A question for BA.
Can you find a place for Ofahiki Ogden in the top 17?
Maybe I should word that another way. How can you not select Ogden in the top grade?
After recent sessions it’s surely impossible to deny Ogden’s claim to be upgraded. He’s fit, he absolutely tears into the collision, and his post contact metres continue to grow.
I have my theory on why he is beginning to shine
Since arriving at the Eels, I reckon he’s stripped multiple kilos from his frame to the point where he looks to be a different body shape. And he just seems very awkward to tackle.
In a highly entertaining and extremely physical opposed session, Ogden was one of my standouts.
It shouldn’t surprise any regular to these reports that I’ll also be mentioning Waqa Blake as another to shine. Watching the tall centre in full flight is a majestic sight.
Once again, Friday provided the week’s best highlights.
It was close to full match conditions over a riveting extended period of footy. The coaches remained on the sideline and the referee signalled time off after breaks in play, including conversions.
Just on the kicks, Moses kicked four from five, including two from out wide, with Rankin kicking two from two.
The Blue team were first to cross with a close range try under the posts. It happened fairly quickly and unfortunately I couldn’t see who threw the pass or who scored.
However, it wasn’t long before the White team began to assert their authority.
Isaiah Papali’i steamed onto a pass to burst into the open. A step off the right foot gave Perham no chance of bringing him down and Ice planted the ball behind the posts. It was an absolutely slashing run, I suspect off a Moses pass.
Cue Waqa Blake.
As if he hadn’t created enough of an impression during this preseason, his defence made a massive statement throughout the opposed. He was a man on a mission, aggressively leaving his mark on any player who ventured near him.
Now it was time for him to attack.
Burning the defence line with his acceleration, Waqa hit top gear down the sideline. As Perham and other defenders came across in cover, Blake centre kicked. The kick took a deflection on its path to the line, and Elie El-Zakhem was there to grab the spoils.
Not long after, a shift of play to the left inside the quarter saw Waqa use his pace to great effect to charge over out wide.
Reed Mahoney pulled the Blues a bit closer with a try which was reminiscent of his NYC days. On the back of very quick play the ball ten metres out, “Cash” darted at the retreating defence and his speed and momentum saw him spearing between defenders for the try.
Junior then reminded everyone of the challenge of stopping him close to the line as he exploded into the defence for the try. It was a brutal charge, yet it would prove to be simply the prelude to the play of the morning.
In the set following the kick off, a shift to the right as the team marched towards half way produced a half line break by Ice. Mitch Rein loomed in support and as the defence converged on him he grubber kicked ahead, and the ever present Moses chased to pick up the bouncing ball and then sprinted to the line. Magnificent stuff!
At this point, there might be some who read the preamble and wondered where does Ogden fit into this description.
Consider a typical match report. The focus is often on the big plays that led to scores, and my notes refer to the highlight plays which are naturally moments that are either the tries or the line breaks.
Today Ogden excelled in the tough carries, especially those deep in his own half. He demanded that the defenders come in numbers to stop him, and even then fought in the contact. My vantage point isn’t great for assessing the work of the middles, but he would not be denied in this session.
Likewise, I want to acknowledge the service of Mitch Rein. His passes were fairly snapping to the first receiver, and I thought that service was helping to establish the momentum of his side.
When the referee’s whistle signalled a halt to the play, it seemed likely that the action had finished for the morning. But after a debrief with the players, Arthur used the rest of the session to dictate where the sets would start from.
To clarify, a team would begin a set from a scrum, a penalty or perhaps a line drop out so that they could immediately go on the attack. Incidentally, it looked like a couple of the players swapped teams at this point.
The highlights from this latter part of session included:
A brilliant offload by Carty to set up a try to the White team.
A Blue team try to Russell off terrific work from the inside players, possibly Arthur, Lane and Opacic
Heads up footy from Moses close to the line to create try out of nothing for Naiduki
Penisini setting up Simonsson for a try, with the flying winger providing a dose of the spectacular in his aerial work to get the ball down in the corner.
This was quite the way to finish the week. Though I haven’t mentioned it till now, and it may seem unlikely with the mention of the attacking plays, there was no quarter given in defence. I dare say some ice packs would be in use after the session.
And for those who read my Wednesday report, handling errors were not a feature at all.
The first trial arrives next week.
Can you feel it?