The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 6, 2023: Spinal Cohesion

For the last four seasons the Eels’ spine has been lauded as one of the strongest in the NRL. Gutherson has featured on Dally M leaderboards and earned Origin selection. Brown has matured as a five-eighth and represented the Kiwis, whilst Moses got his first taste of Origin footy and led the Lebanese team to World Cup finals footy.

So when the Eels lost Maroons fringe hooker Reed Mahoney, it’s been understandable that doubts would be raised about the relative strength of Parra’s spine. There have also been some critics who, whilst acknowledging the class of Hodgson, have predicted that his dominance in that role at the Raiders will not transfer easily to Parra and will clash with the likes of Moses and Gutho.

However, the more I see of the English rake at training, the more convinced I am that our spine will take a major step forward in 2023.

More on that later.

I can’t report on today without including an observation about the weather.

Every preseason involves battling against the heat. It’s the ritual endured by all NRL players and teams. It prepares footballers for the hot conditions of the early rounds and the questions asked toughens their mental fortitude for the season ahead.

But in all of my years reporting on Eels preseasons, I’ve never experienced one such as this. I’m struggling to think of any field session conducted up to and including today in temperatures exceeding 30 degrees.

Bizarrely, there have even been days when a jacket has been essential to wear. In all honesty, I’ve attended winter sessions much warmer than it was this morning. The wind and rain chilled me to the bone. An umbrella couldn’t prevent me from being soaked by the rain. Seriously, where is our summer?

Of course, all NSW based teams would be preparing under similar conditions. I haven’t been tracking the Melbourne or Auckland weather, but there is no way that the Queensland clubs would be avoiding the heat. Will they be at an early advantage?

I’m sure that the players would be preferring the cooler conditions, and it would be helping with recovery. Accordingly, Trent Elkin can push the conditioning a bit harder.

However, there is a need to acclimatise players for the likely warm weather we can expect during the trials and early rounds. At some point, the coaches will welcome an end to the milder weather.

Given the cooler conditions today it should come as no surprise that the M runs were a significant component of the morning. There was no easing into the work for the returning World Cup stars which now includes Will Penisini.

It also wasn’t unexpected that an extended period was spent running through unopposed sets. The standard shapes and calls require familiarisation and there are a number of players who returned either just before Christmas or this week. They need these basics.

Unfortunately, the opposed work that followed was moved to the bottom field, taking the action further away from our viewing point. This made observations in the wet conditions quite difficult.

I apologise for most of the report being very general but it was near impossible to give credit, where due, to certain individuals.

The damp ground didn’t help the handling. There was quite a bit of dropped ball during the opposed. Fortunately, the handling issues were mostly restricted to the opening ten to fifteen minutes.

At this stage, the work was very specific, with only two or three plays drilled at a time. Some of this targeted attacking shapes, other work focussed on defence following the kick, with the return starting in the quarter or from slightly further upfield.

In the latter stages of the session, the handling improved and opposed became full field with the play starting from the kick off. The level of contact was solid without being at NRL match intensity. Furthermore, the less contrived nature of this part allowed for some decision making, and a few noteworthy moments.

At the conclusion of the opposed work, the players donned jerseys (a challenging process in the rain) for defence drills. The focus was on technique rather than systems with the squad splitting into small groups to practise their tackling.

Final Notes

Josh Hodgson’s work out of dummy half is top shelf rugby league. He asks questions within his own half as well as within the opposing quarter, attacking the line.

For those concerned about how he will combine with dominant spine players like Gutho or Moses, the training track evidence thus far would eliminate any such worries.


Any suggestions that he couldn’t deliver the long pass favoured by Moses or Brown should also be ignored. When the wider pass is called, his service seems almost effortless.

I recently watched a highlights package of Hodgson identifying and isolating defenders on the line to create tries for Raiders forwards. Today I saw him do the same to put Rodwell over for a try. It looked like nothing special was happening but a perfectly delivered pass had the straight running prop crossing the line.

Hopefully the weather will be kinder next week and I will be better positioned to offer decent takes on more of the players.

Eels forever!



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Great read sixties


Hasn’t been that hot up here either 60’s, mild summer so far, cool mornings and evenings.
No advantages for the Qld boys, not sure about Townsville but I think it is mildish there by those standards, Don’t be surprised that come mid Jan and on we dont have an extended summer of extremes.

Matt Sweeney

i was very impressed with how we handled the heat v cows last year.

Matt Sweeney

yes up in cow town , not darwin. I had a season of rugby in Katherine in the late 80s. it was played in the wet season, everyday was 100 % humidity and 38 deg and we kicked off at 6pm. It was ridiculous but fun, we had superman like ability to metabolism beer and rum provided you followed every schooner with one of water. i found you definitely acclimatise to the heat after a while.

Matt Sweeney

I played for the Brahman bulls and there were 3 other teams , Tindall airforce base , the AG college and the meat workers mostly made up by Polynesians. The referring was akin to what games were adjudicated in sydney in the 70s. We had a number of aboriginal players including one who played barefoot, they didn’t come to training but had talents like David peachey.


Thx mate , it was an experience however our winger fergal ohara, who like most of our team worked 4 the dept of primary industries and fisheries often told me that I wld have to return to the territory one day to actually do the things I would tell folks when I got home that I did. There was an element of truth in it, lol. Btw sixties are u a career journo , I don’t know much about your background and I’m amazed at your commitment to the parra cause. When are they going to install you as the… Read more »


Thanks mate the more I read the more confident i feel Parramatta will be stronger next year just need some luck with injuries



Colin Hussey

Well handled and very much has the touch of class with the players, seemed to show that as the pace and play got better with the players showing up their abilities.

Good read so early on Sixties.

Martin Pluss

I enjoy the way you look at the sessions. The geographer in me liked the weather analysis and highlighting its relevance. Cheers. Martin


I am quietly optimistic and excited to watch Hodgson play this season. I always loved watching him play for the raiders and can’t wait to see what he does for us. So for the love of god don’t get injured!

Matt Sweeney

i just hope he gets some speed happening again


Great read Sixties.
Really appreciate your dedication in the terrible weather.
Those critics of Hodgson I.e. being too old and broken down injured and too big a risk. Obviously do not understand that Hodgo is an elite hooker in every respect. Hodgo, is an upgrade. As I have said a number of times; He is Steve Edge MK2.
Thanks again for your intrepid reporting.


I think he is an upgrade as well. I can imagine him moving to a mentoring/coaching position.
I imagine Rein is still in the backup hooker position?

John Eel

pete I like your Steve Edge comment. Maybe not a direct comparison but a very good one nonetheless.

Parra Pete

Ya getting me all excited again…


Be carefull Pete. You’ll end up with goose bumps

Last edited 28 days ago by HINDY111

The narrative already seems to be that the loss if Ice and Mahoney will bring Eels back into the pack (in what could be a very tight comp). As good as Ice was he was running off Mitch and if another willing accomplice can be found I suggest not much will change. As for Hodgson, if he stays fit then Parra will be a formidable side. 55 days to go till kick off!

Matt Sweeney

i just going to countdown to the trials


Mahoney was still sorting out what the 9 role needed to be at Parra, Hodgson will know and Moses will benefit. Some of Reed’s over calls last year could be seen from the grandstand because they were out of synch with the 7. One proof of an improved spine will be less wasted plays in opponents red zone. You can’t score every set but we need to increase the likelihood of doing so.


Was always frustrating after we made a break into the 20 and then see us take a settler or 2. Penrith did not do that. They made u pay.


So true


Excellent read Sixties! Your reports go a long way in warming us fans up for kick-off come March!


Always enjoy reading your reports and much appreciate your dedication regardless of weather conditions. Thank you.

Have you noticed any increase in intensity, compared to last/previous years, regarding defence? This is one aspect we need to improve on particularly if we’re to challenge Penrith and possibly go one step better this year.


Hey mate
Love what you do
Long time reader first time writing

Is paul mcgregor still on our coaching staff


Thanks mate . How about mitchell is he staying

!0 Year Member

Your a nutter…. Being out there yesterday. Our beloved nutter.


He’s no nutter as TCT Pays him well from what I hear!!

Big Derek

Hearing he received double the remuneration from last year, ummmm works out the same 😂😂😂

For most of us, it’s priceless to be kept in touch.


Hi Sixties,
I take it Moses is back. How did he look fitness wise?


Go els full support for 2023


Nice report 60’s and good to see the weather over there similar to what I’ve got here.
Great to read about the combination between the spine which is paramount to our success imo. At times last season we were sharp and others those long passes seemed to stop the pressure and allow teams to move up fast.
Yes our defence will need to be a little better in some areas.
Thanks Sixties


I feel the best thing about 23 is we have positions open. In 2023 the top 17nif all fit picked itself. Not a bad thing but not much opportunity if sitting behind the pack.
I’d say a wing spot is up for grabs, the whole bench basically and a second row spot. This can be a positive. Players will see a window.


Just a memory 60s sorry for going off track but does anyone remember the upheaval from a Cumberland oval day probably 68 or 69 Page was the referee can’t remember the exact controversy but a young bloke ran on field only to be bashed senseless buy 4 coppers meanwhile the Parramatta crowd were chanting kill the ref kill the ref next time we played Cumberland oval was covered in bibed wire we have certainly come a long way sorry to go off topic but a bit of history came




Keith page was the referee controversial in those days


Thanks mate certainly an eye opener for a 10 year old we were near the the fence I was standing up and got hit by a flying apple my mum stood up and threw it back how do you get vision of that? you tube?

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