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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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.


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!

Last edited 14 days ago by Shaun

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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?


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).


How did the Harold Matthews and SG Ball trials go yesterday and who won?


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.

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


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)… Read more »


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


Manly didnt want him, neither did their fans.


He went to the highest bidder. Broncos will regret it later.

Greg Dowden

Whats the inside word are we going to lose Moses?


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


Will stay

Parra Pete

Peter Peters pffffffft. A well known Eels hater.


I know mate hopefully he has wrong information


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!!


100% He’s going to excel!!


I mean they are going to excel!!


If stays fit. The concern is that he has had a lot of injuries over the last 4 yrs.


Looking at a picture of him. He looks in BEAST MODE!


Arms yes. His knees have been the issue but. Lets hope he stays fit.


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.

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.


Only people who don’t read the TCT training reports think our window has closed.


I to have been waiting for the training reports.
Good job.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by Ron

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.

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


Going to hard to move him on with a hammy strain.


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… Read more »

John Eel



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


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….


15s I think …


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.


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


Pete, calling that poster an imbecile is actually being disrespectful to imbeciles!!!!

Last edited 12 days ago by FEND

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.


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… Read more »


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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