The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – February 9, 2021: Rated AA For Action Aplenty

How close are we to some serious footy?

Here’s the quick rundown:

* Thursday, February 18 –  the players with 12 NRL games or less in 2020 are eligible to play in the Eels vs Dragons trial at Kogarah

* Saturday, February 20 – the Indigenous vs Maori All Stars clash, with Blake Ferguson selected for the Indigenous All Stars

* Saturday, February 27 – all three grades (Flegg, Canterbury Cup and NRL) in action at Penrith

Given the schedule over the next two and a half weeks, it’s no surprise that the footy component of training would be ramping up. That’s not to say that there was no conditioning component. There was running, and that taxing up/down work featured.

However, you can expect my reports to focus on the footy from here on. And so to today’s 13 vs 13 action.

In their last opposed session, the Blue team (playing in the Blue and Gold home jerseys) proved too strong for the Red team (playing in the White alternate strip).

This morning, the Reds got off to a flyer with winger Michael Oldfield catching an attacking kick to score in the corner. Marata Niukore was causing his share of havoc through the middle, and the Reds halves in Moses and Rankin seemed to build ascendancy on the back of this.

After absorbing the pressure, the Blues took advantage of good field position for Opacic to post their first try off a pin point Jake Arthur kick. It was a good take from the new recruit and he still had some work to do to plant the ball.

The first break in the opposed wasn’t a time for rest.

The pace of the morning actually lifted with a game of kick/chase. The rules of this two hand touch game include include a maximum of three tackles to run the ball, before it must be kicked. The outcome is a lively game of touch with the downfield kicks coming thick and fast. It’s good for conditioning, good for drilling the kick chase and good for getting players back to support the kick return.

Michael Oldfield

When the full contact opposed re-started, Moses and Rankin again combined to put Oldfield in for his second try. Their combination, alongside Hipgrave, was looking sharp. This was easily Rankin’s best opposed form, and Moses was in terrific touch,

Not to be outdone, Jake Arthur was soon combining with Ray Stone in a huge play for the Blues.

JA put the charging Stone through a hole around halfway, and Mr 3:16 showed a clean pair of heels as he strode towards the fullback, Sean Russell.

With no immediate support, the Eels backrower stood the fullback up but Russell did just enough to put Stone off balance. A pass as he fell to ground landed in the hands of a late arriving support runner, but the defence had scrambled by then. 

The ball was then moved quickly to the left but the Reds defence did well to number up and shut down what looked to be a certain try.

Charbel Tasipale and Josh Tuipulotu “model” the new training apparel

Proving that this defence was no flash in the pan, the Red defence again stayed calm in defusing another Blue raid when a try seemed imminent. In both instances the defence forced a turnover.

Now rising in confidence, a passing rush down the Red’s right side saw Will Smith (playing centre) burst into space, then find Reed Mahoney running in support for the busy hooker to dash away for the try. This was quickly backed up by Penisini providing the try assist to Sivo.

The next break in play saw more games of touch footy. There was little time for rest, only footy, footy and more footy. Even the periods of conditioning were footy related.

The final stretch of opposed saw the Blues enjoy most of the possession. With each try earning a repeat possession in the red zone, tries were quickly added by Fergo, Stone and Lussick.

Given the contrived nature of this late play, I didn’t read too much into the late dominance of the Blues. It’s the Reds who get the overall accolades today.

After the final whistle the players came together as a group. With the coaches giving them some space, the team leaders had plenty to say and Gutho and Matto looked particularly animated.

I’m always encouraged by players holding themselves accountable for a session, or setting standards for themselves. This moment was an example of team leadership in action.

On a side note, Joey Johns was present for the entire session. He was on field, observing, just behind the play during the 13 on 13. Later he led a kicking skills session with the halves and Gutho as the rest of the squad went through their extras.

Big session done.

Bring on the rest of the week.

Eels forever!





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Thanks again sixties!


I thought Gutho’s kicking license had been cancelled. 😉


Hopefully Reed shows us more of his lovely kicking this year

matthew sweeney

Thanks Craig, I may go to next Thursday’s Kogarah game, if so I will report to you anything of interest. I think its good joey was keeping an eye on the whole team. Lets hope that the culmination of his mentoring our halves last season and now this season starts to pay off.

matthew sweeney

ok thx, it supposedly will be televised by kayo so I will watch that.


A great read mate, a couple of things,

Is Joey just working with the 1st grade spine, including Cartwright and Matto?

And do our new players get to play against the Dragons?


With the Blues vs Reds featuring in most of the footy have there been many times when the top 13 have played together in training yet?


Great report and always look forward to them. I observed the Titans training yesterday and now have a better understanding of some of the drills and opposed sessions you talk about.

How is Junior Paulo going with his reduced weight? Is he still effective in standing in tackles and popping the ball to supports?


Tks sixties. Will be interesting to see how we start this year. Last year Junior and RCG set a great platform early on then we seemed to get heavy boots and had to grind out wins. Did other coaches work us out, did referreeing style change (I don’t mean bias, just style)? Did injury and suspensions impact? Also I thought the trial v Penrith told me more about the Panthers than us, they put us on the back foot,Moses had to pull out some tricks for the scoreboard to look ok…only a trial I know. I think 2020 under our… Read more »


Timing of injuries hurt us no doubt but I’d say squad rotations hurt us more
Look at the storm and Panthers both rested players or upped bench mins where as we held the same squad for the majority of the season.
Last year was a tough year for everyone hopefully lessons have been learnt hopefully we don’t have to go into those extremes again


Thanks again Sixties, i can almost smell the liniment and roasted peanuts in preparation for the season….I hope for a good season with minimal injuries although they will occur and also our spine to be the key, as everything will work out for me if they go strong.
Is there any official word on MJ and when we may know?? This all seems v painful and the wait is pretty ordinary to be honest. IN times of Covid etc, the player and club has to wait months for a B sample……
Thank you for the updates and information as always.

Mikey CH.

Thx sixtiesboy. Good to know how the trials eligibility works. Also a nice pic of the new training gear cheers…

John Eel

Sixties the game next week against the Dragons. Is that for players who have less than 12 career NRL games or for players who played less than 12 NRL games in 2020.

I note that Alvaro and Sims are lining up for the Dragons against the Sharks tomorrow night

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