The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – December 9, 2020: Cartwright’s Bonanza As Dunster Shines

What’s your definition of pre-season Parradise?

If you answered, “two hours on the training track pushing new levels of fatigue”, then today would have been just the ticket.

If that doesn’t appeal, then it’s a good thing you’re not part of the Eels squad. It was a physically demanding session.

From a spectator perspective, there was also a fair bit of footy thrown in. Good thing too, as there were some moments well worth a mention.

Structurally, the players were kept on the move, either through dedicated conditioning or game related drills.

The first forty minutes or so involved only warm ups and running. During a brief rest period, Steve Murphy explained the football “games” that they would be engaged in at different times during the second half of the session. This set some expectations and made the transitions somewhat smoother.

With that first hour done and fatigue beginning to bite, the squad launched into their first game – four tackle, two handed touch footy.

When touched, the players hit the ground then rise to play the ball – simulating a normal ruck, although at fast forward and without the wrestle. It was a frantically paced game, with the kick and chase occurring after only three tackles. The game seems to place an emphasis on ball movement and creating opportunities.

The left side for both teams provided the highlights during this first game. Tom Opacic and Maika Sivo worked an overlap with Sivo hitting open spaces before finding Opacic backing up on the inside. Good scrambling prevented the line being crossed.

Bryce Cartwright

Bryce Cartwright then explored the left side, delivering a superb cut out pass to put the winger into space. Again, only the chasing cover defence thwarted the try.

Trent Elkin once more took control of the squad as they were put through repeated sets of 120m-140m runs. Dylan Brown, Jake Arthur, Joey Lussick and Bryce Cartwright pushed out to lead the squad, emphasising the consistency of their efforts.

As the running continued, the interesting call from Elkin was for the players to concentrate.

At this point, he had them running up and down the field to different coloured markers. He also had them hitting the turf and rising to run on his whistle. The squad were warned to not give away any penalties as they looked to rise as one on the whistle and keep together in the line.

Those who recall my second report might remember me noting the value of conditioning work which mimics the physical demands of the game.

Haze Dunster

With the players now under fatigue, the next game of two handed touch commenced. Cue Bryce Cartwright’s next display of skill. Now playing on the right edge, the new recruit chipped over the defence from about the 40 m line, regathered on the full, then grubber kicked the ball off the outside of his foot for Haze Dunster to regather. Were it not a game of two handed touch, Dunster would have likely carried defenders across the line.

More running with repeated sets over varying distances then followed. There was plenty of up and down off the turf during this time, first over 20 metres up and back, then over repeated 40 metre runs. At this point Haze Dunster began to impose his fitness on the group as he pushed towards the lead.

The exhausting up and down movements off the ground became more frequent as the distances shortened to 10 metres, before the running finished with 40 metre and 10 metre combinations. Brad Arthur then addressed the group, emphasising the importance of grit and effort on effort – finding more even when fatigued.

Finally the squad transitioned into a drill covering last tackle options – kick chases and running the ball. The contrived scenario was a 4th tackle play the ball, leading to the fifth and last.

Given that the players were interchanging between attacking and defending teams, with the coaches positioned behind both lines providing immediate feedback, the drills were probably about both the kick/chase as well as the kick pressure and work of the back three. The defence was now grab rather than two handed touch.

Haze Dunster capped off an impressive session by providing a further two highlights. Fielding an awkward kick at full pace, the young winger charged at an angle towards the defence, only to find a rampaging Maika Sivo with a brilliant pass that put him through the line.

Immediately after this, Dunster was moved to fullback in the attacking team. Rather than kicking, they ran the ball on the last with Haze slicing through a gap before grubbering awkwardly ahead, forcing an error from the defence right on the line. Though none of this was full contact opposed, it was tremendous to witness such confidence on display.

Of course, it would be out of character for an Eels session during this preseason to not include defence techniques. Similar to last week, every player worked on their hit, stick and leg drive, with scaffolded drills that began with shoulder contact and finished with driving their opponent backwards.

The coaches wrapped up proceedings by working with groups of players during extras. This involved position specific skills such as the halves short kicking and the outside backs fielding high kicks.


Great sesh.


Eels forever!



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matthew sweeney

just on Tom, does he appear to have a good turn of speed? thx sixties

Colin Hussey

As usual an excellent report sixties. While early days, I am enjoying the reports regarding Haze, I haven’t seen a lot of him and that would be the case with many others as well, but I believe the eels have someone special on their books, and need to have him with his name on more pages than now. I really have a good feeling about him being the next eels winger to make a name for himself, and unless he does a career ending issue/injury we cannot afford to lose him. With Carty in the team he could end up… Read more »

Matthew Sweeney

Hi Colin, also enjoy your comments over the years. I worry that we might lack genuine speed, when you say haze has got speed I wonder if its fox like speed or at least not to far off. Its a question I can’t get a Guage on going by the limited YouTube footage.

Colin Hussey

Thanks Mathew, I am honest in saying that I have not seen a lot of Haze other than two trial games and his first grade debut, this year. He scores a great try in the first game I saw him play in, and was busy in the other one. His first grade debut he showed enough that I thought his speed was fairly good, in the runs that he had. A step up this year and depending on his continued options to the top grade should show out as well. With CC back next season he will get more chances… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Good comments, I would suggest that Daze likely got a huge lift in confidence following his debut this past season. He didn’t over read or play in his role, rather he played a game that I believe his team mates also were not nervous with having him in the team.

Matthew Sweeney

Thx Colin, I totally agree, he definitely looks like a smooth mover.


It’s great to hear Haze has been impressing across every training session it seems, there’s a spot in the backline for him and given his debut game and what he’s brought to the past 3 pre-seasons he deserves it I reckon.

Also fantastic to hear Cartwright still has his attacking brilliance, but the problem with him has been his defence. How’s he handling the defensive part of training?

Matthew Sweeney

Could haze be fashioned into a centre?

Colin Hussey

Would prefer to see him settle on the wing for immediate future.


Great report Sixties. Your enthusiasm and engagement with the different drills seems to emulate the players actions as you describe them. Good teamwork bro, you could be looking at a permanent spot on the bench in #22 mate.

Trouser Eel

Great report Sixties. Are there any signs that Cartwright is getting special coaching on his defence?


I have been enjoying the training reports till now Sixties but I have to say this is the first one that’s actually provided a jingle to my jangle 😳. The attacking flair is starting to rise to the surface and I do think that collectively we will need another gear next season as our block plays and Gutho’s passing game on the edges/flanks may become a little predictable. Question: what happens if the NRL or governments introduce a No COVID “jab” no play? Bryce has made his position on this pretty clear? Keep up the great work and I hope… Read more »


Sixties, I don’t believe the club would leave that issue an open book. Just doesn’t fit with their approach and objectives. Also recent revelations on Titan’s culture gives Cartwright a once off chance to completely re-set…he’ll take aim and won’t miss.


There was talk that Parra trained too hard early in the year leading to their poor second half performances. Does the training seem to be easier when compared to last year? Based on today’s report it seems hard early in the new year.

John Eel

Sounds like you know something Glenn!


Sixties, I reckon there was a double whammy v Souths. The 15 minutes after half time, we didn’t consolidate, There was some luck for Souths but we just didn’t grab the game at all in that period.


Also helps when you give away a professional foul and all the ref does is penalise you. We had at least a 2 man overlap on the blind side with Moses screaming for the ball when Cook deliberately fouled Junior getting up to play the ball. The correct call there probably wins us the game


Ham, in that Cook incident, was there a held call heard? Once the ref adjudged a penalty, it should have been sin bin. I thought he may have botched the held call so half-arsed the punishment.


Agreed Ham. All the boys would not have forgotten how close they came to winning their last game and would be encouraged by that coming into this season. Also that ref won’t be getting the big games because his brother will not be allocating them next year.


I don’t recall hearing anything about us working too hard with the exception of a very loose comment from Wayne Bennett after our semi finals loss where he said something about some teams “flogging” their players during the COVID break.

Paul taylor

Great read as always . Wingers that are light on but have speed like JAC still make impact in the first 3 tackles of a set . JAC runs at speed at the gap between offenders. Sivo runs directly at the offender . He needs to change that .Dunster definitely has the skills and fitness to jag a spot . Cartwright has unbelievable skills with the ball when he is playing focussed and contented . Defending is attitude and can be fixed .



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