The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 4, 2023: First Day Back Mini Report

The first day back in the New Year requires a dedicated post, but given that there was a minimal footy component, I’ve decided to make this short and sweet.

Firstly, the main question on everyone’s lips would be, “Who’s back on deck now?”.

Besides all of those who were at work prior to Christmas, today saw the return of Mitch Moses, Maika Sivo, Makahesi Makatoa and Nathan Brown.

That just leaves Dylan Brown, Will Penisini, Junior Paulo and RCG to make their first appearance for the preseason.

On that note, both Moses and Nathan Brown looked to be in outstanding shape. In fact, it’s probably the best that I’ve seen Brown look on the first day of the preseason.

Should anything be read into the presence of Brown?

It’s actually quite straight forward. Nathan Brown is contracted at Parramatta until he’s not. The Eels have been paying his contract since November 1. Should he move, over one sixth of his contract coin for 2023 has already been accounted for, reducing the bill for any other club. If he stays, then he’s simply undertaking a typical preseason to prepare himself for 2023 with the Eels.

One other point on Brown. As he was warming up, BA came over to him and they chatted. It all looked very jovial as both seemed to enjoy a bit of a laugh about something.

If Brown moves on, the situation is not unlike what unfolded with Corey Norman. Back at the end of 2018, it was rumoured that Norman was being offered to other clubs. Before Christmas, the strong mail was that a deal had been done with the Dragons.

Despite that, Norman fronted for every training session, and was even a bit of a mentor for Dylan Brown. He put in just as strongly as ever in every conditioning run and every field session. The only occasion when he took time away from the group was in the final session of the year – an open fan day.

By then, his move to St George was a done deal. Yet he participated in that final session of the season, only stepping away from signing autographs (for obvious reasons).

A major part of today’s session was conditioning work. There’s no need to go into details of how that was structured, just know that they did a lot of running. Even the ball work was conducted as the typical run/pass that you see when NRL teams warm up n the field.

Naturally Gutho set the tone in this work, with no surprise that Jake Arthur and Jayden Yates were also strong. Throw in the Nathan Brown (hence my comments), Bryce Cartwright, Mitch Moses and Josh Hodgson and I’ve covered a number of, though probably not all, the players to catch the eye for effort.

The only footy component of the morning was unopposed, as the squad split into rough NRL/NSW Cup sides and worked through their sets. Given the players who have been absent to now, or until just before Christmas, it didn’t surprise to see them continuing to familiarise the squad with some of the changed shapes.

My last observation to share is that as Simonsson and Dunster continue their rehab, Sean Russell is assuming the right wing role. This is no surprise as it’s simply a continuation of what transpired throughout November and December.

Though there’s never any guarantees when a player is in rehab, I would expect Simonsson to be close to right by Round 1 or even the trials. If so, he comes into calculations as a winger or centre.

A fit Simonsson puts BA in the situation of choosing between him and Russell for an NRL spot. If Russell gets the nod, it means Blake plays centre. If Simonsson gets the nod, Russell misses out and then BA’s decision then becomes whether to play Blake or Simonsson at centre, with the one missing out being expected to play on the wing. 

Eels forever!


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53 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – January 4, 2023: First Day Back Mini Report

  1. HINDY111

    I looged on to ask about where Waqa will play. I prefer him at centre. Funny that you bought it up. He is a talented player but many fans seem to of turned on him and become a scapegoat.

    1. sixties Post author

      He’s a confidence player. If he starts well he keeps going well. He had a tough finals match vs the Riff and it just got uglier the longer the match went.

      1. Matt Sweeney

        Gotta a love an unexpected mini training report. Good stuff sixties.
        some years ago manu vatuvei and I think it might of been against us at parra had a diabolical night under the high ball, I see no reason why wonga cant recover in the fine style manu did. however lets not tempt fate and get him into the centres where he is more effective and comfortable.

        1. sixties Post author

          I remember that night against the Warriors. My mate TrouserEel did his best to remind Vatuvei after every dropped ball.

          1. sixties Post author

            It was a hilarious night. He began working on him before the first error, literally at the kick off. Reminding him that he was going to drop the ball tonight. And with every error he ran to the railing of the stand to add another reminder. The crowd were in stitches.

          2. John Eel

            I think it was the North East corner of the Parramatta stadium.

            A chant broke out from the Eels supporters, “kick it to Vatuvei”

      1. sixties Post author

        That was just me working out who was yet to return based on my recall of the World Cup finals – I forgot Will!!!

  2. pete

    Great read Sixties.
    Exciting times. Russell and Dunster are extremely unlucky for missing most of last year through being victims of foul play. I’m not sure if there is a better way to compensate players for such instances. Jayden Campbell can consider himself very lucky indeed.
    BA as you say is very loyal. So he’ll probably give Waqa every chance to redeem himself as he did with Ray Stone. But when all are fully fit again we will be in a much better position than last season.
    Can’t wait for the next report.

          1. BDon

            Hindy, I didn’t think he was a weak defender, I thought the minutes he played sometimes brought on fatigue or concentration lapse, things where Lane showed definite improvement over the seasons. I think we”ll see Hopgood gradually convince us he has a big motor, resilience and toughness, ie Papali’i covered.

  3. Ron

    Great review as always. Just one thing – where is Will penisini? Surely he would have had to report when Moses etc did?

    Here’s to parra going one better in 2023

    1. Achilles' Eel

      You mean the defensive winger in the second photo that sees Josh Hodgson picking up the ball at dummy-half? Now surely he looks more like Semi Radradra!

  4. Offside

    It’s a forgone conclusion that Brown will be gone but part of me hopes he stays even though he is low on the pecking order he still could come in handy.

    I think Sean Russell could be the breakout player i worry Hayze may of fallen behind to many players and might spend more time in Reggie’s then he’d like

    1. sixties Post author

      Offside, I also think it’s a foregone conclusion, but if a player busts their arse in their prep they get my respect.

    1. sixties Post author

      Looked like a normal training session from him. A bit of banter with Gutho. Worked hard in what was mostly con stuff.

      1. Poppa

        Thanks for that report 60’s, could ask for no more at this stage of the resumption…’s the facility at Kellyville looking, assuming the progressive development is on going.
        Do the players have good facilities now or are demountables and the like still in use.
        I ask this question as apparently Wests have made a big deal about their facility and it appears to be a selling point for them?

          1. Poppa

            Maybe there is an opportunity there for you
            “parrathreadafew” maybe something to hang your hat on?……don’t forget we have women’s teams now?

        1. sixties Post author

          Poppa, the construction of the main facility at Kellyville is planned to start in May/June. That’s the grandstand and match dressing rooms, community centre and the Centre of Excellence main building.
          Roght now they aren’t in demountables, that’s what they were in at Saleyards. The current buildings are “modular buildings”. The facilities for the players to train in are very good. A large gym, dressing shed, players lounge and kitchen, lecture/meeting room, physio rooms, coaching staff offices, administration offices etc. There are also five full size fields. It is a quantum leap from Saleyards and it’s embarrassing to think that within the last decade we were still training out of Richie Benaud Oval.
          What Kellyville lacks right now is any spectator facilities as well as decent dressing sheds for staging lower grade games. Remember, the goal is that this will be the home of all levels of the Eels club, meaning games at every level below NRL could be staged there. Hence the grandstand is a significant part of the development.
          Currently, for the four main fields, there is only a single hill to sit on, no fencing around the field and the public toilets and match change sheds are in demountables. All of the planned construction will service these four fields.
          The fifth field stands on its own. It has a small brick amenities building (including canteen and toilets), some fencing, and limited seating.

          1. Poppa

            Thanks for that Craig, living up here but once being a kellyville resident for a short time when I was 18 brings back many memories and I am looking forward as a proud Parra man to it becoming an iconic set up.
            It’s part of the dream I have for Parra to finally full fill its potential and rightful place as the leading sports club in the country and that includes becoming the number one NRL team in the competition/world.

            Yes I live in Brisbane but you can take the boy out of the city but the heart will always remain.

          2. sixties Post author

            It will be quite the set up. People were disappointed, some even upset, that the training and admin moved out of Parra to the Hills district. There were even bizarre theories that it was BA’s doing. However, they did initially try to get a long term lease and development of Saleyard. But when that didn’t get through the opportunity to get the space at Kellyville arose with a council that supported development plans. And the space there dwarfs Saleyards. It’s just massive.

  5. HINDY111

    Where do you think Bryce may figure as far as round one goes. 2ould like to see him given a good run in NRL nad not just 10 mins here and there.

  6. Chris Stone

    Great write up 60s and gang. Nice to mention Norman’s honourable traits. I for one gave him a lot of stick at Dragons but the bloke i think was a character every teams wants a bit of. Really hopeful about Russell he has a bit of a young guru in him. Also looking forward to seeing him develop alongside Jake Arthur.

    Would like to know how much their burning after losing the GF. I think this team is getting mentally stronger I can only hope.

    Also whats the go with Matto? Surely the NRL arent going to not let him play the first 3 rounds of whatever? this must be effecting BA’s plan somewhat for the start of our season? Having Matto in question isnt good for our prep.

    1. sixties Post author

      Chris, I have been trying to dig for an answer but as far as I’ve been able to determine, the appeal has yet to be determined.

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