The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training (NRL & Flegg) – December 5 to 9, 2022: One Club Philosophy In Action

Over the years, TCT has been able to report on the commitment to pathways of BA and the NRL staff. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve seen them at Junior Rep matches, from trials all the way through to finals matches.

The 2023 preseason in itself has already been a major exercise in player development with a host of Flegg and Ball players participating in pre-Christmas sessions.

Now this week, the Eels official media platforms shared images of the NRL coaching staff at Junior Rep training. In one sense it was no surprise, given that the JETS program held during the year is a commitment of NRL staff to developing some of the clubs elite pathways players.

Brad and Baz at Rep training (image courtesy Eels media)

However, after attending Jersey Flegg training on Friday night, I learned more of that whole club philosophy in action.

As it happens, Brad Arthur and his staff are also involved in Jersey Flegg training. Arthur and Nathan Cayless run drills at a couple of evening sessions joining Head of Athletic Performance Brendan Inkster in working with the team.

An NRL preseason involves extended days for staff who are fronting up at Kellyville long before breakfast. Working with full time footballers, summer means training five days per week with a carefully designed workload program allowing for appropriate recovery for the players across those days. (See three days of field sessions).

Earlier  this year, Bailey Simonsson recounted turning up early for training after shifting from the Raiders and encountering Arthur doing his own conditioning before the players fronted.

Parramatta is a self-declared development club and senior coaching staff are critical to making that happen. It’s an investment in both the short term and long term future of the club. Arthur is a head coach who walks the walk, no doubt.

Moving on to NRL training, the NRL players not involved in the World Cup finally began their preseason this week. Apart from Gutho who completed the Monday field session, the remainder of the returning NRL players commenced their work on Wednesday.

As far as the who is concerned, it included Bryce Cartwright, Shaun Lane, Waqa Blake, J’maine Hopgood, Ofahiki Ogden, Mitch Rein, Ky Rodwell and Jordan Rankin. I did catch a glimpse of Ryan Matterson who was present but not involved in Wednesday’s session.

There was a bit of a challenge reporting as accurately as I’d like this week. The returning players were often separated from the main group as they caught up with both conditioning and new attacking and defensive shapes/techniques. Trying to watch two distinct groups go through different drills on different fields tends to split the attention.

My thanks to Parrathruandthru for details on the Friday NRL session. An important commitment kept me from attending that day.



The pathways players continued their Monday attendance. I believe they also do other development work with the NRL staff later in the week.

This was a slick session which involved a significant football component. Both attacking and defensive drills took equal importance during the morning. Not that there was any lack of conditioning work. Without doubt, the fitness of the pathways players will be at the elite level when their seasons commence.

At this stage of the preseason, if this was an all NRL squad I’d be expecting the group to look sharp during their sets. The familiarity with changes to the shapes that their practising would be evident and players would be looking confident in knowing their roles.

But this isn’t just NRL players. What’s impressed me is how slick the pathways boys are looking. After they put their first day of the preseason behind them, they’ve been quick to pick things up and the learning curve is literally on display with every passing session.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to comment on Hodgson. His leadership is exceptional and once more the session provided an example of him gathering the squad around him for words of advice.



Welcome back to the first large contingent of NRL players. The remainder of the squad will spread their return throughout January, depending on when their World Cup campaign ended. In other words, Junior and Reg will be the last to get back to work.

As expected, there was some shared conditioning work, along with drills where the squad split into two groups – today’s returnees were doing separate catch up work.

There was the typical grid drills with passing and unstructured footy played. The pole footy game also featured – a game that asks plenty of effort questions in defence, whilst seeing whether players can take advantage of defensive holes.

J’Maine Hopgood (image via Eels media)

This was my first look at J’maine Hopgood. I didn’t really get to see anything significant in the way of footy, it was mostly his conditioning work that I’m able to comment on.

I thought he’s fronted in good shape, with his fitness sitting at least in the middle of the group. That’s good for day one considering that at least half of the squad has been back for a month.



This will mostly be details about the structure of the session, with thanks to Parrathruandthru.

After warm ups, the squad split into two groups similar to Wednesday. One worked on passing skills, the other on running mechanics.

Matt Doorey

It wouldn’t be a Friday without M runs and any questions about challenges to Gutho were soon answered as he easily led his group. Typically, the session saw sets of those runs interspersed with the skills stuff, ensuring that work was done under fatigue.

The split groups worked through a variety of drills such as line speed, kick chase, tackle technique, goal line defence and games of two handed touch. Reminders about team goals were called out during the morning.

Familiarisation with shapes was an essential component given that this was only the second field session for the returning NRL players.

The session concluded with more defensive drills under the direction of Steve Antonelli, with Parrathruandthru being impressed by the drive after contact.


Jersey Flegg

After missing the NRL session in the morning, I took the opportunity to catch Jersey Flegg training later in the day. With TCT looking to cover as many lower grade games as possible next year, I wanted to check out how the squad was coming together and familiarise myself with any new players.

A large group was in attendance, and on their busiest nights this can grow to close to forty players, including those trialling and some second tier NSW Cup players beginning their preseason. 

There was a similarity in structure to NRL training with the mix of conditioning, games played and shapes drilled. Given the size of the squad, the group was split into two as they alternated between pure conditioning and footy.

Unsurprisingly, with one of those groups being the one that’s been involved in the NRL preseason, their fitness looked very good. Mind you, it was put to the test.

Coach Craig Brennan runs a disciplined ship and the players responded well.

There were quite a number of new faces, from far and wide, as well as returning Flegg players and those graduating from SG Ball. A number impressed in what I saw, but with the squad yet to be finalised or announced it would be inappropriate to mention specific players.

My thanks to Craig and all of the staff for welcoming me to training and for putting names to some of the new faces. Much appreciated.

Eels forever!


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Colin Hussey

Thanks for the report sixties.

Good read in each of the area’s, look forward to the gradual return of the NRL squad and any more new signings.

Good to read that the King has kept his fitness levels up as well.


Will be interesting to see if Ogden and Greig step up with a couple of Bench spots open.


Any reports in more signings? I felt we may still not be done with recruitment. Also feel a few may still leave.

John Eel

Agree Anon. Those are two players I would like to see get some time on the bench in 2023.

Greig has plenty of aggression and I think that this will be needed after the departure of Niukore and with N Brown seemingly on his way out also.


Much was made with the defection of the wrestling team to the Bulldogs from the Riff. In fact, there was a fair bit of comment from the Penrith boys that the wrestling team gave them a great advantage in 2022. Looking at their superior defensive, it certainly seemed to be the case. Do we have a similar set up to look after wresting at the Eels or is it just an add on from the coaches ? If it is just a component undertaken by the coaches, do you consider that we should get on board and appoint a dedicated… Read more »


Robert Whitakers team. Now wonder they were so dominant in the tackle and wrestle.


That’s them. Surely a similar wresting team would be a must!


You can see how well it worked for them. They attacked in defence.


Te Huna is also a proud Penrith product and, within Aussie fight circles, considered one of our toughest athletes to ever compete inside a steel cage.
Better, his work with the NRL dates all the way back to 2009 when, before even entering the UFC, he was employed by the Parramatta Eels to bring some toughness to a squad that would eventually go all the way to an NRL decider.

When we used one of these guys we made it to the grand Final.


Well we need some sort wresting team that’s for sure. Te Huna sounds great but one would have to question why we are always behind the ball in these appointments. Hopefully the bloke sixties is referring to is of quality.


Thanks Sixties and Parrathruandthru for providing this report. Good to see Gutho back. I recall his form wasn’t what we would have expected early in the season. I know I questioned if he still had what it took last year. With lack of run meters, being caught out of position and just plain errors etc. Then he started to find his form at the back end of the season. I started to think the form slump was due to injury. I really hope he starts the year well (and continues). But I also hope the young guys put it on… Read more »


We will be Hunted even more this year. That’s where Hodgson comes in. To provide that experienced leader when things get tough.


Great read mate and thanks Parrathruandthru. Is there a list of players in the JETS program? Or is this in house?
I know it may be too early to say or not even possible but which players from Reggies / Flagg do you see possibly vying for NRL games next season?

Paul taylot

Brillant as always Sixties. It will be really interesting to see how Barrett changes the team and our shape with the ball. I am expecting a lot to be honest. With REED we had 20 metre passes to either MOSES or BROWN and working it from there. HODGSON brings a world class 9 who can engage the markers, bring the players onto the ball and control our ruck speed in both attack and defence. The changes will give us a different feel because Reed rarely took the line on and was targeted in defence . This bloke will have a… Read more »

Rip off

On a different note , macron ,are these the worst clothing suppliers in the clubs history , YEP ,!!!!! Terrible materials ,designs and nothing fits , everyone i know is saying the same , i will be wearing my old gear from before until macrons either gone or they get thier act together , its pure rubbish again this year , looks cheap, feels cheap but not priced cheap!! WONT BE BUYING ANYTHING !!!!!!!


Bring back the old cotton gurnsey…..!

John Eel

How long is your beard Grandpa


Agree rip off , its rubbish macron and nothing fits !!

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