The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – An Early Call: Round 1 Eels Team List

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Parramatta version of Punxsutawney Phil, the famous American groundhog that predicts the start of spring.

Picture an Eel in an aquarium, (cue alliterative name ideas) tempted by three types of bait. Which will it consume first? A prawn means a grand final appearance, a mussel means top 8 and a piece of fish means outside the 8.

The crustaceans have led a relatively charmed existence for too long!

Here at The Cumberland Throw we usually offer up the old glass orb after the trials have been completed. All of our content creators provide their crystal ball predictions for the finals and the spoon.

Personally, I’m hanging out for Round 1 right now, so I’ve decided to dust off that sphere for an early run. My ambition is to list the Parramatta Eels team for the opening round. The prediction will be based on last season’s form and preseason training.

There are three players who will not come under consideration.

Maika Sivo is obviously undertaking a lengthy rehab process. Marata Niukore is serving a suspension which will keep him out of the team to take on the Titans. I’m also being conservative in declaring Nathan Brown as unavailable as he recovers from his post season operations.

Therefore, my Round 1 team is as follows:













D Brown







Dummy Half




2nd Row


2nd Row





Dummy half


2nd Row/Lock





Close Contenders

Ky Rodwell is in excellent preseason form. The tough young prop debuted in the final round and produced an extraordinary performance despite injuring his hand in the first tackle that he made. He would be under strong consideration for a bench spot and perhaps Oregon could be under pressure.

Jake Arthur has been, in my opinion, the star of the preseason. He deserves to be selected but I don’t think BA will make that call. Despite his preseason, Jake will require an injury to either Moses or Dylan Brown to get a start. He’s competing against forwards for a bench spot which makes that option more difficult. In any other year, he’s earned a place.

Ray Stone

Ray Stone is the fittest I’ve ever seen him, and is arguably producing his best preseason. Everyone knows how Stoney plays and he could easily cover a bench spot.

Ofahiki Ogden gets better with every training session. He’s been a first grade player with the Dogs and I’d suggest his conditioning is more advanced than previous seasons. His eligibility for selection is not clear.

Tom Opacic is almost the forgotten man of the backline. His consistency at centre was a huge contributor to the early season success in 2021. Late season injury took him out of the spotlight and opened the door for Will Penisini.

When All Are Available

Without question both Nathan Brown and Marata Niukore will walk back into the 17, but in what position? Who loses their spot?

I believe that both would start off the interchange, but for different reasons. Marata is an impact player who brings that punch off the bench. Brown will be lacking match fitness and will be brought back to speed with short stints.

If both are considered to be middle forwards, then the likelihood is that both of the bench middles would be under pressure. Of course, BA might decide to go without a dummy half on the bench.

What To Like

To have players who are unlucky to miss selection, even when three players are unavailable, speaks volumes of the depth. There is still a team’s worth of players in the full time squad that I haven’t mentioned that wouldn’t let the team down.

Sean Russell, Sam Loizou, Wiremu Greig and Haze Perham all earned a run in the top grade in 2021 and showed tremendous potential. I haven’t listed any of them as round 1 contenders. I haven’t even mentioned a group of the preseason full-timers.

If injury strikes at training or in the trial, there are options.

Mitch Rein (image courtesy of Bocko – Eels media)

Should every player perform as expected, the backline is stronger than last season. Penisini finished over the top of every centre opponent in his NRL appearances, and Simonsson will be a revelation. The defensive confusion around Fergo has been removed.

The starting pack is just as strong as last season and benefits from Ice’s return to the back row.

Having a 200 game dummy half such as Mitch Rein on the bench as back up for Reed Mahoney is a luxury. If BA doesn’t go with a dummy half on the bench, the options become either Gutho or Dylan Brown taking that role if Reed gets an injury during a match. That creates a re-shuffle scenario to cover their spots, which is never ideal.


The answer to this is quite intriguing.


Out wide, I’m predicting two relatively new combinations. Blake and Dunster will be on one flank, with Penisini and Simonsson on the other.

Blake and Dunster had a few games together last season and the signs were promising. Penisini and Simonsson have only had a preseason to get to know each other, so I can only go off their form in opposed sessions.

Over the last two seasons, the Eels right side defence has been as reliable as any government leader during Covid. Their decision making was confusing, a source of distress, and invariably incorrect.

In contrast, the new combinations have clicked at training. Premiership footy will be the real test, but rather than an area of concern, these pairings could prove to be a strength.


That concludes my early call, done without the benefit of watching any trials or the assistance of any sea creature seer. The bench probably represents the only contentious selections, or maybe there are no surprises.

What’s your take?

Please Note

There was no field session for the Eels today. The next report will focus on Friday’s training.

Eels forever!


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70 thoughts on “The Spotlight – An Early Call: Round 1 Eels Team List

  1. Offside

    I dare say Sivo will struggle to get a spot in in top grade after his injury I’m predicting a mid season move to rugby.

    I like Matto at lock he is a player who does good but needs to contribute more. That being said I wouldn’t rule out Stome from starting at 13

    1. sixties Post author

      Offside, I agree that Sivo will be behind the 8 ball in trying to force his way into the team in mid season. It will be his biggest test to date.
      I regard lock as Matto’s best position. It will keep his involvement high and he can utilise both his strength and ball skills.

      1. Offside

        On form he will struggle we looked much better without him.
        If he ran with the same intent out of the backfield as he does for a try I’d think diffrently he’s a defensive liability with a turning circle of the titanic

    2. Mr controversy aka rev

      I agree with you offside. Sivos Rugby union bound anyone else who thinks other wise is a fool.

  2. HamSammich

    I reckon Bailey and Will can strike up quite the partnership. Bailey needs to have his hands ready, Will is great at putting his winger into space

  3. SneakyEel

    My predicted side:
    1. Gutho
    2. Dunster
    3. Blake
    4. Penisini
    5. Simonsson
    7. Moses
    8. RCG
    9. Mahoney
    10. Paulo
    11. Carty
    12. Matto
    14. Rein
    15. Lane
    16. Niukore
    17. Papali’i
    I felt Carty was wasted on the bench and feel that we need him on the field for 80 he’s such a skilful and exciting player to watch. I also felt that we were a much better side when Papali’i came off the bench, his impact can turn a game on its head. I reckon we’re gonna be quite a good attacking team this year and also a strong defensive team. I agree with the comments that Sivo won’t make it back into the side. I think a lot of tries were scored due to Sivo and Fergo getting caught out in the defence and being burned by faster and more agile opposition wingers. I also reckon that we’re going to score plenty of long-range tries this year our backline looks the fastest it’s been in a long time. I’m enjoying the posts and updates of the boys at training. Cheers Sixties

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers Sneaky. I didn’t include Nathan Brown and Marata for round 1, but they will be certainties when able to play. I’m interested in your selection of Ice off the bench. Do you think he can’t provide that impact from the start?

      1. SneakyEel

        Sixties, my reasoning mostly for Ice coming off the bench was that when Paulo, RCG and Brown came off you could see a drop in our intensity in both attack and defence, and with a player like Ice coming on the replace them keeps the momentum going and creates a greater impact when coming on against tired players suppose to starting and coming up against fresh players. Also, I believe that his best footy can be produced playing in the middle and I thought that he was fantastic on the edge this year but in some of his games this year he was caught out in defence. I also really like the combo of Dunster, Blake and Carty that was forming at the end of last year.

  4. Matthew Sweeney

    Sounds about right , Nathan Brown may struggle to get back in the team if all our forwards get off to flyer’s and we win. Also would like to see Wiremu come into the 17

    1. Mick

      Can’t see Brown out of the team for too long. I think it will be a “horses for courses” approach. I don’t think Sivo will get back in. I think Carty and Rein are certainties for a bench spot, Papali’i will come off the bench as a middle, Nuikori when available will take the last spot. We still have Kaufusi, Rodwell, Greig, Stone. Our forward stocks are strong this year.

        1. Anonymous

          I struggle to see why Lane would be rewarded with a starting spot, purely based on his form last year. To me, he remains our greatest liability! But as you say Sixties, we are well stocked with forwards, lets hope we use them well!

      1. Matthew Sweeney

        Hard to argue with any of that. I think carty will need to continue to improve his decision making and lane needs to make the last game he played against Penrith his new standard.

  5. DDay

    Hard to argue with what you have put forward Sixties.
    BA started using Lane as a middle from the bench last year and his form improved – but with NBrown & Marata out BA does default back to old selection patterns.
    I like seeing Rein on the bench, as long as he gets some mins.
    Keen to see Matto at lock – could give him more ball playing opportunities.
    You have Simonsson ahead of Russell – is there much between these 2 on the training paddock?
    It’s tough on Opacic and Stone. As an aside – I’m surprised the Dolphins haven’t picked up Opacic.
    Looking forward to seeing Rodwell, Greig & Hollis get some some NRL time during the year.

    1. sixties Post author

      Russell has done everything expected of him. To my mind he continues to develop and will get more opportunities this year. However, Simonsson has combined well with Penisini when he’s trained alongside him and they are my pick.

      1. Anonymous

        Combinations are something money can’t buy like we saw last year with waqa/fergo – penisini/simonsson sounding promising

        1. sixties Post author

          Will just has that knack of beating his opposite and I reckon we’ll see Simonsson as the beneficiary.

    2. Anonymous

      In the last few games Ice played in the middle, Lane was back on the edge and the team looked better for it.

  6. Zero58

    Mr Sixties, I don’t think you are far off the mark. I like your team but for a concern for one or two spots. Your acclaim for Rein has me thinking he should start. Why? He is ready now whereas Cash is, from what your reports indicate, is not up to physical contact. BA should hold him back a couple of weeks to make absolutely sure he is ready.
    You have Lane starting but I believe he is best off the bench. I have rewatched a few games from 2021 and except for some lazy lapses he did really well. That’s why I believe he should come off the bench. He is not an 80 minute player. I like him – I think impact is better for him. He can break the line out wide
    Bailey Simmensen may well be our next fullback if we can hold onto him. He is class player and in some ways reminds me of Sivo. He had a great fend.
    I believe Cartwright is under used by BA and should start.
    Other than that I like your team.
    JA maybe pushing for a start but let’s give him some lower grade games to continue to mature and develop a real hunger for top grade.
    Looking at the players we have 2022 is a big chance. Two things worry me – covid and injuries.
    How has Parra gone with covid infections?

    1. Zero58

      I forgot, I would have Stone in as replacement for Mahoney. Or maybe Rodwwell.
      My 17 is yours except for those two or three changes.

      1. Anonymous

        Stone terrible dummyhalf as seen v penrith in final , not even an option !! He will be no great loss 2023 in any position .

        1. Matthew Sweeney

          I think he is a very good and unique player albeit not at dummy half. His brutal defence really lifts the team and the guy can motor and put a step on and score a try. Compliments our team very well and sixties saying he looks fitter than ever. Very happy to have him for this year. Bennett wouldn’t pick him up if he didn’t have wat it takes.

          1. sixties Post author

            Extremely fit Matt but I think he’ll have to force his way into a back row position this year.

          2. Matthew Sweeney

            Sixties , along with being fitter wld u say he has put on a little muscle ? He is a relative lightweight kilo wise and a bit more weight wld suit him I reckon.

          3. Anonymous

            Agree all matt but what bennetts paying is a lot more than he’s worth under our salary cap , Bennett dosent have those complications yet , rays a great competitor but has limitations , one of those players whos a great filler but will never own a spot , we also have few new wave players coming thru , sad to see him go but hes replaceable .

          4. Matthew Sweeney

            Thanks Anon , I guess he is still to be given enough minutes to show his true worth. He’s a Mossvale boy so we know he’s tuff, lol.

      2. John Eel

        I am no Epidemiologist but with all that I have read. The fact that all the Eels with the exception of Nathan Brown have had Covid can only be a good thing.

        It is interesting that after all of the nrl players have been in a virtual bubble for 2 years. Suddenly they are released in the off season and the vast majority catch it.

        Maybe the rest of the community has built a bit of heard immunity over the last
        two years. Many people would have been asymptomatic and been out in the community with it and spreading it.

        1. sixties Post author

          John, there was a fair few footy players who were posting music festival and party photos over December and January. I wasn’t surprised.

    2. sixties Post author

      Zero, Reed has started contact and I think he’ll be ready for round 1 – possibly even the trials.
      As for Covid, it’s not really my place to offer an observation as to the extent. The media reported that we’ve been hit, as have all clubs, and I’ll leave it for the Eels to comment further.

  7. Mr controversy aka rev

    Bit early Dont you think sixties ?
    Anyhow this is my team for Rd,1

    1# Gutho
    2# Dunster
    3# Waqa
    4# pensini
    5# simmonson
    6# Dylan brown
    7# Moses
    8# Jr Paulo
    9# Rein
    10# RCG
    11# papali’i
    13# Matterson

    Bench. #14 stone
    15# lane 16# Nathan brown 17# Oregan kaufusi.

    Yep I’ve left out bulldog bound Reedy. Don’t think he will last the season. Shoulders will go n so will he mid season to dog’s.

      1. Mr controversy aka rev

        That’s why ive got brown in my team for Rd 1. If he doesn’t make it put maka in instead

  8. Mick

    Thanks 60s, great insights here. I must admit when I started reading I thought “shouldn’t the starting 17 be obvious” but there are clearly a few decisions to come to grips with. And now having given it further thought, there might be a few strategic things for BA to consider.

    From reading TCT, I got the sense Reed wouldn’t be fit, N Brown would be, and given Stone was having a great offseason, he would feature somewhere. So I thought Rein & N. Brown would start, Lane & Stone to the bench, and Maka probably misses out. But being right in the thick of the action and more knowledgeable than I, you will no doubt be closer to the money.

    The other thing I wondered is whether BA will take a slightly different approach this season. We’ve come out of the gates pretty hot the last few years and had late season slumps. It would be good to see us “build a season” (that insight won’t land me a Head Coach gig) but it might mean BA experiments early in the season and has a revised strategy around keeping blokes fresh for July / August / September. So we might see some interesting early season picks …. albeit possibly not quite as early as Round 1.

    1. sixties Post author

      Mick, I’ve got Reed as being ready for round 1 and Brown possibly not. That’s me being conservative with Brown. I think BA likes to get a good start.

  9. Jim Muir

    Erasmus Eel is a little out there and different. Erasmus was a 15th / 16th century theologian who introduced the idea of SYNERGY to Catholic thinking. And synergy – the coming together of many factors – some good fortune, a healthy squad, talent and strong bonding to name some elements are all needed to go all the way and feast on the crustaceans, downed with the finest beers to celebrate the 22 premiership.

    1. Matthew Sweeney

      I just hope we can perform up to high expectation this year and simultaneously stay a little under the radar. I think a good sign last year was bouncing back, form wise, against Penrith in the finals under the weight of gus Gould’s prognosis that we didn’t or weren’t showing the grit required to make a significant impact.

  10. BDon

    Like your selection sixties. I think we will be far better in the backs, attack and defence, not only via new blood but Moses/Brown will be at a new level. In the forwards, when Marata returns, I’d start him then have Ice off the bench. It just gives us heaps of early raw energy then sustained by a bull.

    1. John Eel

      BDon agree about Marata. I would definitely start him on the Edge.

      Lane has me perplexed. Not sure what I want to do there. He can be good but has those errors in him. Not wishing to throw cold water but Mitch Rein can be a bit like that also.

      1. BDon

        Yes, Rein is good but does things fast and sometimes his head and hands, and his support players, get a little out of synch. If he can not overplay, he”ll be an advantage for us.

    2. sixties Post author

      Perhaps if Marata starts BA might consider Lane off the bench rather than Ice? But I like Ice on the edge which might make a bench spot unlikely.

    3. Matthew Sweeney

      Hi BDon , I think this year’s trials will present our forwards more than ever the opportunity to cement themselves a rd1 spot.

  11. John Eel

    “Eels in the news” I just read this opinion piece by Scott Pyde about the Eels chances for 2022.

    While I am not saying he is incorrect on all his points but he was wrong with plenty and gave no context around others.

    I get that he is looking for clicks but surely once he has you reading he could report with balance and context.

    Everything from last seasons defeat in the finals to Penrith while down to our 4th choice hooker.

    He says that we can’t beat Storm yet in 2021 we beat them both times we played them.

    My biggest concern is most commentators seem to be writing off the 2022 Eels based on what they see will be a weakened team in 2023.

    1. sixties Post author

      Most writer are trying to be across 16 teams and the fact is they can’t be. So rather than being up to date, they use superficial views of the season before.

  12. Brelogail St Boy

    Thanks Sixties. The spots up for grabs in your side are probably Laneo’s second row spot an Rein’s no. 14 jumper. I hope your right and that Carty gets a lot of time off the bench and Mitch R also gets good on field time.
    Go the Eels in both the men’s and the women’s can’t wait. Her’es my prediction. 3 premierships in 2022 NRL, NRWL and NRL cup.

  13. Anonymous

    Sixties, I heard there is a teen sensation (Wing) as it was described to me that has come down from Mackay. What do you know of him?

  14. Steele

    Hi, just wanted to drop in and say thanks for all the pre-season content, as someone once said there really are only 2 seasons in the year, football season and waiting for football season.

    I think there may be some year round adjustments to how ice and marata are used, both offer so much either as starters or from the bench.

    Finally, like the Rd 1 team – just like to point out i suggested way back in parra’s slump that the captaincy was too much for gutho alone and should be shared with Junez. someone responded so insultingly 60’s had to delete the post – today Junior and Gutho share the captaincy.

    TcT is the best, because it allows even nobody’s like us fans to express our ideas and to do so safely, and free from abuse. Thank you all.

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