The Cumberland Throw

Junior Representative Trials Report – January 14, 2023: Parramatta Eels vs Bulldogs

We didn’t have to wait too long for the first taste of rugby league in 2023 as the Parramatta Eels hosted the Canterbury Bulldogs at Kellyville across a trio of Junior Representative trials.

Young men and women from the Tarsha Gale, Harold Matthews and SG Ball squads looked to push their claims for spots in the final rosters as the mercury rose. There was the usual preseason rust you associate with trials but that was balanced with some impressive passages of play from both Parramatta and Canterbury.

The Bulldogs proved to be worthy competitors and would wind up winning the day with strong victories in the Tarsha Gale and SG Ball while the Eels hit back with a resolute win of their own in the Harold Matthews. As with any trial you loathe to put too much stock into either a win or a loss but let’s see what we learned about Parramatta’s three Junior Representative squads this weekend.


Tarsha Gale


Perhaps of all the Junior Representative squads the Tarsha Gale might have the highest expectations leveraged upon them this year. After a breakout campaign in 2022 where they were narrowly pipped by the Newcastle Knights in the Grand Final Qualifier, a host of returning players are set to form an experienced and talented core for the Eels to hopefully go a step or two further.

On Saturday however they were outmatched by a Bulldogs squad that was legitimately impressive between the speed of their ball movement and the aggressiveness of their defence. The final score of 8 tries to 1 featured a number of botched scoring opportunities for the Blue & Gold but was also reflective of just how well the Bulldogs played across the park in the trial.


Parramatta’s lone try came in the second half from some great vision by Tallarra Bamblett as she stabbed an attacking kick crossfield to hit, if I am not mistaken, Stelnina Pritchard right on the badge in the left corner. Left centre Caitlin Peardon nearly had the Eels on the board much earlier though with a perfectly timed angled run down the left that put her into open space but alas her final pass to a support player was dropped. There were a couple of other scoring opportunities missed courtesy of mistimed or dropped final passes – the sort of thing you expect in a trial to be honest – but perhaps it stands out more this weekend simply in contrast to how impressive the Bulldogs were on the day.

Mele Akau’ola Laula battled fiercely through the ruck in the opening exchanges against the torrent that was the Bulldogs forwards while Lindsay Tui showed some aggression in defence from right centre but opportunities to impress in possession for everyone were somewhat scarce given the stranglehold the Bulldogs maintained on possession and territory.

Still, Doueihi and Bamblett did ask some questions of the visitors at various junctures with their ability to run. This was offset by lack of rhythm for the team coupled with the sheer aggression of Canterbury’s defence meaning that Parramatta weren’t really able to build pressure.

The loss obviously leaves the Eels with plenty to work on ahead of the season launch of the 4th of February.

As for Canterbury, they were faster on both sides of the ball and showed great physicality in their goal line opportunities.

It is far from doom and gloom for Parra given that trials are run explicitly for these kind of tune-ups. The Eels have both the talent and the experience in their ranks this year to sort themselves out but the loss to the Bulldogs is a timely reminder of the rising level of competition in the Tarsha Gale Cup.


Harold Matthews


With a final score line of (again, if I am not mistaken from my notes on a sizzling hot day!) 7 tries to 4 in favour of the Eels, it is pretty easy to see why this was the most impressive outing for the club on the weekend. Parramatta were the tone-setters in this contest and utterly dominated the first half as they ran in 5 unanswered tries.

It all started in the forwards where Mikayel Tito, Jordan Uta, Tyson Sangalang and Jezaiah Funa-Luta laid down the law with punishing carries and withering hits on defence. The rest of the team quickly tapped into that energy with none doing it better than halfback Lorenzo Talataina and dummy half Zaidas Muagututia. The Eels’ halfback proved to be a constant menace on and off the ball as he popped up absolutely everywhere while Zaidas looks to have settled in at dummy half quicky this year after covering a wide range of positions in 2022 as the bench utility.

The backline produced a healthy blend of explosive plays and classy touches with centre pairing of Lucius Muliga and Lachlan Vella providing the former and winger Dom Farrugia and fullback Corey Leigh the latter. Outside of some handling errors around the ruck it was quite difficult to fault the starting roster. The intensity and aggression was top notch and will make them a difficult outfit to knock over if they can produce both consistently.

There were notable performances beyond the starters as well. Anthony Abdow, Ocean Vaivela, Logan Huia and Jack Nicholas were among those to make an impression. Each added something a little different with Abdow bringing the work rate, Vaivela the impact, Huia the impressive communication from fullback and Nicholas the man on the spot with two tries.

It is only the first impression and as we well know plenty can change through a campaign but the Harold Matthews look to be quite a well-rounded squad as we begin the turn to the season proper.


SG Ball


The busy day of football concluded with the Bulldogs prevailing over the Eels in the SG Ball 6 tries to 2. Canterbury proved to be too good as they found consistent success initially down our left edge and then through the middle on the goal line. In retrospect mind you, it is something of a difficult game to evaluate for the Eels. While Canterbury were the better team the Blue & Gold came into this encounter with a lot to learn with a number of players making transitions to new roles.

Charlie Guymer is a prime example as the former centre embraces a move into the backrow in 2023. There were clearly some flashes on class in his touches and involvements but so too were there errors and coping with the burden of a far more hands-on role at lock forward. Guymer wasn’t the only young Eel to have changed roles since we last wrote about them.


With Matt Arthur out of this trial, Pat Spence (former fullback) and Dom De Stradis (former backrow) shared the responsibilities at dummy half and could give Parramatta one of the more unique and flexible platoons at rake in the competition.

As much as the SG Ball clearly work to do before the season kicks off they could have something cooking with their middle forward rotation. Sam Tuivati is a prospect that we have lavished praise on in recent times and he looks set to keep raising the bar this year. Pleasingly though was his running mate in Lance Fualema who was ripping in on both sides of the ball before a possible cork put him on ice prematurely.

Kobi Hurford made a splash from the bench at lock and sparked Parramatta’s second try with a combination of strong running and his ability to ball play deep into the line. The other big bopper to impress was Jack Burrows at prop. Burrows stands among the tallest players in the squad and looks built to match. As Guymer grows increasingly comfortable in his role these five forwards could give the Eels a formidable rotation through the ruck.

It is worth mentioning that Parramatta were not at full strength for this trial with Matt Arthur, Blaize Talagi, Richard Penisini, Luke Maroun and new recruit LeBron Tuala among the players not available. There is no doubt that they will be better for the run and have talent still to return, but they will be looking to sharpen up across the park in their next trial.

In the shortened junior rep competitions, sluggish starts to the season can cost vital competition points and ultimately finals berths.


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17 thoughts on “Junior Representative Trials Report – January 14, 2023: Parramatta Eels vs Bulldogs

  1. sixties

    I was stunned by the performance of the Bulldogs Gale team. They ran harder than any Gale team I can remember and their skill set and execution was extraordinary.

  2. pete

    Great report Forty20.
    Interesting the Bulldogs Tarsha Gale put it in us.
    We as a club need to become the dominant force in Sydney’s west. We cannot let the Bulldogs get on top of us!

    1. Big Derek

      I’ve been around junior reps for over 30 years, my son and grandson played. It’s always the same , first trial agst the Dogs and they come out fired up and somewhat better prepared playing basically their whole squad. Eels tend to play mixture of possibles and probables and to be honest most years the Dogs win the trials by at least a few tries, on Saturday they were more polished and ran great lines. The actual rep season may well turn out to be different.

      More concerned with the first few weeks of the comp itself, that’s when you see the strength of the squads.

      1. sixties

        That is true, but that Gale performance from the Dogs was next level Derek.
        Those first few weeks are the make or break – you can’t drop points there.

    2. sixties

      Pete, as Derek said,the Dogs usually fire up for the trials. But also as I said to Derek, the Gale performance was something else and I’d expect them to be right up there based on that. Seen very few performances better than that, even allowing for it to be a trial.

      1. Big Derek

        Should have made the comment about the Matt’s and Ball trials as wasn’t there early enough to see the Tarsha Gale girls play, sorry of that wasn’t clear.

  3. HamSammich

    Big year for all 3 grades. Tarsha Gale are coking off their best ever season and need to back up. Harold Matts have a lot of returning players who will be better off for the hard year they had last year. And SG Ball may have a completely new spine depending on which players move up to Jersey Flegg. Can’t wait to see their progress.

  4. Milo

    Thanks Forty, great report and good to see some good performances. Not much to be worried abt as it’s a trial and some players to come back.

    1. sixties

      Milo, we saw enough to be positive about the year, but also acknowledging a couple of very good Dogs teams.

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