It’s week two of the preseason and more players are making their return this week.
The core group of “senior” players now sits at around 12. Because the Jersey Flegg preseason commenced this week, the younger pathways players will only train once or twice per week with the NRL coaches.
The returning players this week included Matt Doorey, Toni Mataele, Zac Cini and Luca Moretti. And I can report that Zac’s famous mullet is no more.
At this stage, I’m seeing the first signs of what Trent Barrett will bring. I’ve been able to watch and listen to him coach small groups and individuals and it’s easy to understand why he was held in such high regard at Penrith.
Barrett is a very good communicator and there are aspects/skills of attack such as lines run and ways of engaging defenders that are a bit different that he’s already imparting. I’m expecting him and Murf to combine well as the attack coaches.
After warm ups, Monday kicked off with sprints over various distances, with players running at a certain percentage of top speed depending on the distance.
The amazing thing about sports science and GPS readings is that data relating to this can be tracked across the group and across individuals and feedback given immediately to Trent Elkin.
Monday’s footy skills included defence around the ruck, with the squad splitting into small groups and the coaches attaching themselves to a group. BA then moved around to monitor and speak with each group.
After that the focus shifted to attack with the squad working on their running lines and providing options with different angles.
Wednesday’s session involved the smallest group of the preseason this far. The pathways boys were absent so it was down to just 12 players, most of whom are forwards. Essentially, the smaller group is made up of train and triallists, new recruits and development contracted players.
The early part of the session was dedicated to conditioning and the squad was able to keep together as a group. By that I mean that there was a reasonably consistent standard across all players.
As the session progressed, defence drills again featured, this time working on short side decision making and effort. Often times, when attack is thrown at the short side it’s an unexpected play or when the defence hasn’t got its numbers right. Therefore, effort and communication rather than organisation is what allows the team to repel the shot. The talk was emphasised in this drill.
After a short period of ball work it was time for 4 vs 4 grid footy, rapidly transitioning between attack and defence with effort plays remaining an important component.
The session finished with further familiarisation with basic shapes that the Eels will use this season. This is something that changes each year with each shape having a name and variations that go with it, so players need to become familiar with it and their role.
Friday was again the same players as Wednesday and began with the typical conditioning demands. The M runs ask questions of the players and you can see the mental struggle that goes alongside the physical questions.
Jayden Yates is the machine in this group, with Brendan Hands also up there. But a special mention must go to Dan Keir who actually gets better with every set to the point where he ends up right on Jayden’s heels in the final runs.
I also thought that Jock Brazel acquitted himself very well in this conditioning work. Jock will be involved in the preseason both before and after Christmas.
The second half of the session involved a mix of attack and defence. There was the conditioning and movement defence line drills which led into goal line defence practice.
This was followed up by 4 on 3 grid footy. This grid work often provides the opportunity for coaches to look at effort areas and in my opinion allows more players to be in the spotlight than traditional full field games. Outside of effort plays, it shows skills and decision making in rapid succession in both attack and defence and gives the coaches another perspective on what they’re working with.
The attacking footy continued with ruck plays and support runs. This group features two dummy halves and apart from Cini and Komolafe it’s all forwards so such drills are probably ideal.
It was then back to tackle technique as the session began to wind up before extras.
I’m expecting more players to return during the next two weeks before the first of the NRL regulars are seen in early December.
This week we were introduced to both Trent Barrett and Steve Antonelli, allowng us to welcome both of the Eels new assistant coaches to the club. Later on Friday I was able to say g’day to Nathan Cayless and welcome him back to the fold.
A scheduled pathways meeting in the Kellyville offices on Friday also provided me with the opportunity to introduce TCT to Nathan Brown and Jamie Shepherd. It won’t be long till our coverage of junior reps commences so the timing was ideal.
Bring on week 3.