The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 21 To 25, 2022: Hodgson Impresses

Though many established NRL players remain on annual leave, preseason training got a little more intense this week with the return of more of the full time squad.

Much anticipation has surrounded the arrival of English international Josh Hodgson. At first I was uncertain whether it was him running up and down the field under the white cap, but once he started calling out to others there were no further doubts. I didn’t understand what he said but that northern English accent was unmistakeable.

Daejarn Asi, Wiremu Greig, Haze Dunster, Shaun Russell, Samuel Loizou, and Jake Arthur were others to return to the training track this week. I grabbed a few words with Haze who’s looking very fit. He’s looking forward to being ready for all of the Eels trial matches.


As usual, the pathways players participated in the Monday session making the squad number close to 30 for the start of the week. It was also our first look at Daejarn Asi.

Daejarn Asi (image via Bocko Eels media)

Conditioning made up the first half of the session.  With players roughly grouped according to position, they completed repeated timed runs over specific distances.

Footy featured in the second half of the session, starting off with the kick chase. A good transition from attack into defence creates pressure on the kick return and subsequent plays. Energy, cohesion and composure are paramount. The Eels have become one of the best disciplined teams over the last couple of years and rarely give away stupid penalties in these scenarios.

Next up was more grid footy followed by ruck drills. The attack concluded with consolidation of basic shapes and some of the variations of those shapes.

It’s interesting watching this being practiced as it’s still early days and there are a lot of young players involved. There was the odd error where a player would get their line wrong but overall I thought the group was reasonably sharp.



This session followed the usual format of conditioning work leading into footy. Though the majority of the younger pathways players (with the exception of Sanders, Brazel and Guymer) aren’t training with the NRL squad on Wednesday and Friday, this week’s returning players have bolstered the number of full time players to around 20.

After the grind of the fitness work, the players completed drills to assist in the transitioning between attack and defence. More time was then dedicated to the shapes and their variations before launching into 6 on 4 grid work.



The final field session of the week began with some footy skills before the conditioning work began. After warm ups the squad went straight into defensive positioning, decision making and movement.

Individually, the emphasis was on footwork and eyes up to remain engaged with the ball carrier. As a defence line there was a focus on keeping their shape as the line moved and slid.

But Friday wouldn’t be Friday without those gruelling M runs.

In the absence of Gutho, the likes of Jayden Yates and Jake Arthur pushed for the mantle of fittest on field. But others also made an impression. With every set, Dan Keir got closer to taking those two on. Josh Hodgson and Shaun Russell also placed in that first five or six on every run.

The new contender is Jock Brazel. Like Dan Keir, he seemed to get stronger as the squad pushed further into the M run sets. In fact, when Jake, Dan, Josh and Jayden were rested from one run, Jock streeted the group by about 60 metres.

This was a big session and could have received a dedicated post on its own.

Even with all of the M runs, the conditioning continued with the games played. The two hand touch and kick chase games gave the players little time for a breather. But as their minds and lungs were probably distracted by the game aspect, individuals seemed to find a second and third wind for effort plays.

The grid work appeared to have a focus on defence and communication as BA varied the number of players involved in either attack or defence in each drill. You could hear the players call out to their mates as the defence moved to cover number disadvantages.

Later in the session the emphasis was placed on tackling technique as leg movement, body positioning and contact was drilled in small groups.

Outside of that there was plenty of ball work and continued familiarisation with shapes.



The title of this report referred to Hodgson and it’s important that I remind readers of the context of his superior experience compared to the rest of the current group. He should stand out.

That said, I couldn’t have been more impressed with my first look at Parramatta’s major signing for 2023.

Overall it comes down to the leadership that he will bring to the team.

Let me elaborate by way of some examples from this week.

When the squad worked through their sets, he constantly positioned and directed the players around him. Whether doing so as the play unfolded, or talking to players in breaks about where he wanted them positioned, his was constantly communicating.

During conditioning work, his voice could be heard encouraging others. That English accent makes his voice easy to identify.

I want to highlight a specific moment from Friday. In the latter stages of the M run sets, a player began to struggle. As soon as Hodgson finished his run and saw this, he ran back to run alongside and encourage that player in the final leg.

As far as his own play is concerned, even in a training scenario Hodgson seems to create time and space around him. And yet he has that drive to learn and improve.

When the coaches were taking the players through individual tackling techniques, he was asking questions to get feedback and clarify how he was executing the drill. It came as no surprise that when training wrapped up, BA and Hodgson were in deep conversation.

Josh Hodgson has a long preseason ahead, and an even longer season proper, but he could hardly have started any better. I’m looking forward to watching the combinations evolve as more of the NRL players return to work.


Eels forever!


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Great post as usual Sixties. As you did with Josh Hodgson could you give us a brief rundown on the players, emerging and new, that you think likely to make the top 17 throughout the season. Additional things like size (forwards), mobility and skill set would also be helpful.


All very positive
While at this point my expectations for season 23 are low I think any and all optimism this season will come from the form of Hodgson as we know if he goes down the cupboard seems pretty empty


It’s critical that your hooker can be dynamic and lightening fast out of the box. I hope hodgson can be the answer.


Despite my low expectations that little eel in my brain says we might have a shot at something


While I agree we’ll go as far as Hodgson will take us this year, we’ve got one of the top backup hookers going around in Rein, if anything hooker is one spot we’re well covered for.


You taking the piss Gol, what opportunities did Rein get last year when there was a constant spot for a Hooker on the bench, especially one that could have doubled as a half in an emergency!

Am I missing something here?


Mainly intelligence and any footy nous i would say !!!

Colin Hussey

Great info on the players, both those from lower grades but also those from the NRL squad. In what I can read the players as a whole are putting in well and readying for the new season. Good to see and hear how Haze is progressing well following a years break from the NRL, I sincerely hope he is recovered fully before 2023 season starts. I had watched Hodgson at Canberra in several games prior to his injury ending year 2022, he was/is certainly an excellent addition to the team and will compliment our halves in more ways than one.… Read more »

Brett Allen

It will be interesting how MM & DB adapt to a different style of DH. They are definitely going to have to play tighter to the ruck, Matto’s ball skills may be one even more vital when he’s back.


Once again a very comprehensive and knowledgeable run down on the squad so far. Your work is helping me move on from the GF and look forward to another stellar year from the EELS.Thank You


Great read Sixties.
Great to see those young guys building to possibly knock Gutho off as fittest.
Glad to see Hodgson’s rehab has been on point.
Hodgson, I’ve said before but he is our Steve Edge MK2; leadership and ability to Marshall the forwards. He’ll encourage the young guys. And, hold the forwards to account on those games when “we didn’t turn up”. No disrespect to Reed. But, his defence and attack is a definite upgrade. What he offers off the field, he’s definately going to be our best signing.
Go Eels!!

Achilles' Eel

So, Sixties, who won the race in the main picture? I notice Matthew Komolafe broke early. Also, is that Sam Tuivaiti in the second row of the same picture surveying the landscape (extreme left – though I’m not making a political statement, mind you!)? Already, he looks a big unit.


Fantastic to read that Hodgson is already hands on at training. He may not be the player he once was but it’s clear that he’s a smart player and given his near 300 game career he has a lot of knowledge to impart on the team. Let’s hope the young dummy halves are taking full advantage of having Hodgson on the training field.


I’m pretty impressed that he is as fit as he seems to be, coming of his 3rd ACL he is quiet entitled to be taking it easy. That sort of a commitment will be great for everyone, top to bottom. You are right about leadership, I think he may be key in giving direction to our forwards, he won’t be wearing the C but my guess is he will be calling the shots, especially in the redzone. Training will become interesting to see with Moses, Brown and Hodgson looking to becoming a cohesive unit. Throw Guth into that as well… Read more »


Fantastic to read that Hodgson is already hands on at training. He may not be the player he once was but it’s clear that he’s a smart player and given his near 300 game career he has a lot of knowledge to impart on the team. Let’s hope the young dummy halves are taking full advantage of having Hodgson on the training field.

Steve Moore

Great post, mate. As always.


Thanks for the report Sixties and co. Have you noticed some subtle changes with our new defensive coach Antonelli? I know you cant go into too much here but i assume he has brought with him some varied drills / and or some areas of focus? It will be good to see how some of these younger guys train once the original crop come back to pre-season. I am really keen to see how Hopgood / Murchie / Hodgson and how big Jirah from Newcastle goes as we need these guys to push for starting spots. Is Rein back training?… Read more »


Thanks for the report 60s just wondering what’s the update on Bailey Simonson and has he got a serious injury will he ready for the beginning of the season?

Gianni Giusti

Great work Craig I’m like a cat waiting for a mouse for these reports to come out each week.

John Eel

🤙picture of concentration 😾

Parra Pete

Like the cat that ate a block of cheese and waited for the mouse with baited breath??


Great read.
Hows Haze looking size wise and Russel? I feel in the modern game both needed another 5kgs+ muscle to be a little more physically imposing.
Appreciate your dedication.


That’s good. What I like most about Haze was his awareness and focus. Always watching like a hawke. Also safe under the high ball and no silly errors. My concern was more physical. Not that he was small to begin with but a bit more muscle will help.
Very interested to see what happens with Russel. He is kind of at that age now where you want to be getting into Nrl more consistently.

Brett Allen

What do you think about Haze at left centre ?


I recall an interview where Haze mentioned that was his goal. To play centre.


Just another comment- which goes back to how we didn’t chase the kicks well this season. Some kick chase was non-existent in some games. No kick pressure. I assume because of fatigue. Good to see we are training this part of the game. But if we are to copy the Panthers it’s called “Kick sprints”. A kick chase has an even line in defence and lacks intensity. However, The “kick sprints” are to nullify kick return meters and put the back 5 on the back foot literally. They sprint down as if lives depended on it. It’s not a time… Read more »


Agree. Some teams use their kick to get a bit of a breather. Panthers defence doesn’t have a break. That’s why Hopgood is such a great signing. He’ll bring that urgency in kick sprints/chase whatever they called it…


Another referee interpretation of when forward momentum is stopped.


The Panthers work to keep the tackled player moving, the refs interpret this as legal but some of their stuff is pretty line ball, including dragging backwards by the jersey after the player is put on the deck. The problem is that rule tweaks are necessary to clean this up, may be messy, but the concept of halting forward momentum may need a re-visit.


Rule book said something about forward momentum being stopped ref would call held.

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