The pointy end of the preseason is now upon us.
When we get to trial matches, training tends to shift into premiership rounds match mode.
What does that mean?
The collisions in the opposed work ease up a bit – logical stuff considering you don’t want the players bashed up only a couple of days before a game. There’s contact but it’s not like the intensity you see in a match.
It also means that the day before the match is a captains run. Training on that day involves a video session followed by a light run that only involves the selected players. They work through some sets, do a few extras. But the majority of the work is pretty much done by then.
The captain usually takes control of the back half of the run. At the conclusion, the coaches stay out of the team huddle, leaving the players to make any special presentations or speeches.
What do I learn from watching a Captain’s run?
Let me borrow from “The Castle”. It’s the vibe.
If there’s a late team change, that might be evident. There might be a sign of the team looking either sharp or clunky. However, for the most part I use it to make a quick assessment of their energy and headspace.
The last two field sessions have fallen into that match week mode.
On Monday, the trial team (in gold) competed as a unit in an opposed session against the NRL players (in blue). Due to absences, trial team players were needed by the blue team to make up the numbers – Fergo was with the Indigenous team, Junior had not returned from his boxing event and Carty was on the operating table.
They looked sharp, and Jake Arthur and Will Smith managed the team well.
It was difficult to assess the contest in the middle as the big forwards weren’t looking for statement making collisions in either attack or defence. That said, I thought that the Gold team asked enough questions out wide to provide encouragement for their attack on Thursday.
On Wednesday, it was a Captains Run late morning – as expected.
The NRL players not involved in the trial took the field for an early morning skills session, with a game of Fijian touch footy thrown in. The verbal battle between Gutho and Moses was probably the highlight of the morning.
I suspect that the King doesn’t mind being creative with both the score line in the games and his banter. He and Mitch are obviously close mates.
Part way through their field work, Joey Johns took the spine for one of his specialist sessions. I was intrigued by the kicks he was working on with them (I’m not giving anything away, sorry) not to mention that the “Immortal’s” boots can still produce the magic.
When it came time for the Captain’s run, I believe that the coaches would have been pleased. The energy was good (as it should be at this time of year) and the run through was quite sharp.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the trial for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, I’ve watched these players compete against each other during the preseason. That only told me part of the story of what they can offer this year. After all, I was assessing the group based on what they were producing against each other.
Competing against another team not only provides a different opposition to judge them against, it also provides the Eels players with an opposition who aren’t as familiar with them as individuals, or their combinations.
Next, it helps all of us to become more familiar with the players. It also provides the opportunity for TCT readers to compare my notes from the preseason with their own observations.
Finally, there are players that are intriguing prospects – and many of them, should they line up in Canterbury Cup in the season proper, will effectively be skipping a grade (Flegg) as they only played one game of Under 20s last year.
There will be players in the trial whom I expect will revert to Flegg, but those I consider to be a genuine chance of Canterbury Cup include Jake Arthur, Sean Russell, Will Penisini, Dave Hollis, Solomone Naiduki and Charbel Tasipale. Tasi James is absent from this trial but he’s also my tip to play Canterbury Cup.
Furthermore, the new recruits have the chance to push their case for NRL inclusion. I won’t go into too many details here as Forty has selections covered in his team list post, but the battle for a spot on the bench could be determined over the next couple of weeks.
Enjoy tonight, and be sure to catch The Tip Sheet on Friday morning. Forty and I will be recording our hottest of takes straight after the game, so we’ll be interested in reading yours.