Since returning from the World Cup, Will Penisini has enjoyed what I consider to be his most impressive pre-season.
He’s looked strong and assured in his training, and has consistently made the right decisions in both attack and defence during opposed work. Without question, he’s building towards a special season.
Today he was near unstoppable.
From time to time a player might own a session. Over the summer, Mitch Moses and Josh Hodgson have had such days. Given how often they handle the ball, it’s not unreasonable that they’d attract the focus of any observer.
Wednesday morning belonged to Will, something that isn’t easy for a player outside of the spine.
Literally every time the play came his way, there was a sense that something was going to happen. His confidence was palpable.
It was a particularly interesting session to observe.
A crew of Fox Sports camera operators, including a drone pilot, were filming the session for a club preseason feature. At times they were in the middle of the action.
Trent Elkin organised challenging conditioning sequences for the squad, and the warmer conditions added a further test for their fitness.
But would the cost of so many cameras be the loss of opposed work? I wondered whether the coaches would want it filmed. As the time ticked by, the only thing resembling opposed was some left vs right side drills undertaken separately by the NRL and NSW Cup team.
Then, as the squad launched into more more conditioning, half of the playing group donned red bibs. Hallelujah, there would be footy today!
* Jake Arthur made a partial line break from around his own quarter and managed a very quick play the ball. This allowed a clever ruck play and the team advanced the ball towards the other quarter. Jake’s play was straight from what he had been working on with Trent Barrett.
* Will Penisini received a ball on a wide right shift. His footwork and acceleration befuddled the defence, putting him into space. As the cover eventually converged inside the quarter, he kicked off the outside of his foot for Haze Dunster to score in the corner. It was dazzling footy to watch.
* J’maine Hopgood’s ball skills were again on display, and one particular offload in the collision launched a dangerous red zone attack. Unfortunately the play broke down a couple of passes later but the spaces were there to be exploited.
* Very quick hands from Gutho in a right side shift created space for Haze to cross in the corner
* Another evasive run from Penisini found Moses in support who in turn delivered the pass to Jake Arthur who sprinted away for the try
* Daejarn Asi, playing at 5/8 for the Cup team, delivered a perfectly weighted left footed kick for Lumelume to catch in full stride and score in the left corner
* Will Penisini brought on the physicality with a brutal tackle in a midfield defensive jam
* Wiremu Greig, playing middle for the Cup team, instigated a productive second phase play with a terrific offload in contact
* Mitch Moses put the icing on the day’s cake by delivering a pass to send Junior into a hole. He then took the return inside pass for the try near the posts.
Though the coaches determined some of the field locations by calling for restarts that were not always the consequence of the previous play, this was a relatively free flowing period of opposed work. The attack was much more cohesive than the previous session.
The game faces were on, and Gutho’s call for the team to take full control as the opposed was about to commence were certainly heeded.