The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – February 21, 2021: Trials, Pathways and Futures

When the footy starts, it’s a beautiful time of the year.

Nowadays, live streaming of trial matches makes access to early season form far easier. Where once such clashes were the domain of only the hardcore fan, many more punters are able to watch trials and add validation to their opening round team list predictions.

Since Thursday night, I have been inundated by the opinions of mates and followers of The Cumberland Throw. That will heat up even more in the lead up to next Saturday’s hit out against the Panthers.

Who’s going to win the centre spot, what position will Papali’i play, who gets a place on the bench, what about the young blokes! Everyone has had something to say, and I’ll have mine on all that and more in today’s column.

We also welcome a new sponsor for Bumpers Up.

Read on.


Centre Certain?

Did Thursday night’s trial answer the question about who wins the battle for the Eels vacant centre position?

Tom Opacic

Throughout the preseason, my money has been on Tom Opacic. The former Cowboy has had a solid preseason, and I’ve described his efforts as professional – he looks like an experienced NRL centre. His performance in the trial backed up that assessment.

The other prospect, Will Penisini, stamped himself as a player to watch with a solo try and a couple of incisive runs in attack. This has been his first NRL preseason and he’s clearly benefitted from the advanced coaching and conditioning he’s received.

However, Will only graduated from Kings School at the end of 2020, and there was minimal rugby league that he and others put under their belt in 2020. With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely that Arthur will be rushing the young star into first grade.

Haze Dunster has been nominated by some punters in a left field suggestion. At this stage, that won’t be happening.

The emerging Eel has offered some utility value during his time in the Eels pathways. That said, he’s been pushing both Sivo and Ferguson for a wing spot during this preseason, and has worked hard in his claims for first grade selection in that position.


Parra’s Papa

Regular readers of Eels preseason training reports would be familiar with my praise of Isaiah Papali’i. My confusion about the Warriors not fighting to retain his services has been well documented.

Parra Papa

In his first hit out in the Blue and Gold, Papa couldn’t have been more impressive. You can lock the new recruit in for a place on the bench in Round One.

The trial might have excluded many high profile NRL stars, but that should not diminish the admiration earned by Kiwi’s work rate or his capacity to break the line.

Though he’s been training in the middle, Papali’i’s form on the edge at Kogarah underlined the selection options that his recruitment provides. To borrow from my own preseason report, “he runs intelligent lines, can ball play and provide a link role in the team, and he doesn’t shirk the dirty carries.”

Parra Papa, we’re happy to have you at the Eels!


Pathways Producing

Still on Thursday night, the Eels pathways system can be credited for 12 players who took to the field.

Russell, Penisini, Dunster, Arthur, Hollis, Kaufusi, Tuipulotu, Komolafe, Tohi, Tasipale, El Zahkem and Aukafolau all played Junior Representative football for Parra. Solomone Naiduki was recruited from Fiji to learn his craft in the Eels under 20s. A further two junior rep graduates – Tasi James and Sam Loizou – completed the Eels preseason but were unavailable for selection.

Dave Hollis (photo Eels media)

For years, Brad Arthur has been the subject of uneducated criticism for not promoting pathways footballers. The truth is, there are few first grade coaches as invested in the juniors as the Eels mentor.

A big intake of young players in the 2019 preseason saw the likes of Dylan Brown, Ethan Parry, Stefano Utoikamanu and Haze Dunster debut over the past two seasons.

We should probably include Oregon Kaufusi in that list given that he made his debut in 2018 from outside of the full time squad. Other 2018 debutants included Eels Jersey Flegg players Ray Stone and Reed Mahoney.

Assembling a top 30 is delicate balancing act. You need elite players, established NRL footballers, experienced back ups and emerging youngsters. You can’t throw young players to the wolves, but by the same token you can’t clog up their path with a reserve grader who’s unlikely to feature in any plans for the year.

On Thursday night, Eels supporters were treated to a glimpse of some of the young talent that’s been identified. It’s clear that many will feature in Canterbury Cup in 2020.

The primary role of any pathways system must be to produce future NRL players.

The benefit of including more emerging stars at the level immediately below NRL comes in the flow on effect to the pathways. When players are advanced it opens up the opportunities for the next group of youngsters.

If Flegg and Ball eligible players prove themselves capable of playing Canterbury Cup, or even NRL, and are elevated to those grades, it provides a shot for those in the younger age grades who might otherwise have missed out.


Arthur’s Junior Coaching

Like many fathers whose children play rugby league, Brad Arthur volunteered his time to the local junior football club. In this case it was the Rouse Hill Rhinos.

Coaching junior teams in any sport has its challenges. You could be the subject of praise and gratitude, or just as easily criticised for your selections or methods. If your child is in that team, it’s likely that there’s more scrutiny heading your way.

Jake Arthur and Samuel Loizou alongside Peter Taateo and Unitoni Mataele

When BA combined NRL coaching with junior coaching it was always going to come into the spotlight. There was some admiration but also a bit of flak. I heard quite a bit from the crowd in the few Rhinos games I attended.

But enough of the negatives.

Consider the following players who were all team mates in the side coached by Arthur at the Rhinos – Shaun Russell, Will Penisini, Jake Arthur and Samuel Loizou. Each player has been identified as one of the best prospects in rugby league in their age group, and each has been involved in this preseason.

More of their Rhinos team mates are involved in the Eels Jersey Flegg and SG Ball teams. A couple of others have linked with rival NRL clubs.

It’s quite a wealth of 18/19 year olds that benefited from receiving quality coaching during their younger years.


Eels Pre-Season Training Reports

My regular preseason training reports are coming to an end very soon.

Eels training

When the focus shifts to match preparation, I no longer provide details on the Eels field sessions. That’s pretty logical considering the team will be shifting their energies and planning towards beating a specific opponent.

Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read the reports. The Cumberland Throw has enjoyed a record January, with views of the training posts reaching unprecedented numbers.

I’ll conclude my coverage after the Panthers trial with a preseason summary and player assessment.


Indigenous All Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night’s All Stars match. The players absolutely ripped in with an intensity that rivalled an Origin match.

Will Smith addresses the huddle on Thursday night (photo Eels media)

The mix of veterans and unheralded players in both teams provided a terrific stage to showcase the potential of some youngsters, as well as emphasising that an older bloke like Benji Marshall still has plenty to offer.

My only disappointment was that Will Smith missed selection. The Eels utility is a proud Indigenous man and would have offered plenty of versatility off the bench.

Hopefully he’ll get a call up next year.


Election Time

Parra Leagues members should by now have received their voting details for the Election of Directors.

The new constitution provides for triennial elections. Two board members must vacate their positions every year, and should they wish to continue in the role, nominate as a candidate in the election.

In the first election under this system, Leagues Club president Greg Monaghan and fellow director Sue Coleman are the two current board members nominating for election. The full list of independent candidates is included in the email or postal pack.

We encourage all PLC members to vote. Whether you do so online or by post, it’s an easy process and we need as many people as possible invested in the future of the club.

Two members of the Parramatta Leagues Club Board must always be appointed to the Eels Football Board of Directors. If you’re an Eels supporter and a PLC member, the result of these elections should always be important to you.


Eels forever!



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Micky D's

Cheers Sixties. I made a few comments on Utokimanu in the previous blog, but sometimes we get emotionally involved with trying to keep the Juniors that we think will succeed.
I trust in Brad and the processes, and hopefully we’ll see a few more players coming through in time.
I really like a few purchase we’ve made in Papalili, Opacic and Lussick, & also read your comments on how well Cartwright was going in training.

Up Parramatta always…

Last edited 1 year ago by Micky D's
Micky D's

R1 Predicted

1 Gutho
2 Sivo
3. Opacic
4. Waqa
5. Fergo
6. Drown
7. Moses
8. Rcg
9. Mahoney
10. Jnr
11. matto
12. lane
13 brown
14 Papalili
15. Khafusi
16. Hipgrave
17. stone

Micky D's

Thanks mate.


Another great article Sixties. Just a quick question mate, you mentioned in the preview of the article that you had attracted a new sponsor, but you never mentioned them in the article. Are you allowed to tell is who they are or is it it silent type sponsorship? Cheers mate. #Parradise

greg okladnikov

Hi Sixties, thanks for the mention. All our 3 offices at Parramatta, Auburn and Narellan are happy to be on board again. See you at the footy !!!

Trouser Eel

Hi Greg,
The support of this website, I’m sure, goes a long way in ensuring its longevity. Thank you for your contribution.

greg okladnikov

Thank you!! Happy to be involved


Great work with the bumpers thanks Sixties,
It was interesting to read the Alumni that have come out of the Rhinos. I am keen to see how these boys go in the future and others of course.
It leads me to a question. Is there any chance of you and the team interviewing the Sg Ball / Matts coaches? It may provide a further opening into what they look for, how they prepare the boys and also the scouting of players in the junior systems.
I totally understand if this is not viable.


Thanks for the broad coverage of all things Parra, to be and at the present moment Sixties. It’s wonderful to have a history of our juniors development with a bit of a focus on a particular junior club. It would be good to see and read similar development in other junior clubs in our district. I’m sure there are readers, fans and coaches who could give a wonderful storyline to young fellas coming through at Wenty, Cabra, Toonie Tigers and others which we rusted on fans would enjoy celebrating with them.


Yes me too. That era included guys who expressed their love and passion for the club like Kris Inu. I believe we’ve always had good juniors but before BA we hadn’t had NRL coaches who were prepared to put the work in to identify and nurture these young men. I remember the decade prior to Brad coming back to Parra we had a system that allowed one man (a lovely bloke, but a bad judge imo) to pick who could and who couldn’t develop into an NRL player. At that time we lost two young men I called Parra’s black… Read more »


Hi guys
Any idea of teams for flegg and reserve grade for this weeks trials v Penrith.
Also what times are all the games.?


thanks buddy


Nice work Sixties. Just on Papali’i, I think it was pretty clear he could play (and having 60+ games under your belt before the age of 22 is fair evidence of this), and I’m sure we signed him with the expectation that he would play first grade. The Warriors would have known he was a first grader but I’d say they would have had to pay a fair bit more than minimum salary to match our offer. Meanwhile that club needed size, so they went out and bought it. But to fit those recruits (AFB, Evans and Murdoch-Masila) into the… Read more »


I’m sure we’ll get value out of him. I just don’t believe he would’ve signed for close to what Hipgrave (for example) would be on.


Yes Papa was great,lots of energy in A and D.The Opacic try looked easy but he ran a perfect line changed direction on first contact ,made it look easy which comes with experience. Watching Jake jump into dummy half all game on the first few tackles,thinking maybe there is our 14. Was very impressed with all of the young blokes,hopefully we can keep them together.


Warriors offered twice what we did but wanted to be at parra by choice , FACT !!


No chance


Anon, what I’ve read and heard is that he just wanted a total reset.The Warriors haven’t exactly been in the best of places in recent years including a really unfortunate 2020, the shake out was his opportunity. He’s had high expectations on him since schoolboy days in both Union and League, he also had a 6 month stand down thrown in. Wipe the slate, start again.


Cannot wait for the footy to return. The reports over the off season have been great. Thank you! Watching the trial match was very pleasing. As much as I might complain about teams like the Storm and Roosters there biggest strength is their ability to bring players in to replace first grade regulars or superstars and play the same structure. It is admirable. Looking back at last year we lost so much momentum when we lost Moses. Jai Field came in and all of a sudden Dylan Brown and Gutho’s game changed dramatically , we lost confidence, the media bashing… Read more »

Trouser Eel

Is there a graph somewhere showing the correlation between Parra memberships and views of this website? I’m wondering if there’s a chicken and egg situation occurring.
Could the off season and on season work of the Throw be a contributing factor to the growth of memberships?

Thanks for your off season reports. I’m now looking forward to the season proper.

John Eel

It was interesting that RCG singled out Oregon Kaufusi for special praise after the trial against the Dragons. (Interview on

I am getting a sense that Oregon could be up for a good year coming off the bench. I do like the way that BA has handled his rise to NRL level


Reckon BA best judge of a players readiness john and hes proven it time and time again , dyl , reedy , were early , marata was later , and so on , people bagged him over gutho first up ,plenty didnt want brown ,rcg , sivo was cc going nowhere , let those who know do the decisions i say , if there going to hang at least they deserve to choose their own rope , whilst all supporters are valuable only a very small portion understand the mechanisms involved and the media know less .

Colin Hussey

Sixties, I doubt that the average RL/eels supporter would have enough nous regarding their calls for certain players to be elevated, & that includes me, as I have been guilty of it when saying that I would like to see xyz players given NRL spots. While its great having players showing their abilities, especially reading the reports here, as supporters we need to trust the coaching staff as to their selections and while they may miss at times, overall they have a much better feel and eyes for the players and how they are going along with when to give… Read more »


Great wrap up, thanks for the off season updates. Agree Opacic & Papali look likely inclusions. The pathways do look promising; kaufusi, Dunster, Penisini, Hollis, Arthur & co did a solid job. No easy feat for O’Neill to balance nrl performance vs potential with the salary cap is reduced into this year. You’d think Marata, kaufusi & papali are locked in on the bench. It’s going to be hard to leave will smith out given the trial and then there’s stone or Rankin or hipgrave. Very tight. Wonder if Smith & stone have continued their dummy half work or lussick… Read more »


Carty back in 5 weeks to , roach another good enough to force his claims when fit , tough decisions ahead !

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