, how many will remain? and who comes in.

I have a feeling, just as its been this years off season that there will be a lot of players who willy battle to be not part of either a recycling or scrap bin at seasons end.

Johan Fordo

These signings won’t add much and are mainly back up players in which may save Arthur’s job but will have no chance of winning finals football

Johan Fordo

Also, none of these new signings are young enough to have enough in reserve in potential to become much better players. Most are at the peak, or past their best. In my opinion we’ve been very poor in recruiting this time around, and I doubt it will change too much before kick off.
Its simply a ploy to save ba and co from the axe

Big Derek

Johan, perhaps you can inform us all where the better players were to replace those that were on our roster in the 20-30 range, The only so called big names who moved basically returned to the Gold Coast where they either lived or went to school previously. Is it a coincidence that not many if any of the players released by Parra have signed elsewhere. Seems there’s a fair bit of if the coach is involved, criticise it, what’s the school report say “ you need to do better”. If you care to come on board and provide the extras… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Wouldn’t hurt Johan to look up the players and look at their ages before stating NONE of these signings are—- Often older players get a new lease of life or in many cases they only start to make the grade from mid 20’s onwards. I am a big fan of wanting more young players given time in the top grade, but the way the game is played today, to have the talented young ones play they actually need experienced hard heads around them to often cover for them also to give them solid advice. The way the game is today… Read more »

Milo

Johan some of the players added are for depth, and there are some who will no doubt push for top 17 spots; and no doubt we are waiting to see what eventuates with MJ spot and the upcoming B sample. To say this is about BA and saving him, I highly doubt it. I do hope the assistants have looked at our defence etc. and attacking skills etc. as there are things to improve on but to say that about the coach is a little naive. Like all clubs there is pressure on coaches and also players, and our team… Read more »

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