The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 9, 2023: The Gutho, Hodgo, Hoppo Equation

How important are additions to a squad?

Every team looks to field a stronger team than the season before, so aside from player development you need the new faces.

So let’s take the simplest mathematical dive into 2023 – Josh Hodgson + J’maine Hopgood + Clint Gutherson = Stronger Attack

After watching today’s session, it’s evident that Hopgood will be the Eels version of Cam Murray. I’m not making a player to player comparison. Rather I’m looking for the best way of describing his role.

Much like Murray, he’s not a prop build playing an extra middle. But he does have the strength and agility to take on the line. And much like Murray, he looks to have a high involvement, either running the ball or being that ball playing lock who plays like an extra half.

Turning now to Hodgson, I’ve already detailed the point of difference that he provides out of dummy half. And unlike critics who are concerned that this will cause him to bump heads with the likes of Moses and Gutherson, I believe his ball play, and that of Hopgood, will complement players like Moses and the King whose greatest strengths are their running games.

But it won’t be limited to just Gutho and Moses. I believe that the Eels have added players who will help to make all those around them even better players.

I’ll share some final thoughts on this at the conclusion of this report.

In case you missed it, though I doubt you did, Dylan Brown made his return to Kellyville today. That just leaves the two bookends, Reg and Junior, as the only players missing from the Eels preseason.

Dylbags returns – image via Eels media

It was roughly a 50/50 split between conditioning and footy, in a session lasting just on 90 minutes. For this report, I’ll keep the focus on the footy.

The squad was split into two teams, Blue (mostly NRL) vs Red (mostly NSW Cup). There was some alternating of forwards between the teams, particularly the middles. Consequently the likes of Ogden, Makatoa, Greig, Murchie and Rodwell all had time in the Blue forwards. Bryce Cartwright and Matt Doorey also took turns on the right edge.

How much could be read into this?

Both starting props won’t be returning for another week or so. That means other middles need to take those spots in opposed drills. It seemed like most of the props in the squad were getting a run there today.

The other point was that the NRL focus today was the attack, whereas the NSW Cup focus was defence. Perhaps the familiarisation of roles in the shapes was extended to as many as possible.

Team meeting

My personal highlights today included:

* Will Penisini combining with Sean Russell, and the footwork of Russell to beat a number of defenders in a narrow corridor.

* J’maine Hopgood’s kick/chase on a superbly weighted Moses kick, pinning Matt Komolafe on the ten metre line with terrific initial contact.

* Hopgood, Moses and Lane linking to break the line

* Jake Arthur combining well with Moses (Brown didn’t join the opposed work this morning).

* Hodgson’s combinations with forwards such as Murchie and Greig challenging the defence

* Gutherson building his on-field rapport with Hodgson

* Gutherson’s terrific passes to create space for his wingers.

* Cartwright bamboozling the defence, and after positioning his arm for a risky offload for his support to score, wisely deciding to take the tackle.

* A brains trust discussion between BA, Baz, Gutho, Moses and Hodgson during extras.


Final Thoughts

In adding the likes of Hopgood and Hodgson, are we about to see Gutherson strike the best form of his career?

Like all fullbacks, the King enjoys linking on the edge in sweep plays, and this has created numerous try scoring opportunities for Eels wingers over the years.

However, I’ve always maintained that our captain is even more effective when he’s lurking around the ruck, either supporting line breaks or darting out of dummy half off quick play the balls.

With Hodgson’s ability to engage and isolate defenders, I’m expecting Gutho to become even more effective as an attacking fullback.

Last year he scored 15 tries and made 15 line breaks. These were the best numbers of his career. Throw in 18 try assists (his second best ever return) and those are impressive stats in a season which contained a form slump part way through the season.

Based on his elite support play, and the opportunities which will be created, I’m backing The King to have an even bigger year.

Eels forever!


If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.

82 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – January 9, 2023: The Gutho, Hodgo, Hoppo Equation

  1. Martin Pluss

    Great to this this developing.

    ”Gutherson building his on-field rapport with Hodgson”.

    cheers Martin

  2. MickB

    Good stuff 60s, thanks. Cricket now over, turning my mind more to footy. Itching for the season (albeit loving this warm weather).

    Do you have any observations around how defensively the team will work with Hodgson in the middle? Also perhaps minus Ice who had a high work rate but also seemed to get caught gassed at inopportune moments? For Hodgson I have to think his first contact in tackles will be less than Reed’s was, which is going to put more pressure on the other forwards and perhaps lead to more bench rotation. I don’t see this as a good or bad thing in and of itself, just different….. and maybe change is just what we needed to fix a few issues we’ve had in consistency defensively.

    Also any thoughts on when we hear about Moses contract outcomes? Has to be only days away now given trials are just around the corner. Maybe my wishful thinking but I can’t see the Dogs or Tigs having materially more cap space for him, and the impression I have on him is he is a genuine competitor who wants to stay at Parra.

    1. Anonymous

      He is a bigger guy so I cant see why his first contact would be inferior. He is an older guy so his work rate maybe less. Im guessing we will be carrying a hooker on the bench to compensate.

      1. sixties Post author

        Perhaps we will carry a hooker on the bench. The bench composition is possibly the most uncertain in the team.

    2. sixties Post author

      Mick, Hodgo is a much bigger body than Reed. In fact, w hen he ran near where I was one day at training I was surprised that he was nearly as tall as me. I can’t say that any dummy half wouldn’t be targeted by big forwards but I know that Reed definitely got more than his share.
      As for Moses, I honestly have heard nothing out of Parra and what I hear around social media and from people who reckon they have heard something has been wildly fluctuating. If I had to put money on it, right now I say he stays. But who knows!

    3. pete

      Hodgo is a rock solid defender. Reed might have had high work rate but was often a pinball for the big guys in opposition teams.

      1. sixties Post author

        He was incredibly brave and relentless but he was targeted, which is just what can happen with players who are smaller.

  3. HINDY111

    I hope with positions up for grabs Bryce puts his head down and trains hard. He potentially could be a great fill in for Papali’i

      1. sixties Post author

        We all have seen that capacity to create something out of nothing. It’s a matter of when to pull the trigger and when not.

    1. sixties Post author

      Thanks Colin. The more footy I see at training, the more it becomes intriguing for me to watch.

  4. Anonymous

    This is the time for Ogden, Greig and Rodwell to step up and take their opportunities. I think Ogden will lead the charge.

        1. sixties Post author

          The advantage is the range in sizes of the forwards means that Parra doesn’t have the problem it had in the past where too many of the forwards had a similar build.

        2. HINDY111

          Rodwell I don’t see as much either. I can see Tevita and Matalele go past him in pecking order this season.

  5. LSB

    Sixties, great read as always, look forward to this report every week. I will ask though, based on observations who out of the fringe middles; Ogden, Greig, Makatoa, Momoisea and Rodwell, do you see getting a bench spot? Who is standing out the most?

    Ogden and Greig I feel are big impact players for us who I hope work out.

    1. sixties Post author

      Out of those players, it could be Ogden. I think that Momoisea has dropped down the pecking order slightly since returning from the Christmas break.

  6. HamSammich

    Can’t wait to see the new recruits in action, in particular Hopgood from what I saw of him in reserves and the few times he played firsts he has the potential to be a top level ball-player; we’ll need plenty of movement with short balls around the ruck.

    As Bernie Gurr said the reason why the runner’s up generally have worse seasons is because they think what they did the previous season will work again. So many changes to our team, especially in key positions, we’ll be forced to work on new ways to win.

    1. sixties Post author

      Absolutely. It won’t be same/same Ham. Player changes, staff changes. It’s already evident.

  7. John Eel

    As has already been said on this post Hodgson is older than Mahoney and most likely won’t play as many minutes or make as many tackles.

    However, I expect that Hodgson’s first-touch efforts will be more effective. Mahoney due to his size was not as effective on the first man in tackle as he needed to be.

    The big positive for me when I first heard of his recruitment was his ball play around the ruck. Sixties commentary around that part of his play is giving me plenty to look forward to for the upcoming season.

    1. Anonymous

      JH might be a definite threat out of dummy half but also a genuine turnstile, which goes a long way to explain why Canberra had a better win rate with Hodgson sitting on the sidelines than when he played.
      So glad we got Hopgood, with so many power forwards and a downgrade defensively at hooker. He’s just what the doctor ordered

      1. Big Derek

        That’s a strange comment given Hodgson s tackle efficiency was basically the same as Mahoney. Yes Reed got to a lot of tackles but became a bit of a speed hump due to his size.

        Think we will be pleasantly surprised with Hodgo.

        1. Anonymous

          The only time their tackle efficiency were similar was for a few rounds last year when Reed came back from shoulder surgery

          1. sixties Post author

            Hodgson had one anomalous year where his tackle efficiency was poor, but he didn’t play many games that year. The last full season for both players was very similar percentages.

        2. sixties Post author

          There were some games last season where the opposition really worked Reed over, I think more so than in previous seasons.

  8. N. SENADA

    I still have not recovered emotionally from Isaiah P leaving us. How much will we miss him? One of our most consistent for the last two years…

    1. sixties Post author

      I didn’t expect him to leave, but he has. Doorey is a not too dissimilar build.
      By the way, Ice played his best footy with us. We can rattle off so many others who have done the same since linking with Parra from elsewhere. Moses, Gutho, Reg, Lane for starters. Have faith in our processes.

      1. BDon

        Sixties, a different perspective, researching Ice when he signed indicated he had pedigree and a re-set was going to finally bring that out(or not). Same with Hopgood,research shows he has pedigree, initially developed in Rugby League heartland, Queensland,then to the elite Panthers system, but unlike Ice, his star has risen gradually in top development company.New landscape,time to deliver, I’m betting he will. The more I think about it, it is probably Marata we will miss, but really I got the impression in 2022 that he levelled out, probably injury/suspension didn’t help.

        1. sixties Post author

          BDon, I am a huge Marata fan. We championed him for a debut when he smashed his first season at Wenty. He was our fear factor after Manu Ma’u left and possessed impressive utility value. But I don’t think I’m being harsh in saying that 2022 was Marata’s least effective year.

          1. N. SENADA

            Marata was strange last season. Not terrible by any means but the ridiculous intensity and intimidation was no longer there

      2. N. SENADA

        Sixties, Brad Arthur has a great record of getting players from other clubs to improve, absolutely I have faith in whatever is in place at the Eels. Fingers crossed for the likes of Hopgood and Doorey. But in particular I am keen to see how we go with Josh Hodgson. I am a fan. Tough, but also lots of intelligence about his play

        1. sixties Post author

          HN, I believe that is an aspect of BA’s coaching that he never gets enough credit for. Though the Eels absolutely recognise his value in that regard.

  9. Tpol

    Not much words in matto.

    If hopgood is training at lock, where is matto training

    Do u think hopgood is a better ball player than matto

    1. Mick

      This is going to be a dilemma Tpol, Hopgood is an 80min player, would be wasted on the bench. Matto played his best footy coming off the bench last season. I think Matto will be on the bench when he returns, when he comes on, I’m not sure what role he will have. This time last season, everyone knew what our team and bench would be, now, we have at least 10 players vying for 6 positions, right edge, lock and 4 man bench.

        1. Mick

          Totally agree sixties but, who does he replace?.
          Last season Matto was a straight swap for Nuikori. I think Hopgood is too good to replace, either Hopgood replaces Jnr or RCG, or Matto comes on for one of them. Overall, it’s a good problem to have.

          1. sixties Post author

            It will be interesting because when Matto replaced Marata he stayed on for 60 minutes.

          2. HamSammich

            We only have to make up 240 minutes in the middle. Reg and Junior account for 100, Matto usually plays 60, Hopgood will be somewhere between 60-80 each week you’d imagine. We’ll just need someone who can play 20-30 minutes each week off the bench in the middle.

            We may even go with 2 utilities off the bench, someone who can cover 1-7 and then someone who can cover 8-13?

          3. sixties Post author

            That’s what will be so interesting about this year. So many possibilities. And whether we reduce the minutes of Junior and Reg. Do we want to reduce them?

          4. HamSammich

            I hope not. They’re 2 of the best props in the game, they can handle 50 minutes each week

          5. Milo

            Hi Sixties I think some reduced mins for them may occur at times as it will also depend on where we play and who of course. It would be good to have 3 forwards on bench including one who can play possibly backs and a dummy half as well who can also move to 7/6 if needed.
            I also think the move for Lane at times to play middle may occur if needed and Matto of course.
            We need one benchy to do 20 mins hard and with impact.

          6. sixties Post author

            The Lane situation is interesting mate. It seemed like he was destined for the middle but his consistent impact on the left edge last season was unexpected. There are a number of players in the squad who can play both middle or edge. Do you think Lane has now deferred that move to the middle?
            I think we need cover for 9, but maybe BA has other plans.

          7. Milo

            Thanks mate, I think Lane is so versatile he could fill in for 20 mins as a prop and also his devastating edge play. For example, he could be v good close to the line with Hodgson hitting him well, and also as decoy plays too.

          8. Milo

            Mick, can i ask everyone here something about Matto? He seems to be on v good $$$ for his contract, now is this money worth him coming off the bench each week?
            Don’t get me wrong he was v good last season but i think we may need him to play more mins than 2022.

          9. HamSammich

            Doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench, Matto plays minimum 60 minutes a week. The thought that the bench is a demotion or lesser than starting is antiquated

    2. sixties Post author

      Matto wasn’t doing any opposed work. I’ll start giving updates on him when his opposed work starts.

      1. Anonymous

        Thanks. U would think matto is in front of hopgood. He’s much more experienced.

        Though his ability to play edge and middle is a benefit.

        It will be a dilemma upon his rwturn.

        Sixties, i think dyl should be in that discussion that involved ba, barrett, moses, guth and hodgo. No point leaving one of your most expensive long term and spine player out of thoses discussions

  10. The Badger

    Really keen on seeing Hopgood in real action for us and I like the Murray type player comparison. Pretty sure he’ll become our starting 13 with Matterson off the bench.

    1. sixties Post author

      Asi was at centre yesterday. NB Waqa didn’t do the opposed yesterday. Yes, there have been photos on the Eels site of Lumelume training with them.

  11. Milo

    Great read Sixties again. I like the sound of Hopgood and the comparison here as this can allow Matto and Lane to play in designated roles but also move positions if needed.
    Designated dummy half for me is a must and someone who could slot in to half or move Hodgson there if we need. I think this is needed more so for defence.

    1. sixties Post author

      Managing Hodgson might be in the plans this year but who knows. Do they manage him via game time or at training. A number of veteran players over the years train differently, but I haven’t seen evidence of this in the preseason. Hodgo looks as fit as anyone.

      1. Milo

        Agreed and recently listened to Bellamy on a podcast which was done a few yrs ago and he did the same with Smith in terms of less training but this was more so when Smith was in his last yr or two.

      1. HINDY111

        Thanks. I’ll be interested to see how he goes. If everyone’s fit the NSW cup forward pack might be hard to get a spot. Dylan gave YATES a big wrap.
        Also interested to see if Larry gets a run in NSW CUP.

      1. sixties Post author

        Injuries weren’t kind to him. He finished on a positive by playing for Italy in the World Cup.

  12. Ron

    I’m hoping nathan brown leaves and tapau joins. That will mean we have a much stronger bench than last year and save some coin for parra.

    Also, how long is Ethan sanders signed for? Hoping parra have been smart to sign him up and keep him away from other clubs desperate to throw money at parra juniors because Their own development is piss weak (cough bulldogs cough).

    Thanks as always for the report!

  13. Paul Taylor

    Great report as usual legend. I am thinking much the same as you. Hopgood has a big engine, very good with ball in hand, and all the tickers to be a MURRAY or YEO clone. The advantage for our game is that Hodgson will isolate the markers and bring the runners on to the ball which drags in A and B defenders better than Reed who relied on his 20 metre pass. This added attention around the ruck will isolate LANE, MATTERSON and MURCHIE more one on one territory. GUTHO trailing like a slow Teddy through the middle will be awesome.

    Excited this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: