The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 16 to 20, 2023: Who Passes The Audition?

A wise man said to me, “what most people call the preseason, I call the audition”.

If ever that applies to a season then it’s this year for the Eels, especially when it comes to filling the holes in the pack and bench after last year’s departures.

By mid January in any year I feel confident that I can pick the Eels top 17 for Round 1. This is based on my observations of team selections in opposed sessions.

At this point the “auditions” have typically wrapped up and there is a consistency in who BA plays together, with maybe one spot in doubt and up for grabs in the trials.

This season has been somewhat harder to predict. Every time I think it’s clear, the next session produces a new contender.

At the start of the preseason, backline, pack and bench spots were there for the taking, and now, at the very least, some bench spots still remain undecided. Interestingly, that opportunity to push for bench selection has resulted from the absence of Parra’s starting props for most of the preseason.

This week marked the first appearance of Junior and Reg at preseason training. Prior to that it was a rotating cast of middle forwards being given their auditions.

Wiremu Greig, Ofahiki Ogden, Ky Rodwell, Jack Murchie and Makahesi Makatoa have been sharing time with top 17 certainties in Hopgood and Matterson.

Others who could play a middle part such as Momoisea or Cartwright have found themselves pushing for a role on an edge.

Locking in Hopgood (pun intended) at 13, then Junior, Reg, Hodgo, Lane and Doorey as the others in the starting pack, along with Matto as a bench middle, the rest of the interchange battle becomes interesting. And if Matto misses those first three rounds, there’s even more at stake.

In my opinion there are spots that still can be won at training and in the trials. The opposed sessions therefore take on even greater importance this preseason, and there aren’t many left. The battle is heating up.

There was a change up to training this week, which resulted in my decision to make it a single report overview. I’m certainly not any clearer on selections after the last seven days.

Monday – Members Open Training Session

A mix of conditioning, skills work, and light opposed was provided for the fans who fronted in quite large numbers. People travelled from far and wide for this event and the cheers for tries scored provided a fun atmosphere for training.

One of the autograph queues

From my perspective, there wasn’t much for me to learn. Therefore, there’s little to report.

The squad was sharp with their ball work, and in the light opposed hit out the NRL team put on an entertaining show, scoring numerous tries with Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson looking particularly good.

Welcome back

Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard made their first appearance at Kellyville and Junior looks like he’s been adhering to whatever program had been set for him. Reg returned in typical fashion, and as per usual will hit the required markers in no time.


Look out, here comes Ky Rodwell. More on that shortly.

The footy came very late in the morning, with most of the session being dedicated to conditioning and skills. This time it was backs and edges working in one group whilst all of the middles worked in the other.

Defence was a priority as was passing, ruck combinations and footwork. Those dreaded Malcolms found their way into the drills, adding a tougher edge to the conditioning work.

The tackle bags getting a work out

In the contact opposed component of the morning, Rodwell was very effective.  I had overlooked his claims for an NRL spot in the lead up to this week, and yet here he was in the thick of the action for the Blue team. He was ably supported by Jack Murchie who continues to impress with his powerful carries.

Junior and Reg seem to have familiarised themselves with the new faces quite quickly. Considering the number of those new faces, there is a great cohesion within the pack, and for that I think we should praise Josh Hodgson.

Even at training, our new dummy half commands attention. At times I found myself watching what he was doing rather than the whole picture of shapes, lines and dummy runs. If I was defender, and especially a fullback, I couldn’t pick where he was going to send the attack.

Hodgo’s pass to create a try for Momoisea on the left edge was a thing of beauty. It was a simple pass to a power runner, but the way he isolated the defender was classic Hodgson.

The other player deserving of a mention was Toni Mataele. In an attacking play, the rising young back rower broke through the NRL defence line, something of a rarity this preseason. His development contract precludes early season NRL selection but keep an eye on his progress.


I was unable to attend Friday’s training so my thanks are extended to Parrathruandthru for these notes.

Unlike the big contact of the previous Friday, BA wrapped up this week with a session which was big on conditioning but light on physicality.

A number of players were absent, so perhaps it was a matter of workload management for certain individuals. Let’s call that the art of the preseason, knowing when and who to rest or push at different points of the summer.

Throughout the morning the players alternated between M runs and games of touch footy. The action was fast but the only genuine physicality came towards the latter part of the session when the focus shifted to defensive technique.

No opposed contact work meant no real auditions and ultimately no further clues to the coaches’ thinking.

A snap of Hodgson, why not! (Image via Eels media)

Just 8 or 9 field sessions are available for the players to push their claims before the first trial. If the Eels travel their usual path, we’ll see some NRL stars in their first trial against Penrith on February 11, and an NRL dress rehearsal in the second trial against the Knights on February 17.

I’ll go out on a limb before the trials and post my round one team list prediction.

Stand by for my notes on Parra’s final trials in the Junior Reps. The Eels took on the Panthers this weekend at Windsor. It’s been a busy week but I’ll be aiming to finish my report as soon as possible.

Eels forever!


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84 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – January 16 to 20, 2023: Who Passes The Audition?

  1. Martin Pluss

    Many thanks. It is impressive to see the impact of internal competition on the ‘audition’. It holds players and coaches accountable, raises the bar and elevates the threshold of whole team performance.

  2. Shaun

    Some seem disappointed that the Eels did not get Tapou. And while he may have been a nice addition to the pack he wasn’t an essential but. I know this is just the preseason but the forward depth looks good. Good to see RCG back to deliver on his promise to be a first try scorer in 2023. 40 days to go!

    1. Clive

      I actually feel someone like Tapou was very important to get. BA has shown that he doesn’t trust our bench props to play an important role which allowed opposition forwards to tee off on Reg and Junior. I don’t think anyone can argue that come finals time our props were dominated by the Panthers props in pretty convincing fashion.

      Maybe with a seasoned first grader like Tapou BA might be inclined to share the workload more evenly.

      1. Spark

        I was pretty disappointed to be honest and no doubt the funds are still mixed up with what Moses is doing. I have always thought that Marty would have added a great deal with his second phase off loads and he will be an excellent addition to the Broncos. Surprised that he only accepted a one year deal there and I suppose there is a distant chance that he could accept a one year deal in 2024 with us but it’s a remote possibility.

      2. Anonymous

        I agree that Spencer, leota and even kenny who’s not big just bashed us in the gf. Oregon , marata didn’t offer much. Just I don’t think an ageing Marty T was going to solve much , he got manhandled a bit in the wc.

    2. pete

      I think he went to the highest bidder. So in that respect I’m not worried. Carl Webb rings a bell on that front.
      Wiremu, Ogden, Rodwell and Makatoa are going to have to step up. And the new guys will also get a shot. So I’m still confident of an improvement in their ranks.

    3. Anonymous

      Mostly people moan when we sign a 33 year now they are complaining that we didn’t. We have Ogden and Greig who could actually have future with us and have a point to prove.

  3. HINDY111

    Been checking each night for a report. You kept us waiting all week 60s.
    The forward pack for NSW cup looks quite strong. I feel nearly everyone of them would be capable of a bench spot.
    I’m hoping Tevita can push hard cause he looks a bit of a roughly to me. Maybe needs a little more power but a great work rate.

    1. sixties Post author

      Sorry mate, it’s been a hectic week away from footy. I didn’t mention Taumoepenu because like Mataele he’s not eligible for early season selection and therefore has not been getting a run in the NRL colours.

      1. HINDY111

        All good. I enjoy the reports.
        Will we now hold onto N.Brown? And I believe we still have 1 or 2 top 30 spots. Will they be filled internally?

          1. LSB995

            Would you have any idea of who the recruits could be or where they could come from or even what position they could be?

            And could those recruits be at the club by Round 1?

          2. TolEels

            I was also at the Fans day last Monday. We were all wondering where NBrown was since he was not in the signing tables. A bit suprised to find him standing outside, away from the ‘occassion’. He was good enough to sign some for the kids and other fans who saw him outside. We took it as a sign that he is really on the outer (pun intended).

          3. sixties Post author

            I think that’s how it is. I remember when Corey Norman was leaving, he was excused from signing duties at the open day, which was actually his last ever training session with Parra.

      1. HINDY111

        I heard from someone in the know with the Panthers set up suggesting Eels will be strong in ball this year and have some talented kids.

  4. Greg Dowden

    Personally i didnt want Taupau. We dont need another Carl Webb. Im not sure Doorey will be 12. Id play Hopgood 13 and maybe Murchie at 12? Surely Momoisea and Murchie deserve 1st crack Doorey came in late? For me the bench 14 Asi 15 Doorey 16 Makatoa 17 Ogden

      1. Steele

        Hi 60’s, thanks for the reports and all you guys do.

        A question: I remember a couple of years ago when ice first arrived, you tipped him (and rightly so) for a huge first year based on efforts, collisions and line runs.

        What can you tell us about Doorey? To build our confidence that He will slip into that edge and 1 provide a decent attacking threat & 2 take care of Moses.

        Personally, I’d be inclined to play matto on the edge for 80…hopgood at 13 and sub him if needed later in the game – nbrown (if staying) or Murchie could both handle some time at lock from the bench….

        Thanks 😃

        1. sixties Post author

          Cheers Steele. Doorey is just incredibly powerful. In his carries and defence. And best of all, I’m hearing how highly he’s rated by his team mates. Also bear in mind that my tips on where I see a player being selected is based on what I see them doing in that spot in opposed work.

    1. pete

      Agree…Carl Webb lol
      Manly didn’t offer enough. So he went to the highest bidder. So we can’t be disappointed by that.

      1. Tanky

        I trust your judgement mate but on the radio this morning Peter Peters who is not always on the money said the longer the Moses negotiations drag on the less likely he will say I hope you’re right mate my gut feeling is he will stay also

  5. pete

    Good read Sixties.
    I really can’t understand why so many hated on Hodgos signing? (Not on this site) They said he’s too old, busted and can’t tackle. Some even said he hogs the ball. Lol.
    The Steve Edge MK2 will be our MVP this year. Ken Thornett medal and Dally M hooker on the way to the title!!
    Go Eels!!

    1. sixties Post author

      Pete, I don’t get the “hogs the ball” takes. He had to be more of a playmaker at the Raiders due to their issues in the halves. To be honest, Moses and Gutho already look better due to his presence.

          1. pete

            He will. He’s had a full year of rehabilitation. Rehab is different from a few years ago. He’ll be fine Hindy111.
            His value off the field has already paid dividends and Rein, Hands and Yates would be learning heaps of such a an experienced 9.

          2. sixties Post author

            I wish I could express how different we look around him at training. Of course, it has to translate to matches, but geez I enjoy watching how he works in that role

    2. John Eel

      Loving your confidence Pete. I hope Hooper does not read this site. He would be apoplectic reading your praise of Hodgson.

      He is the commentator who said the Eels had fallen off a cliff at the backend of 2020 and hasn’t changed his opinion.

  6. LSB995

    Great read Sixties. In the photo above, who is at centre between Sivo and Lane? I know Blake is out with a broken arm at the moment so wondering who that was. From the back it looks like Dunster but not sure if they would put Dunster at Centre at this point in time.

    Also, could Rodwell be a bolter for a Round 1 bench spot? Thanks.

    1. sixties Post author

      That would be Momoisea. Rodwell is in the mix, which is basically part of why I’m not as certain about the bench. I will make that call at the end of January.

      1. Anonymous

        Thanks for the updates on training etc.

        I for one am not enthused by Rodwell. I only viewed about 4 games last season but he was bog average.

        1. Anonymous

          Few games I saw I thought Rodwell played strong and had hight involvement. Just depends if we go with a workman or an impact player on the bench.

      2. LSB995

        I see, thank you. So was Momoisea lining up at Centre? If so that could be very interesting, could be a new Niukore for us if that is the case.

          1. Anonymous

            Marata was Bog average when he first came into the NRL squad and he grew in confidence and into the role. Lets hope Rodwell delivers something similar, I am a Marata fan and very sorry to see him go.

          2. sixties Post author

            We definitely developed Marata. And Rodwell does have some pedigree in Aussie Schoolboys and he’s still young.

  7. Ron

    Thanks for the report 60s – good read as usual.

    I must say the parra salary cap team is worryingly slow in getting things done. Couldn’t get lodge done last year but roosters somehow do it in the blink of an eye. Got tapau done but haven’t registered it (I note salary cap confusion). the team really needs to be quicker off the mark in my opinion (esp will will penisini and Moses still not resigned).

    I’m worried about our bench. I was hyper critical of our bench rotation lasts year and it has gotten worse in my opinion. We needed tapau or a tapau esque prop to spell junior or reg but instead we have a bunch of players who( granted) seem to be training hard but compared to the elite teams will llkely come up short.

    Murchie, matto, an impact (but reliable) prop and a utility would be my preference. In terms of availability of a prop I’m not sure who is out there but raiders have a few fringe forwards (as do cowboys) that could be “raided”. I fear we will really struggle like never before with matto suspended and opposition forwards knowing they just have to tee off on junior and rcg because the bench is piss weak. Alternatively, it is really time for rodwell, Ogden or wiremu to step up but I’m not that encouraged by the training reports. Is wiremu or Ogden fit enough to be trusted? Can Rodwell make any dent in the line?

    1. sixties Post author

      I don’t know the reason for the backflip, and given there had been some sort of agreement in place, I’m not too impressed with his move.
      Murchie is going to be very good Ron. Very good. This leaves that opportunity for one of the fringe middles to really step up. If Ogden can continue what he’s shown in opposed he won’t disappoint any of us.

    2. Mick

      Our bench will be stronger this year Ron. We played with a 3 man bench last year, the only impact we had was Matto coming on after 20mi s to replace Nuikori. We won’t be carrying JA, from round 4 onwards our bench will be Matto and take your pick, Murchie, Ogden, Makatoa, Carty, Greig, Asi, Hands, Rodwell, Moimasea, Rein, that is a better selection than what we had last year.

      1. sixties Post author

        Mick, I didn’t post it last year for obvious reasons but Jake was always there because throughout the latter part of the season both Moses and Dyl had injury clouds and Jake trained in their places for many of the sessions. It was far better for Jake to get development time in Cup which he’ll get this year. But, he was next in line in the halves and rightly was getting used either filling in during Moses injury in or on the bench as cover.

  8. Mark Camman

    Hi boys – any updates on Nathan Brown? I read somewhere he has injured his calf muscle- this was the same injury that had hi. On the sidelines or in reserve grade for most of the second half of the season. Rumour mill saying that he was out of favour at the Eels and hence the talk of him going to the Tigers. I think he is on $600k per season….. a lot of money to be playing in the Reggie’s or sitting on
    The bench

    1. sixties Post author

      I didn’t see any injury take place but if he is injured then yes it will be tougher to find another club.

      1. Zero58

        Mr Sixties, with all that running around we can see you are really busy with a workload we do not envy. Just the same you have made us accustomed to receiving reports on a particular day and when we tune in (so to speak) and when there are no reports it us sort of like going into a pub with no beer.
        The outcome, the dog consigned to the backyard, the wife is not talking to me and if I don’t improve I could be banned from watching the games.
        We are thirsty creatures desperate for some real time news on our boys and our team. When we lived so far away from Bankwest any news is good news.
        This is not a criticism, it’s a round about way of saying we really appreciate your reports. Thank you.
        Mr Sixties, that photo of Hodgson – did he borrow some muscles from Matterson? I had no idea he is so well built, he looks extremely fit.
        Keep those reports coming Mr Sixties and soon the season begins. Most experts ( that’s a drip under pressure) have written Parra off. That’s is good news for the team, it removes the public glare and takes considerable pressure off the team. The scrutiny won’t be so intense.
        Cheers Mr Sixties and take care.

        1. sixties Post author

          Zero, hopefully this week affords more time to write. We are heading for record visits for January – so thanks everyone.
          I was surprised by the size of Hodgson when he ran past me and I saw he wasn’t far off my height. He’s listed at around 5’11. That photo definitely ended up being the right angle to showcase how ripped he is.
          Less expectation from the pundits? I won’t mind too much.

          1. BDon

            Sixties, you might recall, he runs through doors, closed ones that is. He’s definitely built for it.

  9. Anonymous

    Thanx again guys for the update. I was watching our young blokes via a stream and number 22 pink headgear impressed me. The lines he ran and tackles, the way he tightened the ruck this kid is from good stock no doubt and was wondering what his name was because this young bloke looks the goods….

        1. sixties Post author

          There was a Matts trial (17s) and a Ball trial (19s). If it was Matts there was no number 22. If it was Ball, I’m sorry I don’t have the jersey numbers for the replacements.

  10. Anonymous

    While I feel more confident that Ogden will step up and take Kaufusis bench spot I know many are excited by the prospect of a super fit Greig giving us an explosive 20mins or so with a licence to fold guys in half.

  11. pete

    I was told of another site that one poster is insinuating Hodgo is akin to Ben Johnson and The Liver King i.e. steroid users. I don’t think it’s a Parra supporters site….
    It clearly shows not only does that imbecile know nothing about NRL. He also has NO idea about physiology. Obviously the term imbecile was invented with him in mind. Lol

      1. pete

        It’s reassuring it’s Not on a Parra fan site (I’m told). Even so you would think people would call out such BS instead of agreeing and allowing it. There’s obviously some sick, weak minded negative types around. Probably just sucking up to who ever posted it.

        1. FEND

          No Pete, that bloke and unfortunately plenty of others at that site (including a niche little mob of his dumb lemming followers that always support him no matter how wrong he is) are adamant they’re the real fans and everyone posting on TCT are laughed at. They’re a pretty pathetic mob. There’s probably a dozen really decent posters but the rest are trouble makers and keyboard cowards. The administrator is a joke and allows stuff to go on that the previous owner of the site would never tolerate. I think there’s quite a few posters here that used to post there that no longer do because of the toxic nature of the site.

          1. sixties Post author

            Cheers for the support Fend and Pete. I prefer not to get into any “site wars”. The thing we always do on TCT is to talk footy, pure and simple. I’m proud to say that we have always maintained that stance. There are families and friends of players that visit fan sites. That’s not a guess, that’s based on those that take the time to message us or speak to us at games. To slag off at your own players or to create rumours is no benefit to anyone, least of all the team any stirrers or keyboard warriors claim to support.

          2. FEND

            You should be proud of this site and the way you and the other content providers carry themselves, 60’s. Whilst getting slagged elsewhere for being “too positive” I’ve always found a good balance here, when there’s a need for a player, coach or official to cop some criticism it’s done in a professional manner. There’s always reasoning behind posters opinions, not just a blanket statement with no basis for fact, straight out lies or slanderous claims you see elsewhere. Keep up the good work.

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