The Cumberland Throw

Eels Round One 2023 Team List – An Early Call

The 2023 NRL pre-season is due to commence for some players and clubs in early November. Those that didn’t qualify for finals football will be amongst the first to return to the training track.

For the Parramatta Eels, early returns will be restricted to train and trial pathways players and potentially some new recruits. The vast majority of Parra’s NRL squad will either be back in December, or in January for those involved in the World Cup.

Much publicised departures mean that spots will be up for grabs in the top 17, and with just 26 players currently under contract for 2023, there are also roster places to be filled.

Ryan Matterson

Some uncertainty surrounds players on that current 26 man list, especially Nathan Brown. If he stays with the Eels, and has a good preseason, our favourite cyborg is probably a certain selection. However, I expect him to ink a deal elsewhere so I won’t include him in my predicted team list.

Ryan Matterson’s three week suspension will create an opportunity for a forward. For the purposes of this post I’ll bracket him in my Round 1 team list.

Bear in mind that this top 17 only relates to those currently under contract and without one minute of the preseason under anyone’s belt. My opinion will be subject to change based on observations of training throughout the summer.


Predicted Round 1 Eels Team

1 Gutherson

2 Dunster

3 Blake

4 Penisini

5 Sivo

6 Brown

7 Moses

8 Paulo

9 Hodgson 

Shaun Lane

10 Campbell-Gillard

11 Lane

12 Hopgood

13 Murchie (Matto from round 4)

14 Arthur

15 Ogden

16 Cartwright 

17 Makatoa

18 Matterson (suspended rounds 1-3)

Confirmed extended squad

19 Rodwell

20 Simonsson

Sean Russell

21 Russell

22 Momoisea

23 Loizou

24 Rein

25 Greig

26 N. Brown 

Development/Second Tier/Potential Top 30

31 Cini

32 Mataele

33 Rankin (also pathways coaching)

34 Taumoepenu

35 Yates

Awaiting Confirmation

36 El-Zakhem

37 Hands

38 Keir

39 Bain

40 Moretti

41 Betham-Misa

42 Komolafe

43 Williams


I believe that you can lock in both Zac Cini and Toni Mataele as part of the full time squad in 2023, though I’m not sure whether that will be Development or Top 30. Both progressed in leaps and bounds during the year. Mataele’s bounce back from preseason injury was highly impressive and it would not surprise if he pushed for a first grade debut in 2023.

Tevita Taumoepenu should be part of the full time squad in some capacity. He was given a shot at NSW Cup level in 2022 and took it with both hands. Jordan Rankin will revert to a second tier playing role, and continue his transition towards a career in coaching via a role with Eels pathways. Jayden Yates will be part of the group returning to training in early November.

Other regular NSW Cup starters have been listed in spots 35 to 42. I am yet to receive confirmation on their status for 2023, but I hope to be able to provide an update by the start of the preseason.

There will be other players graduating from Jersey Flegg into NSW Cup in 2023, such as Flegg Captain Corey Fenning and probably halfback Ethan Sanders. Expect pathways players not listed above to participate in the NRL preseason. Some of those were involved in the 2022 JETS program.

However, my goal for this post was to identify those who are likely to play NRL this year and those are going to be drawn from the full time squad, either in the top 30 or as Development Contracted players.

Will the 17 players likely to get the early running for first grade be able to at least emulate the performance of the 2022 Eels side?

There is roster space available, so do the Eels need a significant signing or two to maintain the momentum of this last 12 months?

Perhaps the last two questions will be dependent upon finalising the contracts for both Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown. Any upgraded contract might include 2022 to spread the money across more seasons, and if so, that would impact the 2023 salary cap.

Given that so many players have moved on, and with a number of currently vacant roster spots, the obvious question mark lies around depth. As things stand, the starting 13 will be very comparable to 2022, but opportunities exist for some of the younger players to force their way into the top 17.


Jack Murchie and J’maine Hopgood have both been purchased as NRL players. Neither are anywhere near their potential, but development of such individuals is right in BA’s wheelhouse. Jirah Momoisea could be the surprise packet, and I’ll track his preseason with great interest.

The major selection debate will be around the centre and wing positions and also the bench. Preseason form will go a long way towards determining who gets the first shot. Adding a centre and a back rower to the roster probably remains a priority.

The 2022 salary cap will increase, but the final figure is yet to be confirmed. Having the World Cup in full swing and other players on holidays probably doesn’t help to get contracts sorted, so we will likely get player movement happening a bit later than we normally expect.

Rugby league’s rumour mill isn’t short on suggestions. Jake Simpkin from the Tigers and Jaydn Su’a from the Dragons have both had potential moves to the Eels rumoured on social media. Believe what you will from any of that!

Regardless, my early take is that Parra’s window most definitely remains open. Whether the Panthers allow any other club to get a look in is a topic for another post.

Eels forever!


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118 thoughts on “Eels Round One 2023 Team List – An Early Call

  1. Offside

    I think if fit Baily gets 1st centre crack.
    Really unsure what will happen with Blake on paper he had a great season on the wing but in the GF and semi he proved to be a massive liability

    Will watch Hopgood with interest

      1. Anonymous

        There are definitely favourites within the roster..
        I’m just frightened it is going to hurt the club in the future

        1. sixties Post author

          I believe that you could argue that BA sticks solid with players beyond times that others might make changes, but that has more to do with having faith in his team rather than playing favourites.

    1. sixties Post author

      Cini arrived after our preseason was finished. Will benefit big time from a full preseason at Parra.

  2. Big Derek

    Murchie will play right centre and Hopgood lock in place of Matto. Would much prefer Jake to start in KOE, when he returned to play 7 in the playoffs agst Bulldogs, he showed that he needs time leading a team around.

    Pressure is on the recruitment and retention staff to strengthen the bench, which falls away too much when the props are rested. Personally, if we lose either Moses or Drown, then perhaps they have failed in their principal job. That may be considered a harsh statement, but big clubs don’t lose players like those 2, and given our financial position that should not happen. Our membership, sponsorship, attendances stadium, COE etc should underline our status as a big club.

    Possibly time we made a statement about our position in the NRL when compared to clubs like Roosters, South’s and Dogs.

    1. sixties Post author

      Derek, where I’m uncertain is after round 3 – what happens with those positions with a fit Matto. I think that Matto and Hopgood would normally get a starting spot ahead of Murchie. Hopgood is probably better suited to lock than back row but if he starts there at lock, will Matto shift to backrow or will he continue to come off the bench given his impact and effectiveness in that role. That would be the way Murchie gets a start.

      1. Big Derek

        Murchie has the physical tools to play edge, Hopgood is in the style of Radley, smaller and a pro typical lock. Can’t see how he should be played edge, never played there for Penrith.

        The lack of physicality off the bench is a concern, hoping that the silence on recruitment is a sign that more is happening under the surface than appears. It’s not a time to waste the opportunity the prior build up has made, you may not agree but the pressure falls on that side of the club now. BA shouldn’t be left to turn ordinary players into stars, that’s not how the clubs of our size should operate continually.

    1. sixties Post author

      All are young and I expect them to play Flegg. I suspect they will be included in the preseason prior to Christmas.

  3. Anonymous

    Tks sixties. Time on the park (in NRL) will greatly benefit Hopgood, he will be a revelation. Hoping like hell Hodgson’s body holds up, he’ll also be a revelation in blue and gold. Jayden Sua needs a change of club, his development has stalled at the Dragons, he needs more responsibility and higher work rate, has played SOO and is still young, similar to Marata.

    1. Ray

      Is this true about Jayden Sua?, I saw an article in the paper yesterday what’s the buzz mail about a St George player with a rival club even though he still under contract

      1. sixties Post author

        It’s a rumour. That said, it was fact that other Dragons players asked for a release – though releases were not granted.

    2. Spark

      Hopgood will become one of our best players next year. Terrific motor and will play lock. Future captain. Matto will drift between flexing and playing off the bench – terrible resigning but not much out there.

      1. pete

        Hopgood will be a great signing exactlythe type of playerwe shouldbe getting. He and Hodgson will be great signings for the club.

    3. sixties Post author

      I am very keen to see a fit Hodgson at Parra. He plays a very different game to Reed and is a leader.

      1. pete

        100% agree about Hodgson. He will bring so much and a strong leader that can marshall the forwards if they are getting dominated. Like it or not Reed was targeted through the middle in defence. If his tackle count was high we invariably lost ground up the middle…quick play the balls given away etc. That also took out of Reg and Juniors tanks..

  4. avenger

    According to BA himself, Jake Arthur will not be the number 14 and nor should he be. He should never occupy that position in 2023 unless there is an injury cloud over Moses/D. Brown. Assuming he stays putting Nathan Brown out of the top 17 is offensive.

    1. Spark

      When did BA say this ? IMHO BA has Jake pencilled in for the 14 for the next few years no matter who is injured. Rock solid, end of story.

    2. sixties Post author

      I think you’ve imagined this Avenger. I don’t think that Nathan Brown will be staying but I did state that if he’s still there and trains well then he’d be a certainty for the top 17.

      1. avenger

        “He will go back next year and play (NSW) Cup. He is there as back-up to Mitchell and Dylan. His role moving forward — he needs to be playing 80 minutes.

        “He will go back and play Cup and enjoy his footy. If he gets an opportunity he will come up and try to do his job. But he is not Dylan and he is not Mitchell — he has to be Jake.Jake Arthur was the target of heavy criticism at times this season but Brad insists his son will be better for the experience.

        “In a couple of years time he will be better for it,” he said.

        1. sixties Post author

          i stand corrected Avenger and thank you for providing the quote and the link. I hadn’t seen that article. From my perspective it will be interesting to see how this unfolds. If Jake plays regular 80 minutes of football in NSW Cup, the thing to watch will be what position he plays. If the plan is to transition him into a lock role, or a bench role that can cover that position in addition to dummy half and half, then he needs that time on the field.
          Now if that is the case, it means BA structuring his bench differently in 2023. Don’t get me wrong, there was an immediate need to cover Moses and Brown in the back end of the season.
          I still see him using Jake similarly to this year and making him part of the bench rotation and dropping him back for 80 minutes for strings of matches in NSW Cup or even having him play two grades in a weekend where the draw allows. Part of my thinking is that I’m also expecting to see Ethan Sanders get game time in NSW Cup in 2023.

  5. Colin Hussey

    Good start up for or towards next season especially in new & fresh faces in the overall list, very early days though and a fair bit of wriggle room available atm.

    Looking at the squad I am a bit fazed as to the rosters, especially without much if any real knowledge in regard to the players though, the details of them is quite shallow and makes it hard to pick new/potential players especially when pretty much is not able pick the players that are non NRL/lower grade players.

    Personally though there are players that likely have the abilities to make higher grade, at the expense of some who have signed and have their contracts ending for season 2033.

    There are players that I believe are in the NRL squad and not really IMHO of NRL standard, especially for long term positions. Thing is that those I reflect on really should be in lower grade or on the release list. That’s really something to look at into the future IF they get NRL contracts.

    1. sixties Post author

      Colin, I’m a bit confused by your reply in some parts. I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. There will always be players who are “depth” signings – those that can fill a hole. Clubs will try to minimise the number of such players by looking for true value signings or youngsters on the rise.

      1. Colin Hussey

        Sixties, the primary aspect in what I saying is in a sense my concerns as to where the eels are going into the future. While the loss against the Riff was an unpleasant watch, I did stick it out until the match finished, but I have not really taken much store out of that game, owing to the loss and the way the game was lost.

        With some key players leaving, and the team that is left, it does show a fair hole in the primary team going forward, and I do believe that there will be other signings to take their place.

        I purposely have not named any eels player at this stage, as its too soon and we don’t know how many of the unsigned players will be signed again. I believe there are some players who I would like to see added to the squad, and possibly at the expense of a few who are on/off contract end of 2033.

        I do not like adding names as to players who firstly I don’t really know the abilities of a number of them and out of them, should they be in a lower grade, then its hard to work out their real abilities, and worth in signing. At the same time, outside of that equation, I could but will not add players names who I do not believe are actually of NRL grade quality.

        So, in the end I am not knocking players, no matter who they are when its not in the best interest of them, no matter who they are.

        1. sixties Post author

          Colin, Forty is working on a post identifying some of the younger players to keep an eye on and why. It might help you to track the progress of those younger ones through the grades.

          1. Colin Hussey

            Sixties, my comments are not just referring to young players, and regarding their progression through the various grades, in fact I would love to be able to watch and follow those younger players and looking to see their abilities – its a big list when I looked at the jnr games in the past few weeks, which is encouraging.

            As you would know I have followed the eels since early 60’s and even before then with my parents, its been a time of frustration but also of joy attending our first premiership that is awesome really. Sadly my dad passed away before that win.

            What I am pretty much revering to in my put down posts is seeing so many so called supporters/fans basically knifing eels players, when they make errors and make poor calls which leads to game losses and the grandstand experts blasting them, something I do not do, which is the basis of what I have said by not naming players, which is a put down of them.

            Some of the commentaries by others highlight that aspect in our loss to the Riff, I wont comment about my thoughts on the riff and their put down celebrations, even though they deserved the win when all is said and done.

            I look forward to seeing the eels next season with new faces in the team and I think some changes in the coaching staff is a step forward. I would certainly love to see some of the old tradition of footy cards with pics on them and details regarding the players, it was and should still be good advertisement for the players and bring the youngster in as well.

            Just my thoughts.

          2. sixties Post author

            Ok, I’m clearer on that now Colin. One thing you have always been is loyal and realistic about the players. The Eels lost a grand final to a generational team, one that might go on to a three-peat, something that modern NRL teams have been unable to do. Yes, it wasn’t our best game of the finals series, but you’d like that to be the building block for the next season. If supporters can’t acknowledge the growth in this team under BA, then they never will.

          3. Colin Hussey

            I try to be honest in my posts and thoughts as to players, coaches and the way the club is run. Early days as far as things go for end of this season and forward into 2033.

            My hope is seeing certain players resign with the eels rather than leave and head elsewhere.

            Thanks for your post 60’s its appreciated.

  6. Anonymous

    I am hopeful Simonsson and Blake are competing for the spot, Simonsson showed he has the skills to be a great centre. Would prefer Bailey at 3. I am not sure there is a place in our side for Waqa unfortunately

    1. sixties Post author

      I think people have forgotten how well Waqa was playing alongside Sivo. That said, I agree that Simonsson was performing well at centre.

  7. Luke Winley

    Wondering if someone could do grades for the grand final or did i miss them .
    I was at the commbank live site where the frigging big screen was freezing so I painfully watched the game again.
    I thought Matterson and Simonson were our best. Unfortunately I thought gutho and Junior had below par games. I wish Junior would watch video footage of Fuifui Moimoi just before he runs out in every game instead of dumbying and skipping before he hits the line. I hate to say it but the moment got us ,when they scored the first try we looked deflated as opposed to looking to chip away to get back into it. I know Penrith were good but my god we made their fullback to’o and Liam Martin look amazing. We refused to close down the space on them. Interested in other people‘s thoughts.

    1. sixties Post author

      Hey Luke. Given the pain of a grand final loss I can understand why Gol didn’t publish a grades for the grand final.

      1. Luke Winley

        Sorry to harp.
        Would love his feedback to determine which blokes handled the big stage. What is holding back Parramatta players in grand finals. Even in the lower grades I can think of many flameouts on the biggest stage.
        I thought the nathan brown selection was a poor signal that we could only fluke the win. Reminded me of when we dropped gower for pritchard in a semi final after a very long lay off (and then sadly alvaro got concussion very early on. )

    2. Gol

      It is a long standing tradition of the grades to not put them out in the game we are eliminated from. Besides, I’ll put myself through a lot for the grades, but I don’t watch losing grand finals twice.

      1. Offside

        It would of been very few past a C

        I have grave concerns in big games about Junior he has got beaten up bad in big games
        Finals week 1
        Samoa v England

  8. Matt

    He Sixties, long time reader. First reply.

    I was very impressed with our performance this year as a whole. Could have been better in some places better overall I was impressed.

    However going into next season I must admit I am worried. Not so much about losing Mahoney (as many are). For me it’s more or so losing so much strength, as well as depth in the forwards. We’ve lost Isaiah Papali’i, Marata Niukore and Oregon Kaufusi, 3 pretty important forward for us this season. Out of them all I think I’ll miss Marata the most, his mental toughness coupled with his versatility and hard hitting defence I think we will miss for sure.

    Whilst we’ve made moves to replace these players, I think we still need to make a signing or two (in the forwards) to help make up what we have lost. I like Murchie and Hopgood but I I think they’ll need a hand not being the most experienced of NRL players… who knows the could shock me re that case.

    Jayden Su’A I wouldn’t hate it… but I’m not sure how much that sets us back with Brown and Moses, let’s face it must re signings for the club. We need to keep them to stay competitive.

    I also heard we were linked to Marty Taupau some time back, on a 1 year deal I don’t think that’s a bad option given some of the forward depth we’ve lost. But yeah, I’m watching the next few months with intrigue… we need to keep Brown and Moses first. Then we can worry about the other signings we can make.

    I would love to see us enquire about Bronson Xerri when he is available
    to return to NRL, he’s still young and I think could be a star with good coaching.

    Also Joseph Suuali I think we would be nuts not to try to exploit his friendship with Penisini is some way. I future we could offer Suuali a spot at 1 before the Roosters could. Gutho could easily transition to centre in future, the only matter would be if he’d want to. Just some food for thought… I think we still have to be proactive in the player market… we can’t just aim to simply replace what we’ve lost. We have to improve each year also.

    Cheers, Matt.

    1. sixties Post author

      Thanks for the in depth first time reply Matt.
      Absolutely agree about the priority signings of Brown and Moses – throw Penisini in with them. Marty T would be a solid signing for a year or two. Xerri- what a talent but I don’t think the club would see him as a good fit culture wise.
      Marata hit his best form late in the season but I was disappointed in his game in the grand final. Consistency was his issue across 2022. Oregon’s strength was his consistency this year.
      As for Ice, he wasn’t on anyone’s radar prior to arriving at Parra. Have we found a similar hidden gem in our recruits? I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the preseason.

      1. Matt

        The Brown and Moses situation is getting to me. I think we keep both but the media are driving me nuts. They want us to get hammered so badly. Someone has an agenda.

  9. Milo

    Good discussion here; I am ok with the new players coming in; I just wish we would identify an experienced back up half – as MM and DB will need it. Nothing against JA but i feel he needs more time in reggies; and we also need a balanced DH back up.
    I only hope we can see some new faces in the extended squad from within if they are up to it as i feel we will feel the cap pain in a year or so if MM and DB are paid close to a Mill each.
    We also need to identify a back up props coming through and again i hope we have some young ones on the up.
    2023 will go one of two ways and i hope we can snag a top 4 spot.

    1. Gol

      Guys that used to be backup halves are now getting NRL gigs or going to Super League, there just aren’t many in the market. Gone are the days of players like Robson or Kelly playing backup, if you’ve got 50+ games of NRL halves experience you’re either still in first grade or moving to England. Looking at the NSW Cup squads across the board every club is in the same situation. Even with his skills right now I reckon Jake would be in the top 10 half/five-eighth backups in reserve grade.

      Where it would be nice is if one of our top squad could also back up at half, but those are usually happy accidents (not everyone can have a Joey Manu).

      Rein didn’t make a good impression in his first grade runs this year, but he’s a perfect NSW Cup hooker. He’s capable of playing 80 and doing a job, he’s better than 3 or 4 starters at the position right now. His downside is he offers little from the bench, but backing up an injury prone starter he’s perfect.

      1. Milo

        Yes fair points Gol, I guess that’s the point. JA didn’t get as much time in Reggie’s to lead them around – and yes he did ok but I feel we need more options and yes we need someone who could back up as a half.

        BA and staff will obviously need to look at depth coming through as while RCG and Junior did well they’re not getting younger and I hope we can bring in some youth here. Like Smith did when he brought on Cayless and Hindmarsh etc with Pay / Dymock.
        I also say we need some mongrel in the pack as at times we got out monstered if this makes sense. We need a pack leader, like a Wolfpack!! Maybe they can watch the Hangover a few times…? 👍

          1. sixties Post author

            He’s probably the most experienced player in that grade so he should make a difference. But that is a statement without validation.

        1. Gol

          Yeah we haven’t had much luck with bringing props through the last few years with Hollis and Hughes not making it. Reg and Junior have plenty of good footy left in them though, even guys who are 16-18 now will get plenty of time to learn from them.

  10. Anonymous

    I think Greig will be a certain bench player.
    Watching him cut players in half last year in nsw cup I think he might be our X factor like Ray stone was with his defence and he has something to offer with his ball running.

  11. Bund

    Losing Dunster before the season was a worst case scenario. Really looking forward to seeing him back on the field. His post-contact work is underrated, and invariably a safer option in defence.

    Despite my criticism of his work on the wing last year, I was strangely impressed by Simmonson’s last two matches playing at centre, so i wouldn’t call Waqa centre spot a certainty.

    Have not really seen Hopgood play but ive heard his preferred position is lock so it will be interesting to see how he performs in those first 3 games (I assume at lock) to see how it shapes the team structure for the rest of the season.

  12. Anonymous

    Lol,,,they still keep putting Blake down as a centre, are you lot really that bad a judge “seriously” Blake is best on the wing when he plays centre hes automatically up and in regardless of the situation inside of him

  13. John Eel

    Based on the fact that I have not listened to the podcast yet but will when I get home tonight.

    Among the recruits so far. I am probably most excited about what Jmayne Hopgood brings. I have seen a bit of him not a lot.

    I was impressed by him at Combank against the Eels without knowing who he was.

    Also looking forward to seeing what a fit and healthy Hodgson can bring. He is a bit of a risk. However if he works out could be a great low cost buy.

    I know little of Murchie but assumed he would be a like for like replacement for Niukore.

    From a retention perspective I think that the focus should be on Moses, D Brown and Penisini.

    That is more important in my opinion than trying to entice a big money recruit. There was talk about Liam Martin following Barrett to the Eels. He would not come cheap. If he is cheap, Panthers will keep him.

    If you look around to see who could replace either Moses or Brown. Really the cupboard is bare. That is why it is so important to keep them.

    I feel that this year will be a make or break year for Wiremu Greig. It is his time to step up and shine. I think he will.

  14. pete

    The main thing we need to fix is our fitness. Panthers are much fitter and we have to get to that level. Sign their head of fitness.
    Gotta agree with the 13.
    Bailey was great at centre. Waqa will be playing for a contract so that will be interesting. Also, Russell will also push for selection after he was cruelly injured 2022.
    Junior – is he better coming off the bench? I think if he gets dominated in first contacts he tends to go sideways or offloads early. We’d need a Klemmer type to start. I don’t think we have that yet.
    Hopgood and Hodgson will be great Signings. Murchie with our off season will be a beast. Some don’t appreciate that these Signings compared with recent years are probably our best Signings in years.

    1. John Eel

      Your comments on Junior are interesting. There is a bit of a problem there.

      Season 2021 he came back as fit as I can remember him. You will recall that he stepped into the ring during the offseason.

      Between starting him off the bench and getting him fitter may unlock his best.

      1. pete

        I think having a solid defensive hooker will also help. As a lot of energy was lost covering for conceded fast play the balls and ineffective tackles from Reed.

        1. sixties Post author

          Reed has been the mainstay for the last four seasons. It will be interesting to see what difference a change in dummy half will make.

          1. pete

            I’m positive. Because when Ray Stone filled in at hooker in defence we were so much stronger. Unfortunately the service issues are well known. Hodgson will address both of those issues and then some. Hodgson is a great signing.

          2. N.Senada

            Several years ago Hodgson was seriously unbelievable. One of the best hookers around. Very intelligent and tough as nails. Dangerous in attack, hard in defence. Hoping he can recapture this for the Eels

          3. sixties Post author

            NS – I’m hoping he brings that footy intelligence. He has it in spades.

      2. Milo

        John I think Junior did v well but we needed him in the GF and he seemed to be a little flat at times – a lot has been said abt our preparations for this and time will tell.
        Is it true the team didn’t stay together during the lead up?
        Playing prop is simple in some ways; run hard; dominate the attackers in defence etc. Leota and Leinu did well for them.
        I feel we need to really bring on another couple of props for the future.

        1. sixties Post author

          Milo, we prepared as routinely as we could. I was all for this as we have a history of not responding well to change. I put the grand final down to Penrith being far too good.

          1. Milo

            Mate i just hope the coaching squad looks at how we played; yes Penrith were extremely good, and we also didn’t play to our best. We need to better in a few areas here.

          2. sixties Post author

            Milo, Bernie had me thinking about this in comparing the run of both teams into the grand final. We had a very tough run with a couple of grand final like games – see the Storm in Round 25 and the Cowboys. The Panthers, not so much.

    2. Spark

      Maybe it is fitness but the one thing that separated the riff from the rest and especially us was the fact they always, always raced up in defence. This was usually done in threes. It was full sprint and it suffocated any offensive plays.
      Yes , they were in the main part off side but the officials certainly gave them a heap of latitude.
      The Eels tended to have one player run half hearted and adopted a wait and see defensive line.
      If we can adopt the riffs aggressive fast line speed as the No 1 priority for next year then we will go ok.
      If we don’t, we will just make up the numbers.
      To achieve this ploy we need fast agile back rowers in the mould of Liam Martin, Cameron Murray and Victor Radley. These are the players that lead this defensive screen.
      Hopgood will do this for us but he needs help.
      Do we have back rowers of Hopgoods build that we can bring in ?

      1. sixties Post author

        Spark, I noted this before – the Riff have revolutionised something in their fitness regime that no other club has emulated. That unrelenting line speed is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

        1. Spark

          It is and good on them for being the pioneers. I believe they were off side 90% of the time but if the NRL are too weak or inept to crack down on it then…

          1. BDon

            In their own red zone 100%…the Storm have been doing that for years, the Panthers have decided that anywhere on the field is even better. Just the way we saw slick wide shifts progress from red zone attack to anywhere on the park. The Storm dabbled in this first then Manly via Turbo and Souths via Walker/Mitchell.

          2. pete

            I gotta agree with the offside. The nrl has basically given a green light to offside when they ditched the 2 referees. 1 ref simply has too much to view in the ruck. Panthers and storm every tackle intertwine their arms around the ball when defending. While the ref is watching the ruck the defensive line gets a head start on every play. We practice a clean ruck with quick roll off’s and don’t grasp the ball….Go back to 2 ref’s, would Panthers be so dominant?

          3. Milo

            Agreed – offside they were and we should have employed the same tactics to pressure Klein. Melb have done this for yrs along with the tackle techniques and holding up ball runner.

          4. Offside

            I was at a couple of Panthers games as well as the GF what I’ve noticed is they are often offside in the middle and the edges go up with speed the ref’s miss these but they aren’t afraid of the 6 again because they back their defense and fitness

        2. HamSammich

          It isn’t just their fitness regime it’s their style of play and mentality. Their back 3 will make 70+ carries themselves, the centres would probably make it 90 maybe even close to 100 carries. This allows the forwards to focus fully on getting up and smashing in defence. Their backs are great at gaining metres, so their forwards don’t have to.

          Our side is built the opposite.

          1. John Eel

            This was talked about prior to the GF. We had no answer.

            As others have said already Dylan Edwards was outstanding.

    3. Gol

      Every team in the NRL will be studying up on the Panthers fitness and technique in dragging tackled players backwards, we’ll see a lot more of it. The best teams will be the ones that also figure out how to stop it. There’ll be a lot of “toughest preseason evers” this summer.

  15. Gianni

    Hate to sound negative but unless we add 2 strong forwards to interchange with Reg and Junior and a couple of descent three quarters we are going to be a couple of injuries off finishing bottom 6.We have lost 5 of our top 17 people hoping for some further additions of substance.

    1. sixties Post author

      We need some depth and a couple of solid first grade signings Gianni – in losing 5 of our top 17, I believe we have signed at least 3 straight out replacements. The other two spots provide opportunity for both recruitment or young players getting their chance.

  16. !0 Year Member

    TCT fantasy league ‘pick your starting side’. Lol. I am looking forward to Dunster next year. His cruel exit this year hurt. He seems to have super star written all over him

    1. sixties Post author

      Haze had truly earned his starting spot last year. He hasn’t been an overnight NRL player – it’s taken hard work to get a shot at being a starter. Hopefully he’ll come back as strong.

  17. pete

    Hi Sixties, great blog and discussions.
    Has there been any discussion about a defence coach? We recruited Barrett for attack I assume. We really need to fix our defence and attitude towards defence. Will BA take over defence with Barrett just doing attacking?

  18. Offside

    My prediction for next year is Russell to cement his spot either on the wing or centre

    By years end Blake will be gone with Dunster/Russell as the preferred options

    1. pete

      I can’t help but think you are right. Given Waqa’s finals series. I think he’s a liability under the high ball and in defence on the right wing. I like Waqa and he does have some great plays in him. But sadly that right wing position has been a tough gig. Ferguson for example rocks and diamonds. It’s always tougher defending on that right edge. We just need someone that will take it by the scruff of the neck and make it their own.
      Our entire back 5 needs to be more effective coming out of trouble. We just are not doing enough there. Maybe Barrett can help the back 5 there?

      1. John Eel

        Pete you are correct in saying that Ferguson was rocks and diamonds.

        Let me say however he and Waqa were pretty close in the rocks area of their game but Fergo was way ahead in the diamond stakes.

        My theory about Waqa is that he suffers from not having a League background.

  19. SneakyEel

    I think the round 1 team will be something like:

    1. Gutherson
    2. Sivo
    3. Simonsson
    4. Penisni
    5. Blake
    6. D.Brown
    7. Moses
    8. RCG
    9. Hodgson
    10. Paulo
    11. Lane
    12. Murchie
    13. Hopgood
    14. Rein
    15. N.Brown
    16. Greig
    17. Ogden

    This is if there are no new recruits for 2023 but that’s highly unlikely.

    1. sixties Post author

      I reckon Brown will be moving on. Woody will need an outstanding preseason to force his way into the team for round 1.

    2. Marty

      I like this team Sneaky, really interested in Wiremu and Ogden I hope they rip n tear preseason for a genuine shot, Rodwell also needs some game time

      1. SneakyEel

        Cheers Marty, it looks like Browny is leaving. I’d have Rodwell take his spot on the bench. Also regards to recruiting I’d be looking at Niu for a replacement for Opacic. I think Taupau will be at Parra in 23 and I think we should chase Fa’amanu Brown for a bench utility.

      2. sixties Post author

        Marty, Ogden came through the last preseason quite well and early on was making an impression in NSW Cup. Unfortunately an injury hampered his momentum and I don’t think he got back on track as expected. Here’s to a strong preseason.

  20. Anonymous

    No chance JA is no 14 start of season. He needs 80mins a week in NSW CUP.
    No chance Dunster is a starting wing over Simmonson,Russel or Cini. He had a serious injury and will spend half the year in NSW CUP proving himself. He had hardly cemented a spot.
    Hopgood is a lock not 2nd rower. Murchie starts there.

    N.Brown will be gone.
    We will sign atleast two more players who will be part of our top 20 squad.

    Probably the one who I’d pick to be a chance of a bench spot is the big kid from Newcastle. He has size and physical body that’s in peak. A huge off-season may turn him into a genuine bench player. You see it often when kids are about 22. Had a few injuries, change clubs and burst onto scenes.

    I don’t think Greig is suited to the speed of the NRL. Big kid but not sure he has it.

    1. sixties Post author

      The beauty of the team list post is that everybody has an opinion. I agree about Hopgood’s standing as a lock, but long term I’m not sure where they would then play Matto. Both he and Hopgood are capable of long minutes and are best suited to middle lock.
      I liked what I saw from Momoisea on NSW Cup but I’ve reserved judgement on him until I see preseason. I also think preseason will determine a few spots including wing. Dunster did have that major injury but if he comes to hand quickly during preseason and trials I reckon he has strong claims.
      As I sai in the post, plenty can change in my assessments and call based on the preseason.

      1. Anonymous

        My thoughts are Matterson plays 50mins at lock and 20mins at edge.
        Hopgood gets the other 30mins at lock and maybe 15mins at prop. No reason both can’t be on the field and in the middle together for a period. Especially if we want to keep the defense tight.
        Lane and I assume Murchie will be in the 2nd row. Both should be limited to 65mins.
        Doorey may have something to say along with Matalele. Who knows if they can push for a top 17 spot. Bryce is also not the worse option.

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