The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – December 17 & 18, 2020: The Selection Puzzle Continues

Holidays already?

With only three weeks of the preseason behind us, the festive break brings a fortnight hiatus to Parra’s 2021 preparations.

But if anyone thinks that the players put their feet up over this period they would be very much mistaken.

A program will be set for the squad members, based on their returns from over the past three weeks. And you know some of these fellas will regard that as a minimum.

Such players don’t take things for granted. When training resumes in January, that first round match and selection becomes more tangible. Some want it more.

Going forward into the new year, there are questions around the Eels backline and the bench. I have less clarity around these selections, and the Eels have roster spots available. Preseason efforts could be more critical than any previous year.

Here’s how things wrapped up this week:



I’ve been asked why I watch the spine train on Tuesdays and Thursdays, rather than the majority of the squad. The answer is simple – I’m watching the craft of the playmaker being taught. And the Eels utilise one of the greatest of all time as their mentor.

Joey coaching the spine

You can watch a Joey Johns session in isolation, but it doesn’t do it justice.

The immortal does what all good teachers do – he scaffolds the learning and he’s been doing so since November last year.

Today, it was all about different passes when engaging the defence, and combinations within the spine. The goal of the session was explained and examples of current NRL players who excel in the skill, and why they do, were provided. Johns didn’t mince words about his expectations regarding standards.

The skill was practised, with adjustments and corrections made to where the football was held, the shoulder positions, hip positions and the pace of execution.

Extension of today’s learning occurred when it was incorporated into a range of plays, utilising different combinations of the spine. He explained likely defensive responses and how to either take advantage or adjust their play.

Will Smith

As I’ve reported in previous posts, the importance of communication is continually reinforced by Joey. Some players are great communicators on the field, others aren’t. But in the spine, all these blokes have no excuses. Their team mates have to be able to hear them.

There was plenty to like about what our starting spine (minus Gutho) were showing, but Will Smith looked particularly sharp. His retention in the squad was smart given his versatility across all spine positions.



Whether it was dedicated conditioning, or footy games and drills, there was no shortage of running today.

The squad alternated between their interval running, games and opposed footy simulations throughout the morning session.

Jordan Rankin

There were no surprises in the conditioning. It was a battle royal up front between Jake Arthur and Dylan Brown. Jordan Rankin maintained his place in the leading group as did Will Smith whilst Haze Dunster finished stronger and stronger as each set mounted.

Bryce Cartwright now ranks as probably the fittest forward I’ve seen in recent preseasons. If his first goal at his new club was to set a new benchmark for his work ethic, then he earns a huge tick so far.

During the first game of four tackle, two hand touch, Jake Arthur provided the highlight with a kick and chase for the try.

The young half is most unlikely to feature in the NRL in 2021 (after all he and his peers missed an entire season of Flegg and Canterbury Cup this year), so I did not expect to see such confidence. Jake has always been highly rated for his composure, game management and defence, but he seems to have added extra dimensions to his attacking game. This upcoming season of NRL training will stand him in good stead for the future.

The simultaneous games of two hand touch and Fijian touch are almost impossible to follow. They occupy the same space and it seems as if the Fiji touch players are able to join in the attack in the other game if the opportunity presents.

On a side note, these games are a clever way of building kilometres and fatigue. The action is non-stop but the players are concentrating on their game.

Relentless attack and defence drills wrapped up the session and the year. Split into two teams, each side was charged with holding out multiple attacking sets within the quarter. The contact was quite willing and I saw a bit more of the big blokes like Dave Hollis and Oregon Kaufusi laying attacking platforms.

In fact, Oregon also provided a defensive highlight, charging through at Jake Arthur as he set himself for the kick. Contact was made as the ball was struck, and he didn’t miss him. Merry Christmas mate! Arthur responded well, getting straight to his feet, whilst Oggy earned praise from BA for his hustle and his hit.

Keegan Hipgrave

The other bloke to have a couple of notable moments was Keegan Hipgrave. He crashed over for a try off a tremendous short ball by Arthur, then in defence, prevented a certain try with a great read and big contact. Again, the coach was full of praise.

As always, I’m listening for the talk in both attack and defence. Moses is relentless in demanding effort on the line, but I was surprised to hear the talk from Maika. I’m not sure that he’s renowned as a communicator, but perhaps he’s finding his voice.

At this time every year, I’m normally confident about my capacity to pick the Top 17 for round 1. That’s not the case at the moment. Maybe some readers might have a crack in their replies.

The players will return on January 4, as will my training reports.

But don’t think that we’ll be shutting up shop on TCT. The content will continue during the festive break, so stay with us.

Eels forever!




Credit to Eels media for some images used.

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I don’t understand letting your salmon go i think he will be a really good centre


Anyone know if Salmon has been picked up by another team?


Salmon has joined the riff, 1 year deal


In terms of what he added to the side not much point keeping him he wasn’t a good enough half and didn’t really dominate other postions to demand selection no reserve grade hurt him as he baisicly lost any chance to cement a role

Trouser Eel

With this recent humid weather, I can imagine why the guys all hate the offseason, it must be torture. I guess Sivo would be lapping it up.


Great insight into the boys and coaching staff doing the serious stuff while also making hard slog enjoyable for everyone. It actually seems like we are entering into a higher level of execution and expectation as a club. With all the new blood and a couple of local juniors adding not only depth but genuine NRL ready competition to the 17. My starting side for Rd 1 would be; 1. Gutho c. 2. Maika 3. Opacic 4. Waqa 5. Fergo/Dunster. 6. Dylan. 7. Mitch. 8. RCG. 9. Reed. 10. Junior. 11. Shaun L. 12. Materson. 13. Brown snr. 14. Bryce… Read more »


The only thing I would change in this squad is Oggy for Hipgrave I think Hipgrave will cause a lot of havoc with his strong carries and his hard direct lines. But what a rotation we have with our forwards.

Colin Hussey

Good team Rowdy, I have a definite belief that Dunster is ready to take a wing spot, should either of the others slip.


Fergo 4, Waqa 5……Shaun out Papallii in……14 either Roache or Lussick
Maranta, Oggy, Lane ………then Cartright, Hipgrave, Dunster, Roache or Lussick,…..
I am hearing Matt lodge has been signed and a centre/winger…..don’t know where they fit??

Colin Hussey

I hope that its not true re Lodge.

Matthew Sweeney

Good read. Is Jake Arthur the kid who rounded Hayne a few off seasons ago? On hayne is there any scenario , if he gets off his charge in March, you could imagine him making a comeback for us as a bench power forward? Finally sixties, many years ago the media ran a story suggesting that the broncs made a late season surge and won the premiership putting it down to Bennet allowing Jeremy Hickman to not overdo the pre season. Then last year Bennet said parra peaked to early suggesting we worked to hard in the off season and… Read more »


I’m not sixties but there’s no way the Eels or any other NRL club sign Hayne regardless of the result

Matthew Sweeney

Hayne closely followed by Brett ( bert, Skippy) Kenny.


Bert was and is always the king


There was only one King, he doubled as a mayor as well!


Speaking of Mares, watched a Manly v Parra 80S game, our forward pack was blooming marvellous, they speak of Junior being great, Paul Mares, could kick and had an offload

Colin Hussey

I saw the Mayor when he came back to the eels in his final year, he had retired and purchased a farm on the Coonabarabran road a few miles out from Binnaway, he came back as a result of a severe drought that hit the area, and the bit of coin he earnt helped him out. In late 1969 my dad & I called in to his farm but had just missed him as he went into BNY, Dad knew him pretty well and wanted to just catch up. On that last year he still showed the class that made… Read more »


Yes it is hard to imagine how dominant they were, one of my greatest memories was in 1962 watching Parra beat saints at Cumberland.
There was one year there in Thornett’s era that we could have made the GF with an ounce of luck. If we had we were just the type of side that could have upset the mighty saints.
It was so close you could touch it!


Sorry. that was me again, I really dislike posting under Anon

Matthew Sweeney

When opposed to the qld king at 5/8 8 wins to 4 losses in Brett’s favorite. Played in 5 gfs won 4 and scored a double in 4 if u count the two disallowed in 86. Won a mid week comp, won a challenge cup. Had whippet like speed, had a skip start to his runs, could swerve upper body but if u look close he maintained a straight line, sidestep, won of the most efficient tacklers I’ve seen , could jump and diffuse a bomb, never dived when scoring a try unless he had to just non shallantly placed… Read more »

Matthew Sweeney

Absolutely sixties. I think Kenny had a go as a coach of Wenty or Penrith and won or got to a gf. I think a lot of ppl mistakenly think Kenny is a dumbo, maybe because of his damaged voice box. I have always said he has a great economy of words, is articulate and considered in is answers.

Matthew Sweeney

I truly envy you sixties. You were in the presence of greatness. Your not bad yourself. Lol.

Matthew Sweeney

Your stature in the Parra world continues to grow.

Matthew Sweeney

Cheers sixties , thanks for the back story, nevertheless I believe conditioning is a very important science in terms of timing peak performance.


Hey Sixties, another great read. In your honest opinion who has been the MVP of pre season part 1, your one to look out for etc??

Ace Eel show some

Awesome & as usual diligent reporting 60’s…sounds like Johns isn’t just making up the numbers on the coaching staff…hopefully our backline attack will finally show some benefits…looking forward to new year wraps.

Last edited 7 days ago by Ace Eel show some
Matthew Sweeney

Maybe make him our game time onfield trainer and use him as a second half like Alfie at the broncs, mind u it hasn’t helped their halves much


Well, I think the halves kicking game went backwards last year, we can blame Covid, but it is the one big aspect he needs to get right this year. Finally, I would like to think they are practicing some left foot kicking, at this level halves should be able to kick field goals of either foot….not talking about the 40 metre rule either. That skill is not widely held in League and I am not sure why, used to be a must in union which is a game I played at a poor level but I could kick field goals… Read more »

Colin Hussey

sixties and all here on TCT, I would like to extend to all my compliments of the season, may all with families and friends have a joyous and safe Christmas, and a blessed one at least. If any are going away take care and return in good order and safety. The way the training and sixties reports are going, I am pretty positive for season 2021 as to where the eels are heading in the comp, unlike some others on another platform (they should be on the train to birdsvile) Its good to read these training reviews and thanks to… Read more »

John Eel

Naming 26 players in the new year will be interesting.

What are they down to now with Alvaro gone. 26 or 27 players. Could be some more new faces.

Colin Hussey

Thanks sixties, will be interesting in the new year especially if MJ is found to be b positive, will be very sad for him and family but I am hopeful that he will be ok. Agree with you in regards the right side, in the backs, from what I have seen and read in the reports, I don’t think we have any real worries in the forwards going forward. If MJ is not in, it means we have to find a couple of quality backs to fill the roster (void?) so, I get back on the Dunster horse and believe… Read more »

John Eel

Merry Christmas to you and your family Colin. Hope you have a great festive season and not too much Christmas cake.

Hope you have some luck with your back. If they can’t fix it surely they can find a good management plan

Colin Hussey

Thanks John. Had the trip to see the Nuero Surgeon a few weeks back now, he wants me to have two sets of back injections, one in to the bursa, the other by CT guided injections into lumba areas, have not had any real positive results from the Bursa shots, and its been a while since I have had the CT type injections, but they are very temporary at best. The surgeon wants me to go to the Sanitarian rooms with a more specialised treatment. If that doesn’t help the Surgeon will perform a Laminectomy on the L4/5 level. Apparently… Read more »

Ashutosh Gaji

Hi Colin, Check out Deuk Spine Institute in Melbourne Florida. My son had no pain after 45 minutes of operation. No disc or anything was removed. Two yrs on he has had no pain at all in the L4/L5 area.

Colin Hussey

Thanks for the tip. I had a fusion at L3/4 seven odd years back, and have had no issues in that area, no referred pain to leg or lower area of back. The Nuero surgeon I see is tops, and very conservative regarding surgery and he has said if the injections don’t work for a reasonable amount of time, then he will perform a laminectomy on the disc. The big area of back surgery has advanced big time owing to the more specialised roles carried out these days especially as the surgeons generally specialise in one or two areas only… Read more »

Ashutosh Gaji

No one in Australia could help my son so we had to take him overseas as he was only 23 at the time . Hope the best for you Colin and Merry Christmas.

Colin Hussey

Ashutosh, Many thanks for your concern, and I understand how it would be with your son, he is fortunate to have a family that is able to make such sacrifices, I would also like to extend to you and family the compliments of the season, and look forward to 2021 being a much better one, on & off the paddock. I had a nuero surgeon operate on my back, L/5 it lasted for 4 years but then collapsed on me, IIRC it was a laminectomy, the same fellow did a fusion on my neck in 2010, and its been good… Read more »

Last edited 4 days ago by Colin Hussey

Well done Sixties, thanks for the reporting over the last few weeks. Not sure what to make of the backs for 2021, but we will know more by Jan 26 and beyond. Our team is on the up we hope and needs to consolidate their position in the NRL and improve in a few areas. We could not have asked more from the forwards this season and yes we seemed to drop off some games, and i get we had injuries in the finals and earlier. But good teams get through this. It will be an interesting start to proceedings… Read more »



Gianni Giusti

Would Bennet of been saying this if Jennings Sivo Marata and Fergo were playing in that semi .i doubt it.

Gianni Giusti

Appreciate your constant great reports Sixties all the best to you and your family for Christmas and same to all other Throw members and supporters.


Good report,I really can’t see Lane starting over Cartright.I love Lanes size and strength near the line but Cartright at his best needs to be touching the ball as much as possible. Good to hear he is ripping in.Thanks for the continued content,much appreciated especially when there is so little available over the off season. Hope everyone on here has a magnificent Xmas and a Marvelous New Year.


Thanks for another thorough report Sixties. Couple of questions if I may. Obviously the MJ situation means he is probably done, I have a big opinion of Opacic after watching him at Redcliffe for a few years, he was a cut above the Qld Cup standard and has just had a terrible run of injuries during his NRL stints. I’m guessing it’s going to be Opacic and Waqa as the starting centres, but where do we go after that? Has there been any indication at training with the likes of Oldfield and Rankin running in the centres? Good to hear… Read more »

Last edited 5 days ago by Brissyeel

Cheers mate, just as a matter of interest, how many of the pathways boys are training with the main squad at the moment other than Jake? I assume it’s a temporary thing and the numbers taper off as they go back to their junior rep teams at the start of 2021. Keep up the good work, have a great Chrissy and I look forward to reading the next reports soon. PS, I’ve been on here regularly since you kicked off and appreciate the efforts you guys put in, it’s refreshing to see that you report on some of the things… Read more »


Hi Sixties
Has Cartwright shown any obvious signs of knee issues? I thought he said, whilst on the Gold Coast, that his knees were shot. Cheers.

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