The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 28 To December 2, 2022: The Squad Lifts As Hodgson Watch Continues


We are now four weeks in and this collection of new faces at Eels training is settling in to a rhythm. Given that many are young pathways products, new recruits or upgraded contracts, I’d suggest that after this week they are impressing the coaches.

The structure of the week remained the same, with the Flegg and SG Ball players participating in the Monday session and around 20 full time fellas continuing on Wednesday and Friday.

There were no new faces joining in this week, though I am expecting around a dozen NRL boys to return next week.

With every passing session, I am more convinced that the unwanted departure of Reed Mahoney has led to the Eels recruiting a player of significance. Josh Hodgson is not just driven to produce his best, he is motivated to help his team mates to become better players.



The morning kicked off with the typical conditioning runs before working into footy drills. Interestingly, some of the play featured contact with players being tackled to the ground.

The kick/chase drill again featured as the squad continued to build their energy and discipline with this aspect of the game.

The latter part of the morning had the team practising their shapes before extending this to working through full sets over the length of the field.

Get ready

All of the pathways players have responded incredibly well to this opportunity. The improvement in what they are doing during the sessions is tangible. And that’s not restricted to their fitness levels. Having watched all of these players in junior reps, I can report that I’m seeing them producing moments of skill, lines run or effort plays that I hadn’t witnessed before. I’m looking forward to them taking this back to their teams when the season begins.



It’s always tough when the structure of the session sees the kick/chase game scheduled to immediately follow conditioning runs, but this is exactly what was in store for the squad.

To give some sense of the demands of this game, there are only three plays in possession, including the kick, and the defending team doesn’t position a fullback.

Impressively, a number of players provided effort play highlights including:

* Jayden Yates and Jake Arthur competing in a 40 metre chase

* Yates turning defence into attack

* Long distance try to Luca Moretti’ demonstrating surprising pace and the effort play from Wiremu Greig in chasing him towards the corner.

* Jake Arthur winning the chase off his own kick to score.

I have to mention the coaching from Steve Murphy during these games. He is constantly praising players or demanding better involvements from individuals and it keeps the energy levels high, not to mention providing terrific commentary for an observer such as myself.

The remainder of the morning saw the squad completing “Malcolm’s” (Up downs) and defence line movements, before working in corridors on the field, focussing on both attacking and defensive decision making.

Sean Russell is deserving of a shout out for a number of classy moments. He looks a bit bigger and a bit faster and fairly glides across the field. Russell might be the forgotten player in the battle for a centre or wing position but I suspect that he fully intends to remind the coaches of his talents and claims.



This would turn out to be the best session thus far of this preseason. The fairest thing to do would be to write up an effort play or a PB for each player, but that’s not what I set out to do as I took my notes.

However, as the morning unfolded it became obvious that the fellas had found something extra, which was reflected in their conditioning efforts or their plays.

Of course it would not be a Friday without those demanding M runs. Though there was a difference.

The M run begins

Today, sets of those conditioning runs alternated throughout the morning with footy, including “pole footy” and unstructured attack/defence games. The unstructured stuff is a personal favourite of mine as it showcases the skills and footy smarts of individual players, and those who find an extra gear when not giving up on plays. 

How many sets of the runs would be completed between those games?

That was changed up too as Trent Elkin and the coaches kept the players guessing about what was coming next. I thought this was a terrific change up for this session.

The M Run standouts included Jayden Yates, Jake Arthur, Dan Keir, Brendan Hands, Jock Brazel and Josh Hodgson. The big mover was Jack Murchie. Our recruit from the Warriors has picked up his conditioning and he pushed through the pack to be sitting just behind the front runners.

Within the games/footy component of the session, Daejarn Asi showed impressive pace in scoring a try. Other notable moments included a chase from Komolafe that put Yates into the goal post pad (he was ok), defensive efforts from Matt Doorey and Toni Mataele, deceptive attacking plays from Jirah Momoisea and Jock Brazel, and the acceleration of Ethan Sanders.

The morning concluded with defensive drills led by Steve Antonelli.  Specific teaching points in technique were drilled and the cohesion within the coaching team came to the fore.

With the squad split into two groups, Antonelli took one group, and Nathan Cayless the other. Arthur, Murphy and Barrett moved between the groups, providing feedback to individuals or reminders of the specific teaching points.


Hodgson Watch

Last week, I concluded my report by highlighting the leadership of Josh Hodgson. My praise for our highest profile recruit is even stronger this week.

From his effortless precision passing to the guidance provided to his young charges, the English international is a quality addition to the club.

Hodgo courtesy of Eels media

By way of another specific example, during Friday’s session Hodgson took a moment to speak to the group he was working with. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but from the moment he began speaking the players seemed focussed on his every word.

The other interested audience member was BA, who was walking across from observing the other group as Hodgson began speaking. When Hodgo wrapped up, Arthur immediately called him over and directed him to speak to the other group.

In a relatively short period of time, Josh Hodgson looks to have earned a very high respect from his peers and the coaches.

I’m looking forward to watching his combinations with other senior players develop as the NRL players return both next week and then in January.


Eels forever!


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Colin Hussey

Great follow up report sixties. Methinks that as the improvement in the playing group is one of upward lines in their graphs, is certainly coming to the fore especially with the young players and new signings. The addition of extra coaching staff, and ones with quality backgrounds and new planning is also great to see, with them each providing new skills and helps from the extended coaching staff? While this comment may have something akin to cat amongst the pigeons, as I read the reports and reviews, along with the media gossip, with these new players who seem to have… Read more »

Colin Hussey

If we lose Mitch, then I see the positives in the young pathways players being given options in playing abilities, perhaps similar to how Jacob was brought through.

I have to have surgery at Nepean some time next year so hoping I can get to a game or training day with that giving me some sustegin.


Sixties, I’m nervous by your tone lol. Last year when this was happening with Reed and ice I noticed you also said “if they don’t sign then the club will move on”, and guess what??? They didn’t sign. Do you know something here we don’t? You don’t sound confident we’ll keep them.

Also, losing almost your hold squad in 12 months, when do buckets, Sean and Jim get held accountable?

Trouser Eel

Positive vibes post Mahoney. You’re making the off season tolerable one again. Thanks Craig.


Is anyone allowed to turn up to watch the training sessions?


Interesting seasons ahead for Russel,Haze,Laizou. I feel there are a few spots open in our backline if someone’s able to push hard enough.

Big Derek

Bumped into a couple of the younger fringe players having a coffee this week, not a long conversation but they mentioned in their opinion there are spots open across the club after the departure of so many players. They were focussed on those opportunities and basically said the younger players have been told, put in hard and you will be rewarded. Seemed very aware and wanted to position themselves to take advantage , praised the way Barrett has moved with the whole group.

Parra Pete

and a great bloke with it….

Matt Sweeney

i hope so , but i wonder what more Moses and brown can learn from him. haven’t they been closely coached by Andrew johns and others. i think some players are overcoached and it impedes on there natural instincts . both these boys have superior skill sets than johns and barrett had.

Matt Sweeney

kick to the seagulls boys and run shld be your default


Ok gr8 , any secrets he and jamaine can bring is a bonus.
I wld like to know wat Penrith fed leotta for dinner the night before the gf.


Hodgson is the Ace not to say Murchie and Hopgood won’t be fantastic additions but his smarts around the ruck and leadership qualities will be incredible and if he manages to get through the season unscathed I see no reason why we can’t be top four.Once again great report Sixties.

Last edited 2 months ago by Gianni
Parra Pete

Love the positivity of your articles. Much better than the negativity and concern raised in the MSM about what is going to happen in 2024. BTW, were you aware that Simon Woolford has signed to coach Queanbeyan Blues in 2023?


Moses and Gutherson are very much high risk, high reward players and Hodgson may just be the calming influence we need in the spine to settle the play down and not play ahead of ourselves. His leadership is already showing in how he trains. And I hate saying this every time I talk about Hodgson and it’s been stated probably too many times but we just need him to stay healthy. The players we’ve lost are auxiliary players, I don’t believe they were crucial to us winning or losing. Hodgson will not be an auxiliary player for us.

Colin Hussey

Good post Ham and the aspects regarding MM & Gutho I think are pretty much on the mark, as both of those players are at the older end of the play. While both have had injury concerns, Mitch has had issues as has Gutho but not as much as Mitch. Both at same ages, end of next year, Mitch is off contract while Guth still has two years left. Both turn 29 next year with Gutho having a bit more security with his contract beyond next year. While its guess work, DB has better options that he could take by… Read more »


I feel difference makers are consistently in your top 5 players in a lot of games. Mahoney form was average in 2022. Perhaps 2 or 3 times I’d have him in our best 5. Marata and Kafusi I am unsure I had one game in our top 5. Papali’i certainly cracked it many times. But he wasn’t as influential as Lane,Matterson,Jnr or RCG. But he does have youth on his side. Matalele interests me. Big kid so hopefully he has a big off-season. Losing Moses would be fine by me but not D.Brown. One more year of Moses and we’ve… Read more »


Can Dylby be an organising halfback? Ive watched a number of interviews with him and he seems like a real space cadet. He said Moses regularly needs to tell him what to do and where to be.


Thanks for the write up guys I hope Hodgeson keeps fit because I can see his class being the thing we needed to put us in top two consideration

West Coast Eel

If Hodgson stays fit, he’ll be a great signing.

Any podcasts coming up soon? I need my Parra fix. Sick of reading about certain contract speculations!!!!

Parra Pete

The speculation is what is going to happen in 2024….that is the part that grits my teeth….Worry about these future in the FUTURE..Let’s get over 2023 first!!!


At a guess how do you think Asi’s pace compares to Dylbags? I know he has a good short kicking game, decent passing game and seems to be strong. Worst case scenario with both halves leaving we could see a Sanders/ Asi combo which would give us a big war chest to buy in some quality players. Hodgson would be playing a major leadership role.


Its worse case scenario but possible.


Great report Sixties.
I’m really on board team Hodgo.
Hodgo = Steve Edge MK2.
That type of leadership is what we lacked at times during our fatigued periods this year. Hodgo’s signing is a watershed signing for the club.
As I said I would have preferred Korosau. But Hodgo is an outstanding signing by the club. It’s a case of we didn’t know what we missed.
Thanks again


I enjoyed Mahoneys enthusiasm but there were always limitations to his game. Hodgo has always been a top shelf hooker. If he can stay fit and healthy then he will definitely give us much more than Mahoney ever did.
I’m also a big fan of Yates. That young man CAN play.


Thanks Sixties for another adrenaline pumping report! Already psyched for March!


Can you please tell me the time that the squad trains?.


Thank you.


Great analysis again Sixties and thank you for the in-depth repots each week; its a great read and very enjoyable.
Quick one about Hodgson, any chance for him to be on a podcast? I know its v soon but thought he could be a good one to have on there and his knowledge would be invaluable to hear about.
I have enjoyed reading about the younger brigade, so cheers for this.


I get that mate, how about maybe try for an ex-eel half who played in the late 80’s / 90’s and played a game or twoin the NSWRL / ARL and is a decent journo? Goes by the name P Kent, now that would be interesting in all seriousness.

John Eel

I would like to listen to that. Say what you like about Kent but he is a good journalist.

Didn’t like him in 2016 but outside of that I think he is pretty genuine . Good analyst of the game.


Thanks for the updates Sixties. Can’t wait to see how the new guys will blend with the team. BTW, are Ennis and Mary still part of the coaching staff? Thank you.


Hopefully our halves make a call one way or another on their future so we can focus on 23. It’s a unfortunate by product of the ridiculous contract situation that the NRL has I was trying to explain it to my brother in law from Melbourne as I explained it the more ridiculous it sounds. Anyway I have high hopes for a fit Hodgson I think he might add that extra dimension we have been lacking. Our bench is well and truly open of our regular bench Oregon’s and Marata minutes are available to be taken keen to see who… Read more »


Hopefully our halves make a call one way or another on their future so we can focus on 23. It’s a unfortunate by product of the ridiculous contract situation that the NRL has I was trying to explain it to my brother in law from Melbourne as I explained it the more ridiculous it sounds. Anyway I have high hopes for a fit Hodgson I think he might add that extra dimension we have been lacking. Our bench is well and truly open of our regular bench Oregon’s and Marata minutes are available to be taken keen to see who… Read more »


Great report 60th love it, by the way who is the young halfback we have signed from Queensland?


Dantoray Lui seems to have fallen behind Ethan Sanders in the pecking order.
When they signed him it was said he would be in the top 30 for 23 but I dont think that is happening.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous

Gone to the Northern Pride apparently.


good read Sixties, would like to hear your take on Russell as I was impressed with the games he had before injuries hit. Has good pace and skills and looked like a real thinker meaning good footy smarts. The hooker from QLD would like o know what age group he is at and the pathway he came out of as they have some good young hookers up here.

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