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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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


He’s not going to rugby.He will get his spot back when he’s ready.


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


Bone lazy , not up to standard !

Mr controversy aka rev

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


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


My predicted side: 1. Gutho 2. Dunster 3. Blake 4. Penisini 5. Simonsson 6.D.Brown 7. Moses 8. RCG 9. Mahoney 10. Paulo 11. Carty 12. Matto 13.N.Brown 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… Read more »


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… Read more »

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


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.


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!

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.


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… Read more »


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


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


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.… Read more »


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.


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

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.

Matthew Sweeney

I think he will !

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.


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 .

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.

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.


Channel 9 reported tonight that our entire squad, except Nathan Brown, has had covid.

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.

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

Trouser Eel

The Eel Oracle?
The Parra Prophet?


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… Read more »

Achilles' Eel

Sixties, where are your team selections for NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg come round one?

West Coast Eel

I like that side. I also like our depth this year, especially in the forwards.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.… Read more »

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.

Brelogail St Boy

I do mean NSW Cup

slip (Adam)

Hey!! It’s me slip from 1Eyed Eel (no longer posting), Rugby League Grandstand (defunct) and my website Electric Eel. Ive put together a forum for the entire History of Rugby League, which is still in progress –

slip (Adam)

Great 🙂 Every grand final, state of origin, club game, top 100 players and other competitions. Currently working on Team of the Century for every club.


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?

Mark Camman

I like the team but I would change Papali’i to lock and Matterson to second row.


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… Read more »

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