Move over James Tedesco.
In one of the more spectacular moments I’ve witnessed at Eels training, powerhouse winger Maika Sivo decided to re-enact his 2020 collision with the Roosters superstar fullback during this morning’s opposed session.
And unfortunately for Jordan Rankin, he was the man in Sivo’s sights and the impact wasn’t lessened by the training field context.
Make no mistake, the big Fijian was in a menacing mood today.
Continuing his recent impressive opposed form, Maika was proving a handful with every carry. He’d already crossed for a try after regathering a superbly executed grubber kick from Gutho, and looked hungry for more.
Sivo’s White Jersey team had established good field position and their attack was ramping up. When the big fella was delivered a superb pass in the quarter with just a couple of defenders in his way, there was only going to be one outcome.
Full marks to Jordan Rankin.
Just like Tedesco, he courageously put his body on the line. The result was probably a combination of the fend on Tedesco and the brushing of Warriors centre Blake Ayshford.
It wasn’t pretty, and yet, it was!
In an encouraging sign for the Eels, Sivo wasn’t the only winger to provide a highlight.
Blake Ferguson continued his fine preseason with a thundering try in the opposite corner.
It’s difficult to describe the sound of Fergo in full flight. If you’re close by as we were today, you’d be recalling the sound of his feet pounding the turf underneath him just as readily as the sight of his frame charging towards the corner.
I’ve been witnessing the 2019 version of both wingers over the last four weeks. They’ve truly risen to the challenge issued by Haze Dunster.
This was a session of intensity. The teams were playing in their NRL jerseys, the collisions were incredibly close to NRL level, and the battle for ascendancy in the middle was an early highlight.
Marata Niukore was delivering a world of pain in both attack and defence. The Cook Islands international has often left a trail of destruction on the training paddock, and this morning he was on a mission of brutality. If last year marked his full arrival as a bone fide NRL star, this year will certainly consolidate it.
Dylan Brown must possess incredible core strength. His post contact metres for a five-eighth continue to amaze. That combination with Mitch Moses was solid today and will need to continue on that path as we approach round 1.
Ryan Matterson was having one of his best opposed sessions of the preseason. His carries were strong, a couple of his hits absolutely buried his opposite, and on a side note, Joey Johns spent a bit of time coaching him on some plays during a break.
A couple of intriguing decisions surround where Ray Stone and Keegan Hipgrave might be best suited. Each has spent time at both middle and edge during opposed work, and Hipgrave was busy in the middle for the Home Jersey team today.
I like the bench options provided by including genuine hookers, and the mix of body types and skills available in the forwards competing for a place in the 17 will give BA a “happy headache”.
As far as the Home Jersey team was concerned, Jake Arthur continued to ask questions with his game management – digging into the line to set up supports and mounting pressure with his kicking. Bryce Cartwright was proving a good foil for him, offering another option if the young half was not in a position to kick.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing out on the field. I thought there were a few too many incomplete sets early on, but the standard of play soon rose and the combinations looked sharper the longer that the session continued.
As usual, conditioning stations and modified footy games filled the break between the opposed work. Fijian touch was on the agenda, a fast moving game that allows for unlimited forward passes after a backwards pass starts the play – almost the reverse of NFL.
That wraps up the last major field session for the week.
Don’t forget, TCT will be covering the Junior Reps from 1pm this Saturday, and next Thursday we have the trial against the Dragons.
Our thanks to Eels media for the Niukore and Ferguson images