Fellow Eels supporters, I am pleased to report that the beast known as “full contact opposed” has finally bared its teeth.
The final session of the week had the Eels players donning either predominantly Blue or White jerseys and absolutely ripping in for approximately half an hour of footy. And it did not disappoint.
More on that shortly.
Looking back on the week that was, the field work seemed to be preparing for a big Friday finish. Here’s how it played out.
Let’s categorise this as a skills/conditioning morning.
For much of the time, the squad was split into forwards and backs.
Some of the drills included defence line movement, carries into contact, passing, attacking shapes, kick chase, and sprints carrying the football.
The work was relentless and Elkin combined Malcolms (up/down off the ground) within some of the work.
Towards the latter part of the morning the squad worked through some sets with light contact.
It was the type of session where you walked away thinking that it was the warm up to something bigger.
Friday (See something bigger!)
Training commenced with similar skills work to Wednesday, but this was only short-lived.
The squad was soon full blast into sets of M Runs, the Friday menu item which is beloved by the players. Separated into forwards and backs, it was the usual faces dominating the conditioning.
It’s been an unwritten rule that Gutho will always lead the backs around the field, whilst this year Yates is the one that the forwards have to catch. Aside from those two, others who shone included Jake Arthur, Ethan Sanders, Mitch Moses, Haze Dunster, Josh Hodgson, Bryce Cartwright, Ky Rodwell and Nathan Brown.
Unstructured footy filled the space between M runs, and then it was on to the serious stuff.
This was full field and staged as a continuous flowing game. There were no contrived starting points or do-overs. Try conversions were also taken, giving time for typical on-field Captain/player meetings.
The absence of RCG and Junior, along with couple of players doing rehab or conditioning, meant that the likes of Momoisea, Ogden and Arthur got their chance to impress in the NRL (Blue) team.
To be fair, the dominance of the NRL team made possession a rare commodity for the NSW Cup (White jersey) side. Consequently, much of what I’ll report came from the Blue players.
* A Hodgson forced drop out was followed by a try to Hopgood in the next set after good lead up work by Lane
* Ogden, putting Moses into a hole, with the half kicking and regathering then offloading for Murchie to cross.
* Sivo picking up a bouncing pass then mercilessly smashing through the defence for a try.
* Moses going to the line and finding Murchie in support for the try.
* Moses reverse passing to Penisini to crack the line before finding Gutho in support for a long range try.
* Ogden put his hand up in a big way today. His carries were strong and his ball work complemented impressive distribution by Hopgood.
* Very strong running from Will Penisini, and his combination with Sean Russell was classy. NB – Haze is not up to full contact in his rehab as yet.
* Josh Hodgson. Enough said!
* I’m very close to locking in Matt Doorey on the right edge.
* Mitch Moses was extremely sharp and there was tremendous energy about all of his work.
* This was the most impressive session from Murchie and his claim for a top 17 spot is strengthening
A Matter of Momentum
The imbalance in possession between the NRL and NSW Cup side today was not a contrived scenario. There are occasions when the coaches throw all of the ball to one team, allowing them to work on attack and consequently the other side gets a work out in defence.
This was not the case in this opposed..
Instead, the lopsided time in possession was as a consequence of momentum.
Unfortunately, that made it very difficult to comment on the form of those wearing the white jerseys. Despite that, there were a few occasions when I instinctively exclaimed “what a hit!” whilst they were defending. But, overall the weight of possession, along with lots of questions, was simply too hard to hold out.
Please note that at the conclusion of the opposed, all of the squad finished up with defence drills.
There are some confusing stories circulating about young Eels pathways players involved in the Eels preseason.
I think it’s important to clarify the situation to cut short any ridiculous rumours.
Only two of the young pathways players are still involved in the preseason – Ethan Sanders and Jock Brazel. Charlie Guymer was training full time up to Christmas.
In these instances you can look to player development programs and contracts that stipulate a preseason as part of the plan for the player.
Outside of those players, there was a group of SG Ball and Jersey Flegg players who joined in one NRL field session per week in the period up to Christmas. They were also involved in development activities on another day and trained with the Flegg squad outside of that.
This group was primarily made up of JETS players (Junior Elite Talent Scheme) and this limited NRL preseason opportunity followed on from their 2022 training program. JETS has produced numerous NRL players in past years, but the scheme ceased due to Covid. Last year marked its re-launch.
Though I commended them as a collective, especially the energy they brought to the preseason, I did not comment on the performances of individuals from that group in my training reports. It would have been unfair given the learning curve that such young players were enjoying.
Those players have now returned to train with their respective teams ahead of either the SG Ball or Flegg seasons. Get behind those Eels age teams in 2023 as they represent the bright future of our club.
PS – Parra Leagues Members, don’t forget to vote on the proposed amalgamation with Dural Country Club, this coming Wednesday, January 18 at Parra Leagues and at Vikings. The meeting kicks off at 7pm, and you must be present to vote.