Mitch Moses take a bow.
On his first official day at Eels preseason training, the Eels half set the leadership standards required of a senior player.
In total, eight more players joined the Eels squad this morning. Moses, Waqa Blake, Shaun Lane, Ryan Matterson, Daniel Alvaro, Will Smith, Jordan Rankin and new recruit Michael Oldfield fronted for their first session of the new season and all looked to be in great shape.
But it was Mitch Moses who stood the tallest. After registering a terrific result in his 1.2km time trial, (Rankin and Smith also looked the goods) the Eels playmaker was soon barking encouragement and reminders to the entire squad.
Given that Clint Gutherson and his Origin mates aren’t due back till some time in January, BA would have been looking to one of his key spine players to drive the group.
And when Trent Elkin ran them on the first set of their 140 metre runs (probably completed at about 80% pace) Moses was immediately into his role.
“Don’t touch the poles, stay away from the poles!” this was repeated as he exhorted his team mates to avoid short cutting by running up beside the poles marking out the arc in the run.
“Hold your pace, don’t drop off!” the reminders kept coming as the metres mounted and the players battled fatigue.
This is exactly what coaches want to see from those in the leadership group. When the squad assumes accountability for their own standards, pride in performance is driven from within rather than forced upon them.
Who stood out?
Whilst the returning NRL players were deep into their 1.2km run, those who’ve been there for the previous two weeks worked on running mechanics and 60 metre sprints.
I again noted the explosive power of Maika Sivo. This bloke won’t win you any marathons, but when he’s switched on and fresh, the big Fijian literally flies.
Of the forwards, Dave Hollis and Ray Stone impressed. Dave has a surprising turn of pace when he puts the foot down, and Stone looks like a man on a mission this preseason.
The entire squad completed the ensuing 140m and 120m runs at the same time, competing in groups of about 6-8.
After Jake Arthur threw down the gauntlet to Dylan Brown over longer distances last week, the two halves were pitted against each other in the same group today. As suspected, the young Kiwi responded by edging out his challenger by about a metre in every run. These blokes are unlikely to let up in their quest to be the conditioning standard bearers and Gutho will have a battle royal when he returns.
Big Oggy is probably in the best shape of his young career and he and Papali’i aren’t too far behind Cartwright in the battle for fittest big unit.
Here’s an interesting observation. When the players line up for these runs, there’s a bend or arc in the course. Those who position themselves on the outside of the group are running further than those on the inside.
In literally every run, Bryce Cartwright, Isaiah Papali’i, Haze Dunster and Ryan Matterson position themselves on that outside edge. This additional effort would not go unnoticed by the staff.
The conditioning work concluded after about an hour. The eight players who returned today were not expected to run as many 140m and 120m sets as the rest of the group. Given they had completed the 1.2km time trial and that this was day 1 for them, it comes back to managing their load, especially early in the preseason.
Footy then took over as the session concluded with the right side pitted against the left side in attacking/defensive drills. The squad was divided in three distinct groups for this, as they rotated between who had time with the ball in hand.
The contact was decent, given that it was not meant to be more than grab tackles. Every so often there’d be the sound of a collision that exceeded the parameters of the drill – not that it was a bad thing!
In this drill, the ball found the halves on most plays, so consequently Moses, Brown and Arthur were able to showcase their repertoire of passes. I didn’t read too much into the positions of players as the likely NRL starters were split between the teams.
All up, this drill probably lasted for around 30 minutes before the coaches took groups of players for their extras. It’s fascinating watching this skills coaching in action, especially when it’s unleashed during a game.
There’s plenty of rain forecast so it looks like a potential drenching on the training fields during this last week before the Christmas/New Year break. There’s not much cover available but I’ll do my best to front up and keep the reports coming.