The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – December 7, 2022: That Premiership Window

I’m stunned by the number of pundits prepared to write off the Eels chances in 2023 well before a ball has been kicked in anger.

Such opinion is mostly based on the number of forwards who departed the club at the end of the 2022 season. Essentially, the Eels have lost two starting forwards and two bench forwards from their grand final team.

However, I’m not too sure how much analysis has gone into weighing up the merits of the Eels new recruits. But fear not, there are numerous candidates for the vacant positions and I’ll delve into that today.

The thing about a premiership window is that qualifying for finals footy keeps the window open. Parra will be shooting for their fifth consecutive finals series in 2023, and I’m confident about their prospects. They also continue their succession planning via the NRL staff working with talented pathways players.

Lets get into what’s happening in PARRAdise.

Bumpers Up.


Dylan’s Loyalty

Here’s a quick story, one that I thought pertinent to share at this time.

A few years back, a young five-eighth named Dylan Brown was generating quite a buzz in junior representative footy, having starred in Parra’s Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams.

The Eels knew that they were on a winner and were upgrading his deal. It was an increase, but it was still much less than what he was likely to attract from certain clubs who pay massive coin for talented players from Sydney’s west and south-west.

Dylan’s parents were there as the contract was presented. The Eels official was up front with the young man, advising him and his parents that bigger offers were available and were very likely to come his way.

Dylan Brown

That didn’t matter. Dylan requested the pen to sign the contract stating that he’d achieved nothing yet and wasn’t interested in such offers. His parents echoed his sentiments.

Not long after that his decision was rewarded. Dylan’s junior contract was superseded by richer deals with Parra on the back of an NRL preseason and his elevation to a top 30 spot.

Why am I sharing this anecdote?

As speculation first mounted about Dylan fielding contract offers, he spoke about his decision not necessarily being about the money. That’s been his way to now. The club has looked after him, but he’s also not been one to seek greener pastures.

His manager has said that up to ten clubs have expressed an interest in signing Dylbags. We should also be confident that the club has offered him a strong deal.

Obviously, I’m hoping that he stays. Whatever his decision, he’s been up front about not rushing it. And being up front is Dylan being Dylan.


Gutho Back At Work

With a cadre of NRL players due back on December 7, it was no surprise to see Clint Gutherson joining in a field session two days prior. The bloke is the ultimate professional and when it comes to his preparation he’s one of the most dedicated in the NRL.

Interestingly, Monday was one of the more subdued training sessions I’ve ever seen from the King.

A clean faced Clint Gutherson (courtesy Bocko Eels media)

To clarify, Gutho is usually the hype man at training. His mix of banter, encouragement and demands constantly echo around the Kellyville complex.

On Monday he was pushing to lead the runs. He was busy in the drills and immediately competing at a high standard. But his talk seemed all business. There wasn’t too much banter going on.

Come Wednesday, we started to hear more of the Gutho we know, talking it up during the structured and unstructured footy being played. It might be a little unfamiliar for Gutho at the moment. The absence of a couple of his usual targets in Moses and Mahoney could mean less banter.

But I wouldn’t be taking any bets on it.


Succession Planning

Anyone fretting about the future of the Eels need only catch an Eels training session (or read about it here) to have any fears quelled.

As far as the immediate future is concerned, the Eels have recruited most astutely. Josh Hodgson is an outstanding replacement for Reed Mahoney, but his leadership and skill is also an investment in the future as he has already begun to mentor the young players at the club.

J’Maine Hopgood (image via Eels media)

Matt Doorey is the likely replacement for Papali’i, more on him later. Likewise, J’maine Hopgood, Jack Murchie, Jirah Momoisea and Ryan Matterson will vie for the lock and bench roles, alongside the upgraded Toni Mataele.

One only has to think about the development of Kaufusi, Stone, Papali’i and Niukore under BA’s coaching to understand the potential in these players.

Throw in the returning Bryce Cartwright, Kye Rodwell, Wiremu Greig, Ofahiki Ogden, and Makahesi Makatoa and the forward depth looks at least as strong as 2022. And that’s not factoring in promising second tier players such as Elie El Zakhem, Dan Keir, Brendan Hands, Jayden Yates and Luca Moretti.

As for the longer term, the younger group participating in Monday’s field sessions join full preseason pathways players such as Charlie Guymer, Ethan Sanders and Jock Brazel in representing Parramatta’s succession planning.

I have deliberately avoided talking the pathways blokes up individually as I don’t want to add too many expectations or pressures to their journey.

That said, the Eels have pulled the right rein by following up the JETs program, which virtually all participated in during the middle of the year, with exposure to an NRL preseason. You can literally watch the learning curve in action with every passing week.

For details on selected pathways players, do check out Forty’s Rookie watch series. The links are here and here.


More Pathways Investment

Jun rep training (image courtesy Eels media)

In case you missed it, the Eels official platforms shared images of NRL coaching staff at Parra Junior Rep training. This is not to be confused with the Eels pathways players participating in the NRL preseason, but is in fact further input for other junior rep players.

This was a terrific experience for the young players as well as the rep staff and is a measure of the whole club philosophy that permeates at the Eels.

The first of the trial matches for Parra’s development squads and Junior Rep teams will take place on December 17. Of course TCT will be there to provide our takes on the matches. 


Matt Doorey

Matt Doorey

The returning Eels junior is a unit.

If Parra was looking for a powerful runner of the footy to replace Ice I’d suggest they’ve found it. Doorey is listed as 185cm and 100kg. I’m not sure how accurate those stats are, as he appears to be bigger than Isaiah Papali’i whose stats come in at 182cm and 108kg.

Check out this shot of Matt Doorey at Eels training. I don’t think we’ve lost any size in the pack should he earn the back row position.


Parra Leagues Community Christmas Dinner

Last week, Forty and I were privileged to attend Parra Leagues Community Christmas dinner. As many of you are aware, TCT is invested in covering Parramatta Junior Rugby League, from local clubs to Eels pathways.

Over the last six years, Parra Leagues has donated around 5.5 million dollars to community groups via their Club Grants Program.

Some of the guests at the Community Christmas dinner.

Of that, $1.8 million has been given to grassroots rugby league clubs. Junior Clubs featured in our Parra Stories have made the point of thanking PLC for that yearly support which makes the cost of playing rugby league significantly cheaper for families.

The diversity of the community groups present on the evening emphasised the importance of volunteers, whether it be in education, health, general community, sport or specific rugby league programs.

There is so much done by individuals or groups, but financial support is unavoidable. Supporting the needs of the community comes with a price tag, something that the Club Grants Program aims to assist with.

And when everyone is brought together via such functions, the networking that occurs brings the community even closer together.


Your Vote is Needed

Just on Parra Leagues Club, they are looking to amalgamate with Dural Country Club. By now all Parra Leagues Club members should have received information about why this is being proposed.

Recently, Dural Country Club members voted unanimously in favour of the amalgamation. It is now the turn of PLC members.

Like any member decision, higher vote numbers means a better representation of the wishes of members. Likewise, being informed is also important, so to help with further details or questions, the PLC directors are holding an information evening in Sterlos Sports Bar at Parra Leagues on Thursday December 8 from 6pm.

Due to the nature of the proposal, Members must be present at either Parra Leagues or Vikings on Tuesday, December 20 to vote. The General Meeting will commence at 7pm and we encourage Members to attend.

Eels forever!


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50 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – December 7, 2022: That Premiership Window

  1. Anonymous

    No love for Ele El Zakham or Wiremu Greig 60s? I truly believe both these guys deserved NRL time last season. Untapped resources.

    1. sixties Post author

      Fair call and in fact I’ll add them in to my comments. An oversight from my ageing brain – thank you for the response.

  2. Colin Hussey

    Great report sixties as usual.

    If IRRC it was not long ago that we only had only a couple of coaches besides the head coach, there was if I am right only 3 but they seemed to be almost ghost’s at many of the sessions. Watching and reading these new numbers of coaching staff, and dare I suggest Hodgson from Canberra also adds to that list even without the role directly. How long since the eels had a captain coach or one captain more than capable of coaching?

    I would love to be able to attend the clubs meeting for the voting for the Kellyville-Parramatta amalgamation, but with my health these days along with the waiting for 3 different surgeries its somewhat out of my range these days, although I do support the vote in total.

    1. sixties Post author

      Hi Colin, you were thinking of 2018 when the full time coaching staff was just BA, Joey Grima and Murf. Kidwell was added part way through the season. We had two part time “consultants” in Ennis and Mary last year, but decided to add a full time coach in Barrett to replace them this season.
      That amalgamation is between Parra Leagues and Dural Country Club, not Kellyville. However, with Eels HQ in the Hills District, having a Leagues Club presence in the Hills also makes sense.

  3. Anonymous

    I think our forward lineup has lost very little if anything. I would have thought Murchie would have the inside running for the second row position if just for his superior NRL experience. Both are SOG under 20s reps so have shown lots of potential.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’m not ruling that out. The preseason efforts of both will determine who gets the jump. But they haven’t been bought to play Reggies.

  4. Jack

    Great work 60s, I’m pretty new to the site, iv been listening to the podcast for about 12 months now. I love your reports. I believe it will be between doorey and murchie for the back row spot.
    I really hope we wrap brown and Moses up soon

    1. sixties Post author

      Thanks for replying Jack and for being a podcast listener. It’s very healthy to have that competition for places like we will have in the pack. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Murchie have a middle role at some stage.

  5. BDon

    Tks sixties. Early days I know, but my gut feel is that Hodgson and Hopgood will add significantly to our playing style and mettle. We really have to eliminate the 4 or 5 games where we go soft and absent. It’s been around too long for it to be a random event. Strong minds will play a big role.

    1. sixties Post author

      Our final step in improvement has long been between the ears. I’m thinking that the leadership of Hodgson could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

      1. BDon

        Jack Gibson knew with some of his unfashionable forwards they would play for 80, just keep turning up,never take a breather. He had a feeling for a man’s resolve and commitment. Then he threw them on the park with Ray Price.

    1. sixties Post author

      He still has a contract until he doesn’t – in other words he doesn’t appear to have finalised a deal elsewhere so until he does Parra will honour it.

      1. Anonymous

        I think Nathan will be here until end January.
        3 months of his final year contract will be covered by Parra.
        If I was a club, I wouldn’t take him earlier as he is still on leave and Parra paying his wages.

  6. Milo

    Great read 60’s thank you again for this.
    Doorey looks fit and we just need a consistent 17-19 players for me, and others and you have said we need to eliminate those poor games like we have had in the past.
    Look I am not losing sleep about Moses and Brown signing on again but if we lose one for 2024 it has the potential to destabilise the team, my case in point was Mahoney and I know is young but to me he did not have his best season but i also acknowledge that players are ‘professionals’……my main issue is these two players off contract at the same time.
    I also hope to see some more forwards get some bench time next season – particularly Greig / Zakhem and Rodwell.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’m sure Moses last deal was just a one year extension done very quickly. Why would his agent be content with just one year…..

  7. pete

    Great read Sixties.
    I, like you are very keen on seeing these new signings; Hodgo, Hopgood, Doorey, Murchie fit into the system. I think they have a tougher mentality than previous signing cohorts. These guys will provide a much tougher mettle than what we have had in recent years. As you say between the ears is where we have been lacking at certain periods. During fatigue is when our leadership is most in question and can be pinpointed to a small handful of games. But nonetheless is still evident at times. Junior Paulo has really grown this year when leading Samoa. I know that will help him become a stronger leader in 23 than 22. Also Reg has proven his strength of character to dominate at WC level.
    Matto, not sure if we can justify his salary coming off the bench. While it worked well. BA has a propensity to have his highest paid on the field for longer periods. Does that mean Matto moves back to the edge for 80min. And Hopgood at 13 for 80 minutes. Murchie and Doorey bench forwards. Early days I know and it’s exciting to have so many spots up for grabs.
    I’m confident that we will retain both Moses and Dylbags. But if we lost one Dylbags would be easier to replace IMHO.
    Thanks again Sixties love your work.

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers Pete. That mental side of the game has been the last frontier – and without doubt progress has been made (see the Prelim final vs Cows). But Hodgo becomes the game changer.

      1. John Eel

        The anonymous critic. How do you rate Mitch’s efforts in getting us to the GF.

        Remember there were 14 other 7’s who did not get their teams to the big dance.

        1. Poppa

          Again an interesting perspective JE, Anon has not played 200 games of FG Rugby League, never been offered one million dollars, and Moses rated the 3rd best half in the comp behind Cleary and Hughes is a sook and overated?
          No doubt he has a ready made replacement somewhere that will take Parra back to a second GF.

          1. Glenn

            Hughes didn’t play particularly well for NZ in WC imho and Dylbags overshadowed him and appeared to have been given more responsibility with the team. Same with Moses for Labanon, he was the heartbeat of that team and only because of him did they progress. Both have probably improved due to the experience and unfortunately bumped their price up.

        2. Anonymous

          Actually a lot of dogs and tigers fans feel he is overrated and dont want him wrecking their cap for 4 years. Personally I hope we keep both of them. Hard to replace in the current market.

          1. John Eel

            But Anon you told Pete “you would rather Moses went”.

            Mitch is my favourite player. As Poppa said he is in the top 3 halves in the NRL. I know I am biased but I believe that he is better than Hughes.

            Hughes as a former Fullback plays more like a running 6. To me this is a part of the Storms current problems. Two 6’s and no 7 to finesse the play in tight situations.

    2. Poppa

      Interesting that you have a preference for Dyllan going over Moses and I say this purely as an academic point of view. Moses is the playmaker at half and JA (if he was the replacement for Dyllan) has no real value as a 6. My opinion is that regardless of this ongoing dilemma about our halves, losing either one of them creates a gap that we cannot replace with the back up half situation.
      People still seem to be dreaming that JA is a natural step up. I have not seen him dominate a reserve grade game and other than playing a link role in his FG stints, basically this option leaves us in an untenable position.
      I do not know a lot about Ethan Sanders but I could not imagine him being anywhere near ready for FG at this point of time.
      I dearly hope Parra has a plan B if we lose one or even both our halves as I think JA is at least 2 years plus away from being a genuine addition to our halves problem, if at all.
      I know he impresses Craig at training and the makeup games, but he lengths behind the pace in the real thing.
      In saying all this I think, hope and believe that both will stay, but even with an injury to our 6 or 7 we need a stronger backup.
      In reference to Craig’s opening about people writing us off, I think you will find this view polarised by this discussion on the halves and the ability of the hooker (who I love conceptionally) to last the season from a fitness perspective…….love to see Hodgson groomed for a future coaching role based on Craig’s initial observations.
      PS I think the absence of Mahoney will be a bonus if Hodgson does stay fit.

      1. Mick

        I don’t think you will see JA in 1sts next season Poppa. BA has stated he will not be using JA, he needs the games and time in NSW cup. This is why he bought Asi, either half goes down, Asi will be the replacement, Moses half, Asi 5/8, or Brown half Asi 5/8.
        If we lose Moses to the dogs, we need to buy a genuine half. If Moses goes to the Tigers, and the Tigers want him for 2023, we should get Adam Douehi, he will be the odd man out at the Tigers, have him play 5/8 and Brown 1/2. If we lose both…God help us.

        1. Anonymous

          What is Asi’s deal? Doesn’t appear on the clubs website, not included in the contracted players on the official NRL site.

          1. Anonymous

            He is definitely here, Initially a 2 year contract was reported but also rumours he is signed by the cows for 24 so he is the mystery factor.

          2. sixties Post author

            The club did announce him, he’s part of the NRL squad, and initial reports mentioned two years but I haven’t confirmed that anywhere.

      2. sixties Post author

        Poppa, you may not have seen Jake dominate a reserve grade game, but I have.And others where he was amongst the best 3 on field. I don’t believe we will lose both halves, and I’m not taking it as done about losing one. But, should that happen, and this will be sixteen months down the track, I’m confident that Jake or Ethan will be ready to step up.

        1. Poppa

          We can agree to disagree on that one mate. I see him entirely different to you and I carry no biases in this judgement. I want you to accept that your view in this respect is unacceptable to the majority to just about everybody I talk to in this regard and nothing you can say changes minds. Your opinion is so biased that it has become a negative in just about everyone I talk to.
          I love BA but his objectivity is an embarrassment and a potential downfall to our club. He has caused more problems than anything he could imagine in our club. it is the most discerning thing in following this club for my 70 years of involvement.
          I say this not lightly because you know me to the extent I would do nothing to damage your Integrity but it has to be said. I have no motives!

          1. sixties Post author

            Wow Poppa. Just wow. You accuse me of bias because I’ve seen Jake have dominating games in NSW Cup. I simply watch NSW Cup most weeks live so I see more games including at that level at local parks like Kellyville or Blacktown where they are forced to play.
            My only bias is for the club. If I thought that BA, a bloke who has just taken the club to a grand final after being in finals footy for the last four years and developing both the team and individuals was going to damage our club I would be the first to say so. But logically, how that could be the thinking of anyone based on the evidence of team performance is mind scratching stuff. I don’t know what problems you think he has caused but I haven’t seen or heard any, let alone the worst in 70 years.

          2. Poppa

            We all see what we want to see.
            I agree you see a lot more than me, given the geography of me being in Brisbane.
            Every time I have seen the Reserve grade games featuring Jake (who I bear no ill will to, he is in a bastard of a position) he has indicated to me he is not Reserve Grade standard.

            Now this is an opinion and nothing to do with us making the GF last year on the back of some diabolical form at various times and the embarrassment of his bench position whereas a forward, particularly a hooker forward could have made a significant difference (we will never know).

            I believed from the beginning that it is an impossible position that BA has put himself in coaching his son, especially when he is such a marginalised player.
            He should have sent him to his mate in Newcastle for the experience without the pressure.

          3. sixties Post author

            So this stance of yours about BA and the worst damage in 70 years is just about Jake? With the season done I can write this. In the latter part of the season Jake was straight out cover for the halves. Why? Injury. From the time Moses injured his hand he was rested from many training sessions, even when he returned. If you remember he came back early, but he didn’t do the ball work and opposed stuff at training. I mean, why risk a ball hitting his hand at the wrong angle on the training track. Jake took on the half duties. Then when Mitch was better, Dylan picked up a niggle and had to miss training sessions. For obvious reasons that wasn’t mentioned, but it should have been obvious about Moses anyway. I know you’re going to say he was selected earlier in the year but that was also covering backs in doubt, just as Perham also earned selection on the bench as back coverage as BA rotated that bench spot between multiple players during the year. I’m not going into it further. I rate Jake and you don’t. Others rate Jake. Others don’t. I’m comfortable with my take based on evidence of watching many performances across many grades over many years.

          4. Glenn

            I’ve not criticised Jake in his performances, just his selection, when reasons for his selection were not obvious. In saying that he has skill and vision but appears his execution is slow as is his movement which would impede him as a halfback imo. Early days yet but as he grows into his body that may change. So keep an open mind Poppa and you’re too old (as am I) to get but stay frustrated about selections.

          5. Poppa

            My mind was very open at the beginning, and I was confident Jake was a likely prospect. he was originally picked for two games too many and the more he played the worse he got. Everything in that respect was not unaccepted.
            The next season he showed very little improvement, so I specifically watched him in Reserve Grade (only the one’s televised in Qld) and was horrified to see the only thing in that very low standard was Jake getting worse.
            I accept Craig’s call’s that he has seen him in a much different light.
            Personally I think he has wonderful vision for the game (but why shouldn’t he, sitting in the coaches box for so many years).
            I have no doubt we will not win a game against a top eight team with Jake playing a full match. He is not a hooker or a dummy half but BA implied he was the only choice.
            So why the hoo ha! from me over the worst thing I have seen?
            I came to an opinion that BA had turned this club around since the renaissance as I call it.The thing I noticed most was the commardie between the players and the club in general as they pulled themselves off the floor, 2018 was acceptable to me as an inevitable let down after was they had done to get back.
            But I am now seeing disloyalty (my own to start with) from players and the potential of players leaving the club, not for money, but looking at greener pastures to further their careers.
            I believe that some players did not agree with Jake’s ongoing selections and what’s more have found themselves tested as to loyalty.

            I finally believe this could have been avoided if BA showed better judgement. His handling of his son’s position has lacked any rationale and created loss situations for all concerned, not the least being JA himself and his family. I also appreciate he bleeds blue and gold as does BA.
            Coaching your own children at this level is and always has been very dangerous in the eyes of the blind and not so blind….you cannot win and that is why I am signalling so much danger.
            It has not been easy for me to write these comments but I would be a terrible hypocrite if I didn’t say what I think.
            I appreciate your comments Glen and the sage advice that came with it.
            I also apologise to you Craig as I feel disloyal to you as well in speaking my mind.

      3. pete

        I’m confident that we will retain both Moses and Dylbags. But if we lost one Dylbags would be easier to replace IMHO. Of course, my preference is to keep both! I didn’t mention JA at all. It would be a significant set back if we lost one of the halves.
        Hodgo – to me he’s an upgrade in every respect. Mahoney has already had one bad shoulder.

  8. Mick

    I have no problem with the players we have bought, I think they are more than capable replacements for the ones we have lost. My issue is, why can’t we afford both Brown and Moses, this is going by what the so called “experts” are saying. The salary cap is supposedly going up $2mil, surely the players we bought didn’t cost us more than what we lost. Did other players receive upgrades. We don’t have any superstars, Brown and Moses are the closest we have. Why do we buy bargain basement players, yet we can’t afford to buy a high profile player. Could we lose both Brown and Moses, could our boards hard line stubbornness re players values be our downfall. Last of all, if we lose Moses, especially to the Tigers, what would the chances of getting Douehi off them, he will be their odd man out.

    1. Anonymous

      We can afford both with cap increase but its nor been confirmed. The media just make shit up daily. They know nothing.
      We have signed some really good potential. If Hodgson holds up we are near break even I think. Murchie could be anything and so could Asi. Also our reggies have had another year experience and now get a full off season. Only need a couple to step up and our window is definitely wide open.

    2. Glenn

      Regardless if the cap goes up or not I believe we’ll have money to upgrade both to over $1m each. Nrown going in ’24 and believe same with Waqa and both on over $500k. Our forward replacements this year also on less than those that have left. So I believe we’ll have a large war chest for upgrades to our halves and money left over for replacements for backs for ’24.

  9. Anonymous

    What makes you so certain that Doorey will start on the edge? Has he been impressive at training? I thought that Murchie was the likely one to start on the edge.

    1. sixties Post author

      That’s my early call, but there’s plenty of the preseason to play out. When they start getting into serious opposed sessions, I’ll make another call.

    2. Anonymous

      I was thinking Murchie as well but Im happy with either. Different body shapes, both U20 SOG. Who ever wins the offseason wins the position.

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