The Cumberland Throw

Team List Wednesday – NRL Trial vs St George Illawarra Dragons

NRL Trial Team List


The Parramatta Eels have their first trial of the 2021 preseason tomorrow against the Dragons. While we were robbed of the joy of a traditional TLT, thankfully the club has announced the team list today. The extra wait proved to worth it because this week’s team sheet is a fun one.

There is a great blend of established NRL talent, new recruits and exciting rookie prospects in something of a futures showcase for the club. Will Smith, Oregon Kaufusi, Haze Dunster and Jordan Rankin (to a lesser extent) should all be familiar names to fans of the blue & gold and the trio will help induct the host of new faces to the club. Among those will be new additions of Michael Oldfield, Tom Opacic, Joey Lussick, Keegan Hipgrave and Isaiah Papali’i – all of whom feature in the starting line-up.

With the left centre position in the NRL up for grabs and plenty of jostling to do for bench spots the stakes are already high for these men. A strong showing against the Dragons tomorrow night could potentially catapult someone ahead of the competition ahead of the trial against the Panthers.

The battle for NRL positions will be perhaps the most important story line to come out of Thursday night but with a swathe of boom prospects taking to the field, all eyes will be on generation next for the Eels. Front and centre will be Jakob Arthur at halfback and he is joined by fellow rookies Sean Russell, Will Penisini and Dave Hollis in the starting roster. Josh Tuipulotu, Matt Komolafe, Caleb Tohi, Charbel Tasipale and Solomone Naiduki will also feature from the interchange bench as the rookie class reach the zenith of their first full preseason.

The fun doesn’t stop there as fans get their first look at who will feature in the Canterbury Cup under the Parramatta colours this year. Makahesi Makatoa, a standout in the limited action he saw in 2020, returns this year as one of the senior members of the reserve grade roster. The shocking inclusion here is that of Tim Lafai, who looks to have been thrown a lifeline with the Eels via a second-tier deal. Lafai has been a capable NRL centre through his entire career until petering out last year and I have no issues with Parramatta kicking the tyres on him given he only turns 30 miway through this year.

Beyond that we have Toa Mata’afa and Charlton Schaafhausen getting a run alongside former Eels’ junior prospects Eli El Zahkem and Noel Aukafolau rounding out the team.

I expect a relatively scrappy encounter tomorrow as players from both teams blow out the cobwebs after a long period of inaction. You have to consider that most of these young men haven’t played football in nearly a year after all non-NRL competitions were abandoned due to COVID-19 in 2020. Even so, I am excited at the prospect of the first senior footy of the year and look forward to seeing who can impress against the Red V.

You can catch all of the action from the trial on or via Kayo with kickoff scheduled for 6:00PM tomorrow evening.


Team List

1 Sean Russell

2 Michael Oldfield

3 Will Penisini

4 Tom Opacic

5 Haze Dunster

6 Will Smith

7 Jakob Arthur

8 Dave Hollis

9 Joey Lussick

10 Oregon Kaufusi

11 Keegan Hipgrave

12 Isaiah Papalií

13 Makahesi Makatoa

14 Josh Tuipulotu

15 Matt Komolafe

16 Jordan Rankin

17 Caleb Tohi

18 Charbel Tasipale

19 Solomone Naiduki

20 Toa Mata’afa

21 Eli El Zahkem

NN Tim Lafai

NN Charlton Schaafhausen

NN Noel Aukafolau

If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.
Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Where is sam Hughes??


Don’t know – sorry.


Is he still training?


Hasn’t featured in a single training report or training picture. Be good to get some clarity on Sam.

Colin Hussey

He’s still listed on the eels webb site and like the other new signings that are part of the 30 man squad his photo is now on show.


Anon, the same question was asked in another blog and wasn’t answered, soooo im guessing he’s on the outer and will probably be moved on unfortunately. Silence is deafening.


Not answered Terry because we don’t have an answer.


I do recall one of TCT’s most famous bad judges (in his own words) saying Sam could have been the “big bloke” at the new Pie Shop up on Coronation Hill. He wasn’t sure because he only saw the back of him scooting out the door with about half a dozen pies under his wing. Apparently he got him mixed up with another famous TCT commentator who is known as a “real pie eater”. Anyway BA could be heard saying “next time any of the top 30 squad are caught at that pie shop they’ll be stood down for at… Read more »

Colin Hussey

I will be sitting in front of the computer for this one, wish my laptop was working as I could link it to the TV, may give that a try with the main one as well, better on a big screen.

Really looking forward to seeing the new faces on show also how Dunster & Penisini go.


Cheers Colin.

Micky D's

I was going to ask aswell about Sam Hughes who was coming through the ranks together with Hollis.


I’m looking forward to seeing big Dave in action. He played in the same trial last year and went well.

Last edited 8 days ago by sixties

I’m excited and Nervous for David at the same time as a mother would be. He has worked hard. Wish we could be at the game but will be watching from home.


Good luck Mum & I’m sure he’ll have a ripper!!


Thanks for posting. Dave can be proud of combining footy with getting his trade qualifications. We’ll be cheering him on too.


What happened to that gun who played a bit of fullback in last years trials?


Cede, if you are referring to Johnny Fonua, he’s gone to the destination that many former Eels head – Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles.


and probably be back one day!!!

Colin Hussey

Remembering last years Bega fire trial, he was the player who scored a try at the end of the game to level the scores. In his short time on the paddock showed a fair degree of pace as well as being a hard player to put down, not a lot of him but made good impacts.


If a win then premiers for sure. If a loss then definitely going to finish last. Isn’t that how you traditionally evaluate trial form? 😊


I’ve got my cash ready for the final whistle.


Already applied for the second mortgage.


They’ll be adding Tim Lafai


He hasn’t had much opportunity to train with them. Will be interesting to see how many minutes he gets.

Michael Formosa

Where is Big Daddy Sam Hughes ?? What’s doing?


Hi. Long time reader first time poster. Aside from the questions on Sam Hughes, I was also wondering if you had any insights on the other exciting rookie Samuel, Loizou? I was hoping he’d get a trial game…


Thanks for replying Anon. Sam Loizou might be a chance of playing in the second trial. Yes, he is an exciting prospect.


Thanks Sixties! Where do you see his best position? I note he partnered with Jake Arthur in the halves for Patties but seems to have the build of an outside back…


Personally I like him as a centre. Samuel is the youngest of the pathways boys doing a preseason, and I reckon he’s going to be a very strong build within a couple of years – with the type of athleticism that could do damage on an edge. He could probably play in the halves or at fullback too, but as I said, looks the goods as a centre.


Great thanks Sixties


Hey Sixties, is Nathaniel Roache injured? Hows he been going in off season training?


I’ve been impressed with Roache during the preseason. His training load has been managed differently to others as they want to prepare him as is best for him given his history. His absence probably relates to that.

Micky D's

Why is there so much secrecy over Sam Hughes. Has he been training, or in rehab, surely someone knows something as he is destined for big things.


Starting to get close now!
Looking forward to see how this team list perform & whether there’s any strong performances that change the pecking order.
Excited to see the rookies coming through & new recruits.
Bummed Ray Stone is missing thru injury again.


He’s had his share of bad luck.


Hi Sixties ,
i haven’t seen kyle schnider mentioned anywhere is there any news on if he his still with the Eels?


He’s been training with the Flegg squad.


If you look on the official Eels website in the 1st grade squad photos every player is photographed with this years jersey bar 2 players one is Michael Jennings the other is Sam Hughes i wonder if that’s a clue?

Colin Hussey

Anon, Just looked at the eels web site and blowed if I can see much difference in the Jerseys Sam Hughes is shown in the middle of the bottom row.

The club also has said that there are 4 players they wanted to play in the trials this week but cannot do so, here is what has been said
“The Club currently has four players who were eligible to play in the trial, but have recently become unavailable,” O’Neill said.

Big Derek

Hughes is in last years ISC shirt, all other players ( Jennings excepted for obvious reasons as he is not allowed at the club currently) are in Macron strip.

Hughes wasn’t training last week when I attended, interesting with no news from the club, guess we find out in due course.


I dare say its private and only the important people know .


Here’s another clue on Hughes; if you go to and select Players, when you search for ‘Hughes’ he doesn’t appear. However if you search for ‘Hollis’ he does appear.

Achilles' Eel

Sam Hughes, also known as Captain Nemo to enthusiasts of science fiction, or quite simply as Nemo when in the company of Polyphemus.


That’s about the strongest Reggies outfit Parra have fielded for at least a decade in my opinion. With genuine NRL depth and so many promising young fellas we should “get on” them for a couple of bucks if they post a market.
I liked your comments about Lafai Sixties and have always followed his career with great interest since he was mentioned as a potential Eel about 5 years ago. I also recall seeing Schaafhausen play for ?? last season and thought he was a real 3/4 with potential.


I can’t take credit for Forty’s comments about Lafai, Rowdy.
The Schaaf- it would have been in 2019 when he kept Dunster on the bench in the Wenty charge to the grand final.


Looked a good prospect too.


Lafai’s past 4 years have been in Dragons and Bulldogs outfits sinking into disarray. Maybe another player with ability looking for the reset.


with respect, not the strongest outfits to shine in during recent seasons

Ken 70

Toa mata’afa is he a back or middle player


Haven’t seen too much of him. Comes from the Bulldogs. Winger/fullback who has played lock too I believe. Has size.


Thanks again 60’s. Personally i will be interested to see how our 1, 3, 4 and 7 go. All young boys and could be a look for the next few years and beyond. Our forwards will be good and challenged no doubt and it will be a good hit out.
I think we need to leave the questions about S Hughes for the time being.


It’s been said that Hughs may be injured & may be back at training next week.


Cheers Milo. I’m also interested in how the young players on the bench perform. Most might re eat to Flegg for the start of the season, but if they handle this level of footy, even in a trial, it’s very encouraging. I’m backing Charbel Tasipale to go well.

Longfin Eel

Do you think the quality of this side is partly due to the “Reserve Grade” now under the Parramatta Eels umbrella, ie looking to have players that can become NRL ready? I’m not sure that Tim Lafai would have been signed on to a NSW Cup contract previously.


I think there are many advantages to having a Parramatta “reserves” team. Having complete control over who is signed and made available is a major one. Having a pathway that is totally Parra from Juniors to NRL is another.


Trivic invitation and review of men to watch and things to note Forty. You were pretty much on the mark too in your brief. After waiting with bated breath for so long to watch a game with Parra Jerseys on one of the teams, I can’t say I was anything but elated. They certainly lived up to my expectations. I will comment on individuals performances in the next TCT post of post match.

Last edited 6 days ago by Rowdy

Cheers Rowdy

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x