The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 25, 2023: Will Penisini Owns It


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.

Will Penisini – image credit Eels media

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.

Warming up

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!

Opposed Highlights

* 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.

The play shifts right

* 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.

Eels forever!



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Love your work! Thank you


Love hearing this mate getting more confident as the season start nears thanks


Is dunster back at full contact? Really hope he starts the season on that right wing


Great read sixties. Will looks a bit leaner from the photos posted this year, his maturity and professionalism is incredible for someone still eligible for Jersey Flegg. On Hopgood it was the game after we signed him I was able to watch him properly, Eels vs panthers at Parra stadium where he absolutely carved us up. Late offloads, short passes, big runs, hard hitting defence. Can’t wait to see him turn it up for firsts.


Great work once again! Did Russell fill into centres again or anyone else?


Interesting. That suggests to me Simminson will be fit for rnd 1 on the wing.

Gil Carter

I have said elsewhere that I believed Penisini would explode this year, & after your report 60s, I have further reason to believe. While Will doesn’t get the attention of his friend & former teammate, Sualli, I really think he has the potential to equal or surpass the Rooster. Thanks for the heartening report mate!


On the subject of Penisini, I also believe he is something special with his only shortcoming a lack of explosive pace.
At his age that can still come very easily, Brett Kenny being a prime example, when he first came into grade he had very similar attributes to Pensini and did not have that pace and acceleration that we became so accustomed to. I also remember Brad Fittler saying in his (will’s) debut year, he thought him to be a better player than Sualis (spell?)


Actually when I first framed the comment it was going to be question of do you think he has got faster. I tried to put it in a positive frame and I think that is what you are saying,
I expect that he will continue to get faster for the next couple of years sixty, which will make him very, very elite.
He has a lot of Kenny about him, notwithstanding different builds, though I note he has trimmed as well.


Hi Poppa, , interesting comment on Kenny. I always thought he grew into 1st grade. Confidence, savvy,weight etc rather than his skill set, unlike the Guru who just arrived and smashed it because that’s what he did in U23’s. Penisini got promoted into an inconsistent, at times bog ordinary defensive line out wide, outpointed Justin Olam in his first game. When I look at the best centres at present many are strongly fast but not explosive, so yes if that was in Will’s skill set, look out.


Well put BDon, I am glad you saw it that way as well, sometimes when I am talking 40 years ago, I get worried about remembering it right. Totally agreed with you on current centres with the exception of the drug cheat “Xero” or whatever from Cronulla (going to dogs next year apparently), he had that explosive pace like Steve Rogers. God knows what he will have 4 years later?

Martin Pluss

I like how each week you peel the onion further, revealing another player that is stepping up. Thanks for all you do.


Thanks 60s, good reading.

Matto (to some degree) and moreso Lane haven’t rated much of a mention in the pre-season …. Matto I think you said has bulked up even more, but In can’t remember much further. When you get a chance, would be good to hear how they are shaping up.

We’d all be hopeful Lane continues his 2022 form. There seems a lot of backrow talent across the NRL, but he was providing such a point of difference in attack I thought he was very unlucky not to be over in the UK in the green and gold.


The training reports really do whet the appetite for the season ahead. Which is just 36 days away!


Who is rotating with Rein in the Cup side?


Is it every year the cup side vs the nrl side?

I assume the cup side defense isn’t that good compared to the nrl team. Then is the attack you talk about that impressive? I thought a mixture of players in both teams would be more even


you need to take into account that the cup players know the calls and attacking shapes so they know whats coming at them


Heard a nice story on Moses this morning on the radio he was at the cricket and spotted a young bloke and his dad in Parramatta jerseys he took them up to a corporate box all night and signed there jerseys brilliant. Plus the journo and I know its rothfield said he’s confident that Moses staying with an announcement within 2 weeks hope he’s right

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