A full squad of referees.
One team in the Blue and Gold, the other in the white alternate jersey.
There’ll be no contrived play simulations. No handing the ball back to one team because the coach reckons the other team needs more time on their defence.
This 13 on 13 will unfold under close to match conditions. Each half would be shorter than regulation time, but with drills and games scheduled for the “break”, on field time would be close to 80 minutes.
On a side note, NRL referees never infuriate me during opposed sessions, and today Ashley Klein was part of their team. The calls and penalties will always favour Parramatta no matter what unfolds! To be fair, it’s difficult not to respect the tough conditioning work that they undertake, sometimes alongside the players.
Back to the footy and there was a clear winner in this session as the Blue and Gold team totally dominated their opponents. The talent was still split between both teams, but the B & G side executed their plays far better than the whites.
Leading the way through the middle was Oregon Kaufusi.
Big Oggy had obviously woken up in a bad mood, because this was easily the most aggressive football that I’ve seen from the young prop.
The collisions kept coming from him in both attack and defence, and it seemed like every tackle was a personal battle to be won. Kaufusi’s terrific post contact metres in his carries were backed up by owning the ruck against the ball.
But despite the dominance of the Blue and Golds, their first try did not come until the end of the first half.
The ball was shifted to the left and the winger, Josh Tuipulotu was given a slender overlap.to work with. Despite looking to be covered by the defence, a clever in and away opened up enough of a passageway for him to race to the corner.
Half time was no time for rest. The players twice alternated between conditioning work stations, and two hand touch footy (the variation where the defender has to exit, then re-enter the field around a pole after executing a tag).
The conditioning stations again featured a variety of footy related drills – intelligent stuff.
In one of the touch footy games we were given another glimpse of Blake Ferguson’s pace when Mitch Moses was unable to run him down. Fergy is in irresistible form, even during alternate games and drills.
The squad were kept on the move for at least 30 minutes during this “break”. The second half would commence under some fatigue.
Not long after the restart, Fergo treated the spectators to a dynamic illustration of his athleticism.
Taking a hit up through the middle, he powered through the first collision and a succession of defenders struggled to contain him as his limbs cast them aside. His high stepping took the Blue and Gold team downfield. The look on his face was pure determination.
The winger continues to make a statement this preseason.
Josh Tuipulotu soon added a second try. A superb cut out pass close to the line had him diving into the corner, and the Blues were up eight nil. Gutho’s second kick from out wide was unsuccessful.
Kaufusi again grabbed our attention, this time with a terrific offload. Little doubt he’s the pick of the forwards today, though Ray Stone on the left edge is also performing strongly.
The play of the day from the Blue and Gold team now awaited.
Here’s the call:
In a shift to the right edge just outside the quarter, the ball’s in Cartwright’s hands and he’s trying to position Charbel Tasipale for an offload.
But the defence are well positioned and he seems to be out of options.
No, he’s not! He’s chip kicked into space towards the corner, and it’s perfect.
Tasipale gets the bounce and he’s trying to power his way across the line. The defence looks to have brought him down, but at the last minute he’s delivered a miracle offload to Cartwright on the inside and the big bloke carries a couple of defenders as he reaches out to plant the ball.
There’s a few celebrations and congratulations after that one and I’m too busy talking to the other blokes about what just unfolded to notice whether Gutho converted the try or not. Play is soon called to a halt and they finish the opposed on a high.
The session concluded with extras as players worked in small groups with the coaches on a range of skills. This sort of stuff is both player and coach driven, and it’s interesting to watch what individual players are looking to develop in their game.
That wraps up another week but there’s a reminder from me.
Parramatta’s Junior Representative season kicks off on Saturday at New Era Stadium, Cabramatta. First cab off the ranks is the Matts at 10am, followed by the Ball straight after.
Forty and I will be there, and Forty’s live blog will cover the action. Please follow his call of the matches.
The Tarsha Gale girls are across town at Leichhardt Oval with kick off at 11am, so unfortunately they won’t feature in our coverage. We wish them well in what could be a big year for them.