Nobody gets out of the 1.2km fitness test!
Not even if you’re one of the best-conditioned athletes in the club, your name is Dylan Brown and you were exempted from Monday’s session.
With his team mates calling out “Byron” the Eels five-eighth set a cracking pace in his solo timed run.
I did wonder whether it was harder for our Kiwi playmaker to judge his run with nobody pushing up around him. It’s likely that he simply maintained three-quarter pace throughout – quite an effort over that distance.
After warm ups, the session kicked off with running mechanics. It was interesting hearing the encouragement for the players to lead off on their non-dominant leg. I’d imagine that being able to accelerate off either leg would give any player an early advantage.
The conditioning work today was designed to add fatigue to the football that followed. The breaks between opposed simulations were filled with more running. There was very little time for rest.
Joey Lussick made an impression as he started to push up into the leading runners alongside the likes of Will Smith, Jake Arthur, Bryce Cartwright and Isaiah Papali’i. But the fitness stuff was really just the entree for today’s main course – contact opposed footy. Here comes the boom!
The Reds took on the Blues but there was no indicator from the two line ups as to who holds the early lead in some of the battles for a spot in the top team. The “recognised talent” was split between both teams, with even Brown and Moses squaring off against each other – Jake Arthur was paired withBrown whilst Will Smith took his place alongside Mitch Moses.
There were a few moments that the coaches weren’t happy about, but overall it was a very solid workout.
Of note were some of the collisions. Whilst not quite delivered with NRL match day venom, surely ice packs were being requested after the session was over.
Inevitably, any big hits on the training paddock seem to involve Marata Niukore. I’m not sure whether this bloke has anything less than ten on his dial. From the moment he first joined the Eels, he’s never pulled his hits and carries at training. It was the same today.
Another highlight was Matto being smashed by one of the pathways players. The defensive jam on an attacking shift was timed to perfection. It was terrific to see such confidence.
Reed Mahoney’s work out of dummy half earned a big tick. His short plays were bringing the big forwards onto the ball with good momentum.
Shaun Lane carried the ball powerfully, and there were a few times I could hear him demanding his halves to bring him into the play. There’s been a bit of “eye of the Tiger” about his work at training. Perhaps it’s that competition from the likes of Cartwright and Hipgrave.
The other forward that must be mentioned is Isaiah Papali’i. Those of us watching him train are in a state of disbelief that the Warriors didn’t fight to retain his services. The big bloke is not too far behind Cartwright in the fitness stakes, he runs intelligent lines, can ball play and provide a link role in the team, and he doesn’t shirk the dirty carries.
The Kiwi’s loss is Parra’s gain!
Though there were a couple of attacking rushes that claimed tries, the only legitimate four-pointer was awarded to Haze Dunster. Seriously smart ball play from Will Smith put his runner into a half gap and about three sets of hands later Dunster was crossing untouched in the right corner.
Today’s training concluded with about 15 – 20 minutes of defensive drills. The players alternated between sets of bump pad collisions and sets of defensive line movements – up and back ten metres, down and up off the ground, with the reminders about line speed ringing in their ears.
One of my biggest takes from the morning was the talk. Fullbacks, halves, wingers, edges – the communication was outstanding. Whenever the players can be heard so clearly and consistently, I know it’s been a good session.
We can look forward to the opposed work going to the next level over the coming weeks.