There’s only three weeks until the commencement of the Junior Representative season, but unfortunately COVID is playing havoc with the scheduled trials.
This weekend saw all trials cancelled, including the Eels vs Bulldogs trials set down for Belmore Oval.
Consequently, Parra reorganised sessions for their teams at Kellyville on Saturday morning and I was able to catch the Tarsha Gale and Harold Matts teams going through their paces.
This report will provide a general overview of both sessions.
As these are age teams, there are quite a number of new faces. Furthermore, the Matts squad will be trimmed this weekend, a tough ask if selection was based just on today – which it won’t be.
Therefore, it would be unfair to focus on too many individual performances. Instead, I’ll focus on what I consider the strengths of the teams will be.
The 2022 team appears to be faster than last year.
Although they didn’t qualify for finals footy, the 2021 girls finished the season with some of their better performances, including a comprehensive last round victory over one of the finalists, the Sharks. It was perhaps a show of what was possible.
It appears that the 2022 Gale might have taken that step forward, with more strike power in attack.
In today’s opposed work, the skill set of the group seems more advanced. Players were putting support runners into space and just as crucially, those support players were running better lines.
There were some interesting plays around the ruck, inside balls and changes of direction. It all added up to more questions being asked, and there were a couple of players who, when put into space, had the pace to go on with it.
From a defence perspective, the contact was strong and the team seems to be improving their capacity to wrap up the ball. I was particularly impressed by a couple of single player tackles which saw the ball runner driven backwards and put on their back.
All up, considering there were some players missing today, it was a very encouraging session which would have left coach Ryan Walker smiling.
The squad might have missed the opportunity to trial against the Bulldogs, but I’m prepared to suggest that they would have gained more from this internal hit out. More players got about 50 minutes of game time, something that would not have been possible when sharing the minutes around.
Furthermore, this was a high quality “match” – probably on par with most of the Matts games you’ll watch in any season.
Coach Chris Howard split his squad into two teams, with the 86 jersey taking on the hoops jersey. It wasn’t a possibles vs probables, he selected two balanced sides to give the players every chance to compete on a level playing field.
As far as this contest was concerned, the Hoops had the early advantage, converting good field position and clever halfback play for one try, before the centre exploded onto the ball for a 60 metre solo try.
The 86 team hit back with a try to the dummy half at close range before the dummy half and five eighth linked to create a second four pointer.
Finally, the Hoops crossed out wide to finish the scoring for the session.
My first observation was the physicality in this team. Considering these blokes are team mates, some of the collisions were enormous.
A couple of the forwards are backing up from last year’s team who were defeated by Manly in the Grand Final, and that extra year of maturity means they are a little bigger and more confident in the collision. That Manly team were just a bit too powerful in the 2021 decider, but the Eels will certainly be competing from a size perspective. It’s a good mix of big middles and mobile edges.
The Eels will also be well served in the spine. I thought that the service was sharp out of dummy half, especially when the pack were taken forward by the 9, and there is a mix of ball players and runners in the halves. Both fullbacks were safe on kick reception, ran the ball strongly and were good talkers.
I really like the look of the centres, and I’d be surprised if one of them doesn’t feature in the top try scorers list for the season. The wingers also showed enough willingness to take the tough carries, as well as pace, to indicate that they will be good on the kick returns in addition to being capable finishers.
There were a couple of significant absentees from the game which only adds further merit to the quality of the session.
For those readers frustrated by my omission of names, I repeat that this is quite deliberate. There were too many positives to not share that from a squad perspective.
The group will be trimmed by the next trial and The Cumberland Throw will be looking to cover that and begin to identify individual performances.
For now, we congratulate all players who have been involved in the preseason and wish everyone the best for the upcoming season.
We really appreciated the welcome afforded to us today by players and staff alike. This helps our journey in learning more about the squads and individuals as we look to continue our coverage of pathways footy in 2022.
Furthermore, the staff are passionate Eels and rugby league people who dedicate their time to the future of our club and to the welfare of these young players.
Hopefully some of the current Covid restrictions will become less of a concern as the season progresses – not to mention having interruption free competitions.
Thanks for the coverage, the number three in photos sure looks to have some size ,
Cheers Ken. Michael Gabreal in the 3.
Let’s hope the Tarsha Gale girls can get some traction this year.
Excuse my ignorance, but where does gale cup fit in comparison to the nrlw or equivilant mens division?
The Tarsha Gale Cup is an under 19 competition. When their season is completed the girls will either return to their junior clubs or play for a Harvey Norman NSW Premiership team -depending on their footy development. That NSW premiership is a senior competition and fills the year for most women’s players as the NRLW only has six teams playing each other once. The difference in 2022 is that there is an NRLW at the start and end of the year this year. That means that the Tarsha Gale Cup will play at the same time as the early NRLW… Read more »
A finals finish will be good. We are starting to see the impact of girls programs in the Parra district.
Manly will win the Harold Matthews again this year.
Perhaps. I believe that the Roosters and the Central Coast Roosters will also field strong teams.
Manly can win every Harold Matthews comp from now until the end of time. The point of pathways is to make NRL players, from the previous time manly beat Parra in the Harold Matts final more Eels players have debuted in the NRL and from what I can gather more are contracted to an NRL team 4 from manly vs 9 from the Eels
Excited to see the Matts this year. There were a few standout players from last season who will be running around again, should make for a strong team. And no doubt the extra development of the Tarsha Gale program will see them finish higher on the table, hopefully a finals appearance is on the cards for the women.
Hey Ham, I reckon you would have been pleased the skill growth in the Gale, and the Matts team couldn’t have looked much better in an internal trial. Maybe a couple of better options could have been taken in setting up supports, but that’s going to come as combinations are refined when the squad is trimmed.