I don’t understand the negative talk surrounding the Rugby League World Cup. Apart from some broadcast issues and the less than ideal times, I’ve enjoyed the footy on display.
Yes, there are the minnows of the tournament, but for each of those countries, The World Cup is assisting the promotion and growth of their domestic competitions. The development of Japan as a Rugby Union nation owes much of its success to their participation in World Cups where monster floggings were the norm.
The team that I have enjoyed watching is the Kumuls. They are well coached, play to their strengths, and are fearless in their approach. Apart from Alex Johnston, there are no NRL superstars in their spine, but having specialists in key positions places them in good stead to compete with structure and purpose.
Staging the World Cup at this time of year has extended the footy into the traditional off-season and now many clubs are about to commence their preseasons. If you love the footy, there’s minimal time away from it in 2022.
Off season? Not this year. And certainly not any year on The Cumberland Throw.
World Cup Gems
The Pool matches in the Rugby League World Cup haven’t produced any great surprises, but that’s not to say that they haven’t unearthed some hidden gems.
For mine, that list is topped by PNG’s Edwin Ipape. The Kumul’s dummy half plays for Leigh in The Championship, which is basically the English Second Division competition. A successful 2022 for Ipape and Leigh has resulted in their elevation to the 2023 Super League.
At 22 years of age, Ipape looks to have a bright future, and is surely on the radar of NRL clubs. He’s played for the PNG Hunters in the Q Cup and even had a train and trial contract with Manly back in 2020.
Ipape’s game has reached another level since heading to the UK as his ability to read the play has seen him pose a constant threat around the ruck in PNG’s pool matches.
The other player to catch the eye is also a newcomer to the game, though he’s not quite so young. Kyle Evans made his international debut on the right wing for Wales against Tonga and stood tall against his much vaunted opponents.
Evans has a background as a professional rugby union player, only switching codes to take up a contract for Wakefield Trinity this year.
Given he’s 32 years old, it’s difficult to see any NRL club taking the slightest interest in him. However, the way he scored his try, and the smarts of some of his defensive reads suggests that he might get a good 3-4 seasons in the Super League.
Where Are They Now?
Another highlight of the World Cup has been seeing more of some recent Eels pathways players.
In case you missed it, Kyle Schneider, Charbel Tasipale and Anthony Layoun have all featured in the pool matches.
Kyle Schneider took up a contract with the Mackay Cutters after parting ways with Parra and has been starring as a dummy half in the Q Cup. The former Australian Schoolboys star represented Scotland in the pool matches, acquitting himself well in the action.
Charbel Tasipale was a surprise departure from Parra at the end of last year, and is currently in the Sharks system after earning a deal with Newtown. Tasipale has enjoyed success on the left edge for Lebanon but will face his toughest test next up against Australia.
Anthony Layoun played in Parra’s 2017 NYC grand final team, and currently runs around for St Mary’s in the Ron Massey Cup. Though playing at fullback in Eels pathways, Layoun has been playing off the bench for Lebanon, filling in at dummy half.
Though they haven’t as yet achieved their NRL dreams, each of these young players is now an international footballer and as such they keep their names in the spotlight for future contracts.
Wests Tigers PR Campaign
The public relations campaign for the Wests Tigers continued its mighty march over the past week, this time linking the club to England international John Bateman.
After a much publicised approach to Cameron Munster, and more recently putting the feelers out to Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown, the Tigers are probably the most mentioned club when it comes to roster recruitment.
In contrast to Parra’s policy of getting contracts done behind closed doors, it would seem that Wests are quite happy to play out their approaches in the media.
Though failed negotiations run the risk of making any club the subject of ridicule, the Tigers power brokers obviously want to be seen to be actively targeting quality recruits. With a new coaching regime on board, they are looking to send a message to members and the NRL community about being a destination club.
Forty and I have already expressed our opinion about the Wests Tigers goal of luring back Mitch Moses, with Dylan Brown potentially the back up plan. On the surface it seems unlikely, but the last 18 months has taught me to never take anything for granted.
Though the two Eels playmakers have clearly indicated a preference to stay, I have faith the Eels power brokers won’t look to lowball them during any negotiations.
Parra’s spine is integral to the success of the team, and the loss of Reed Mahoney has been covered by the recruitment of Josh Hodgson. Replacing either Moses or Brown in the near future should be an avoidable scenario.
Many of you have already viewed the first of Forty’s “Rookie Watch” posts.
These posts are not meant to be an exhaustive preview of Eels pathways, nor should the posts be taken as gospel when it comes to which players will or won’t make their mark. It’s meant as an introduction to some of the players that we’ll be calling on TCT this year.
Players mature at different rates. Some will shine early, others come to hand later in pathways. It’s part of the craft of talent identification and coaching to get maximum return from the retention and development of pathways products.
Don’t expect the players identified in Part One to progress past Jersey Flegg in 2023. These are the younger players in the group, and though some will be in the 18/19 age group, it’s unlikely that the club would rush them into NSW Cup.
However, Part 2 will feature players on the cusp of both of the senior grades. The next NRL debutant might just get a mention in that post.
Finally, the Tarsha Gale players mentioned are worth keeping an eye on. Just this year, Ruby-Jean Kennard made the leap from Tarsha Gale to NRLW in the same season. She was joined at Eels training by other TG players that the club is looking to develop.
With four new clubs entering the NRLW premiership in 2023, there will probably be opportunities for younger players next season.
Women’s World Cup
It’s disappointing that only two Eels players earned representative selection, but haven’t they both made their mark.
Kennedy Cherrington made her Australian debut off the bench and produced her trademark, high-energy game that is now so familiar to Eels fans.
It’s not been an easy journey for KC. She was born with a heart condition and learnt her footy in Western Australia.
As a “heart kid” herself, Kennedy has been relentless in assisting the associated charities and support networks. Her sense of community was exemplified when she donated the Veronica White Medal prize money to Western Australia NRL girls pathways.
There have been many sacrifices made by Kennedy and her family in her journey, and KC’s emotions were there for all to see during the National Anthem.
And what about Simaima Taufa.
The exceptional Eels captain led the way through the middle in Australia’s opening Pool Match against The Cook Islands. Though there was a clear class difference between the teams, Simaima was one of the standouts amongst a group of superstars.
If the Eels can sign both players long term, then we won’t just be retaining quality players, we’ll be holding on to quality people.
The first of the Eels players to resume preseason training will be assembling at Kellyville HQ next week.
Most of those will be young pathways blokes completing their introduction to NRL training. Quite a number of these players would have been involved in the JETS program during 2022, and a taste of the NRL preseason will be the ideal follow up to the advanced training they experienced as JETS participants.
After next week, a staggered return of the more experienced players will commence, based on when they finished their season and how many years of NRL they have behind them. Those competing in the World Cup won’t be seen until January.
As per usual, I will be producing training reports, though the format and frequency will be dependent on what work is undertaken.