The Cumberland Throw

Stats That Matta – Analysing The New Eels Recruits

When the 2020 season finally wrapped up, most Eels supporters would have been curious about potential Eels recruits. There was no shortage of players released by the club, but there weren’t many high-profile stars available on the market.

Another challenge would be the shortened preseason.

The recruitment team needed to act quickly, and likewise, new combinations would need to evolve at a faster rate. 

When news started to filter out who the Eels bought, a lot of questions were asked.

So using stats let’s investigate what might have attracted Brad Arthur and the recruitment team to  sign this group of players.

Keegan Hipgrave

* By The Numbers

Keegan Hipgrave

Keegan is an Edge forward (back rower for the purists), who comes to the Eels from the Gold Coast Titans.

The 24 year old has played 40 games for the Titans, scoring 3 tries, averaging 49.5 minutes per game. His running metres per game sits at 62.4 metres with a personal best of 127.9 metres in Round 20, 2018 against the Warriors.

Defensively he averages 22 tackles per game with 3.2 missed tackles.

* The Intangible

Keegan plays an aggressive brand of football and has demonstrated the versatility to cover a number of positions when injuries have hit during games. The Titans did not enjoy any successful seasons during his time at the club so it will be interesting to see how Keegan performs in a stronger, better performing team.

Bryce Cartwright

* By The Numbers

The controversial Cartwright follows former Titans team mate Keegan Hipgrave to the Eels.

Bryce Cartwright

Bryce has played 112 games for the Panthers and Titans and has scored 20 tries during his tenure at both clubs.

Carty can play second row, five-eighth or centre and his impressive training track form was well documented in Sixties training reports. An unfortunate accident at training saw him break his jaw, and he could be missing for anything up to six rounds of football.

Since debuting in 2014, Bryce has averaged 78 run metres per game with a personal best of 215.3 run metres back in 2015. One skill that the Eels coaching staff would hope they can utilise is his offload. In total, Bryce has offloaded 226 times averaging just over 2 per game.

Defensively he makes 21.9 tackles a game, missing an average of 2.3.

Overall, Bryce Cartwright averages 59.8 minutes per game.

The Intangible

Early in his career, Cartwright was on the verge of Origin selection. He menaced the Eels in our clashes with Penrith, and was a player in demand. The switch to the Gold Coast was not a good one, but talent doesn’t disappear.

Cartwright has a skill set which offers a point of difference for Parra. His publicised issues with defence were a concern for supporters, but that aspect of footy is a measure of attitude. If his head space is good, this could prove to be a masterful piece of recruitment.

Isaiah Papali’i

* By The Numbers

Finally the Eels snare their own Papa!

Parra Papa

If you saw his opening match wearing Blue and Gold in the trial against the Dragons, the upcoming season looks bright for the 22 year old.

Isaiah joins the Eels from the Warriors and the hard hitting Kiwii is a welcome edition to the Eels forward stocks.

With 63 appearances for the New Zealand club, Isaiah has scored 7 tries and averages 62.5 minutes per game.

In attack, Papali’I averages 70 metres per game with a career high of 142.4 metres against the Dragons in Round 3 last year.

Defensively he averages 31.2 tackles per game and misses just a touch over 2 tackles a game.

* The Intangible

What position will best suit our Papa? Sixties has been reporting that the new recruit trained as a middle during the preseason, but then he came out and impressed in the back row in that Dragons trial. Though that might make him ideal for the bench, it’s not hard to see him starting in either position at some stage during the season.


Tom Opacic

* By The Numbers

Tom Opacic

The Eels secured 26 year old Opacic from the Cowboys, after he had earlier debuted with the Broncos way back in 2016.

Tom has 14 tries in his 43 career games having crossed 5 times for the Broncos and 9 times for the Cowboys.

Like Isaiah Papali’I, Opacic’s first hit out in Blue and Gold in the Dragons trial was strong and he looks to have the front running for that centre spot in the Eels opening round.

In an average game time of 69.5 minutes, he averages 81.9 running metres with a personal best 150.6 running metres against the Dragons in Round 22, 2016.

In defence he averages 12 tackles per game with 1.4.misses.

*The Intangible

In the race for the vacant centre position, Opacic has the edge over Penisini on the score of experience. He’s had a couple of injuries which have hampered his NRL career, but this will be his sixth year of being involved with an NRL squad. Losing Jenko took away the communication on the left side which is so important for Sivo. Opacic is expected to provide a similarly composed presence.


Michael Oldfield

* By The Numbers

Michael Oldfield

Oldy comes to the Eels via the Raiders. After debuting in 2010 for the Sea Eagles, the 30 year old journeyman has played for 5 NRL clubs (Sea Eagles, Roosters, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Raiders) as well as the Catalans Dragons in the English Super League. The Eels become his 6th NRL club and he’s likely to be a great back up option for our wingers and centres.

Unfortunately, an MCL sprain in the trial against the Dragons will sideline Michael for the first month or so of the NRL competition.

Oldfield has scored 30 tries in his 54 first grade game career – not a bad strike rate.

Match stat averages sit at 91.2 metres running metres and 6.4 tackles (1.4 missed) per game.

* The Intangible

Oldfield has always been noted for above average pace. Though he’s never cemented a permanent NRL spot, he did perform quite well during his time with the Raiders, spending time at both centre and wing. His knee injury will put him behind Dunster in the contest for being next in line behind Sivo and Fergo for an NRL wing berth.

Nathaniel Roache

* By The Numbers

Nathaniel Roache

Another Warrior joins the Eels in the form of 24 year old Nathaniel Roache. Injury has disrupted the dummy half’s career, leaving him with only 26 games for the Warriors on his resume. Furthermore he has featured in the starting line up on only five occasions.

Nathaniel joins the Eels on a development contract but an upgrade to an NRL contract looks likely.

He has averaged 35.7 minutes per game across his career, and has 2 tries to his name

Defensively he averages 17.2 tackles per game (0.4 missed tackles).

Roach is renowned for his scoots from dummy half, averaging 28 running metres from that position and 43.9 running metres per game.


* The Intangible

The Kiwi recruit is, to put it bluntly, built like a brick shithouse. He looks every bit the fit footballer. Unfortunately, his body has succumbed to a succession of injuries.

Roache has impressed during this preseason and his training load is an evolving process of training and rehab. If the Eels can get his body right, Roache has the ability to impact games from the bench. His capacity to engage defenders around the ruck will prove a point of difference to the Eels attack


Joey Lussick

* By The Numbers

Joey Lussick

Joey Lussick comes to the Eels via Salford in the English Super League

The 25 year old has only played one NRL game for Manly in 2017. The younger brother of former Eel, Darcy Lussick, he actually spent time in the Eels NYC team. He decided to head to England to further his rugby league career.

His dummy half strike rate for Salford was very good, scoring 18 59 games.

* The Intangible

Lussick will be in the box seat should Brad Arthur look to provide bench cover for Mahoney during the early rounds. He also offers a point of difference to Reed, as he enjoys darting out of dummy half. The English comp has suited his style.


How many of the new recruits will debut for the Eels this year?

There’s a fair chance it will be four in the opening round.

How successful they are could go a long way towards determining the Eels fate in 2021.







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he enjoys farting out of dummy half – haha

also hope he likes darting out as well 😉


Ha, sorry, comes from doing a late night edit! Tired eyes.


Farting out of Dummy half I hope this expression is here to stay 🤣🤣


Rocket man.


Is that me!


Ha! If you want to lay claim to it!


Brilliant work Colmac, thanks for the detailed stats on these new recruits mate. Your “Intangible” comments on each has a blend of the accomplished and hopeful performances of past and future virtue.
I reckon you may be correct in your assessment of potentially 4 of them in the 17 for round #1. IMO we are a stronger squad with greater depth because of the astute identification and signing of these guys who all bring something which could be of benefit to our club.


I reckon we might have seen more in round one were it not for a couple of injuries.


Does farting out of dummy half act as a deterrent for the opposition, maybe like aeroguard does to insects lol


Probably! This fun policeman has now edited that line. Sorry.

Longfin Eel

There are some pretty good players in that list, and they do tend to compliment the talent we already have. Just hope Parra can keep them injury free, but that is an area where we have improved over the past year or two.


Definitely improved there, and for some on the list, it could be just what they need.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x