The 2023 Parramatta Eels Junior pathways program continued on Friday night with three Development Squad matches staged under lights at Kellyville Park. Kicking off with an Under 16s game at 5:30, and two Under 15s games thereafter, each clash pitted the Eels against the Sea Eagles.
For those wondering why there were two 15s matches and only one 16s game, there was a 16s clash between the Eels and the Panthers last week at Windsor. The Eels won that game convincingly and those players who didn’t get a run in that win were given their opportunity this week against Manly.
As usual, with so many young players involved, a large crowd of family and friends were in attendance to cheer them on. My congratulations to all those in attendance for the positivity of their support.
I’ve provided team lists to give acknowledgement to the hard work of all the young players involved. Whether playing or not, they front up in their Eels kit, giving a professional look to the process.
Please remember, I’ve named try scorers and some involved in significant plays, but my report is not meant to be comprehensive. There will be those who played their role to the satisfaction of staff that probably don’t receive the mention in this report that they are due.
My apologies for any names that have been misspelt, as autocorrect was going berserk changing entries it didn’t like. Also, there are probably errors in naming the try scorers. Under the prevailing light conditions, it was extremely difficult to see jersey numbers. There were also some late jersey and team changes which added to the likelihood of mistakes.
Match Variations: Three 25 minute periods, no conversions, no line kicks for penalties (ball advanced 10 metres for any penalty tap restart)
David Kalati Toleafoa
This game commenced encouragingly for the Eels when Manly turned over possession deep in their territory. Parra capitalised on this early advantage with runners hitting it up hard and straight. A pno frills charge at the line got the first try of the night and I’m crediting Lachlan Gardiner for that one despite my listing of him starting off the bench. (Again apologies if that was the wrong scorer).
A double from Manly ensued, with their halfback instrumental in both. In the first instance he did it all himself, running on the last and catching the Eels on the back foot. In the second he bounced out of a tackle close to the line, then fed the ball left for their centre to cross.
Parra then produced a big play from the kick off, finding the deal ball line and forcing a line drop out. Multiple charges at the line were frustrated by the Manly defence until big Michael Fililava proved unstoppable from close range.
End of first period – Score: Two tries all
Manly edged ahead on the back of repeat sets, and it was again a short range try when they caught the Eels out with a scoot from dummy half.
With his team looking to strike back, a line break and powerful run from winger Jordan Vandermade put the Eels on the front foot. On cue, Michael Fililava tore through the heart of the Manly defence for his second try of the game to level the scores at the end of the period.
End of second period. Score: Eels 3 tries Sea Eagles 3 tries
The final 25 minutes was owned by the Sea Eagles as they added four tries in quick succession.
That half back again ripped through the Eels defence for his second, before the fullback and winger crossed. I couldn’t determine who scored their final try. Two of those tries were the direct result of Parra losing the ball in the Manly quarter.
Fortunately Parra finished with the last say, and it should come as no surprise that Michael Fililava was the scorer. His size made him a difficult proposition for the Sea Eagles for the entire match.
Full Time. Score: Sea Eagles 7 tries – Eels 4
For Parra, there were good moments from individual players, but the team turned over way too much possession. In attack, there was an element of uncertainty on the last tackle. In defence, the communication and line speed went missing at crucial times and they needed to stick better after contact.
Having a squad of nearly 50 for the year gives a large group of local players access to higher level coaching, and for those looking to progress, exposure to the disciple required in higher grades. It also means that district players in that age group don’t slip through without being noticed.
However, it makes it difficult to achieve team cohesion. Half of the squad played last week. The other half today. Next year, those that are selected for Harold Matts will be part of a squad that’s around half that size.
For Manly, I was impressed with their athleticism. Their half and lock both performed very well and should feature in the future junior rep teams.
Under 15s Game 1
Match Variations: Two 30 minute halves, no conversions, no line kicks for penalties (ball advanced 10 metres for the penalty tap restart)
Mohamed Hage Obeid
Loltai Leatuafi Moli
The Eels again opened the scoring. Michael Moynihan delivered a superb pass for centre Liam Boys to slice through the Manly defence for a classy try.
From there, momentum was with the visitors who went on a three try run. Finding success in all sectors of the Eels red zone, they crossed from dummy half, then added four pointers on the left wing and the right edge.
Despite Manly’s lead, Thomas Pinder was working hard at lock and pivot Michael Moynihan produced a couple of clever plays.
Half Time. Score: Sea Eagles 3 tries – Eels 1 try
The handling from both teams fell away badly in the second half and the standard of the match dropped accordingly.
Isaac Kusto provided a highlight for the home team with a 15 metre weaving solo run out of dummy half to score under the posts.
Unfortunately for the Eels, the match ended on a sour note after a dropped pass around the half way line was scooped up by a Manly player who scooted away for the try. The full time siren rang out immediately after he crossed.
Full time. Score Manly 4 tries – Eels 2 tries
Manly were a physically bigger side and unfortunately the Eels didn’t help their cause with their litany of dropped passes.
Much like the earlier 16s game, there were some good individual performances, and even nice second phase play from the forwards.
Stranz Schaumkel and Jack Vugrinec-Maka combined for a couple of highlight moments. Likewise Thomas Pinder and Darcey Feltham linked for a line break.
There were other good offloads throughout the game but unfortunately a subsequent pass was often dropped.
Without sounding repetitive, it’s a big squad divided into two for tonight’s trials. Though they would have trained as these teams, it’s obvious that the players need more familiarisation with each other.
Under 15s Game Two
Match Variations: Two 30 minute halves, no conversions, no line kicks for penalties (ball advanced 10 metres for the penalty tap restart)
Ali Jida Yacoub
A try to fullback, Ali Jida Yacoub, made it three from three for the Eels for first try scorers tonight. Receiving the ball on the left edge inside the Manly quarter, the Parra custodian cut back sharply and accelerated through the Sea Eagles defence.
Not long after, an Eels error presented Manly with territory and possession and they made the Eels pay with a try from dummy half to level the scores.
The reply from the Eels came through centre Khaled Kairouz who pushed the home team back into the lead following another successful foray down their left edge.
Enter five-eighth Lachlan Metcalfe. In a two minute display of dazzling footwork and acceleration he firstly sliced through the Manly right side for try number one. He then fielded the kick off, beat the Manly chasers, and raced 60 metres for a spectacular solo effort.
Half Time. Score: Eels 4 tries – Sea Eagles 1
Parra missed a golden opportunity to extend their lead when Christian Mardini nearly produced something out of nothing.
After some confusion about the last tackle option, the ball ended up with Mardini who grubbered the ball into a hole, quickly regathered it, then passed it to a support for the try. In a line ball decision the pass was called forward and Manly stayed in the contest.
It looked to be a crucial call as the Sea Eagles added the next two tries.
Parra gave themselves more breathing space when a good short ball at the line put Samuel Polley over. Manly weren’t to be denied and narrowed the margin to one try after the Eels allowed a kick to bounce.
With the match in the balance, Billy Fanene-Soliola got into open space down the left flank, and as the defence converged he kicked infield, finding Lachlan Metcalfe for the pivot’s third try.
Full Time. Score: Eels 6 tries – Sea Eagles 4 tries
The Eels players in this game seemed slightly bigger and faster than the earlier 15s match. More importantly the handling was better which allowed for reasonable completions. Consequently, the Eels attack asked more questions.
Better completions also meant that players had more opportunity as a team, and some individuals were able to showcase their potential. They either looked good themselves or helped to make others good. It’s the expert eyes of coaches and development staff that determine who truly impressed.
These boys are a couple of years away from Matts level so for most there will be another year of Development squad work after this one.
My congratulations to all staff involved in staging this match. It was around 4 hours of football, with many players needing to be organised and given their opportunity.
The young players presented and played in a manner and spirit that was a credit to both clubs.
Few recognisable last names in those lists. Joseph Wesser is the son of Rhys, I’m assuming the Kusto’s are related to Ben?
Yes, eldest son of Rhys. If you saw them (certainly Isaac) you’d say related to Ben.
Thanks for the insights. I will have to try and remember some of the names for future reference.
You’re welcome Martin. Of course, these posts remain in our archives for future reference too.
Thanks for your effort mate.
Let’s say Moses does leave do we have any one in out junior system or NSW Cup that your confidant can fill the void?
Both Jake Arthur and Ethan Sanders will be more mature in 2024, but I don’t think Moses will leave.
I posted before on probably the wrong page but this morning on the radio a lovely story about Moses 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 also the journo rothfield I know but any way he said he’s very confident an announcement within 2weeks about signing Moses for us lets hope he’s right
Ever since we put the wooden spoon season behind us in 2018 I’ve mostly heard plenty of good anecdotes about Mitch. I will share one interaction. After a training session at Saleyards (early 2019 from memory). Parrathruandthru and I were invited to have brunch with players/staff. I think it was after the caps run for a preseason game. A number of the players grabbed some food and left as training was finished for the day. It was mostly the young squad players and staff that stayed for a feed. However, Mitch Moses grabbed his breakfast and sat down with us… Read more »
Sounds like a good bloke and Parramatta thru and thru he’d be silly to leave
I think so too
Good story, he always has a smile on his face.
With the Dogs falling by the wayside in the chase for Mitch I am feeling more confident.
So am I John.
Great read mate and thank you and id have loved to see these games; this is where the real action is in my view.
Some good signs here and I am also assuming Manly had a few players from Blacktown areas again…..seems the norm.
I reckon they actually had quite a few locals Milo. By the way, Round 1 of Junior reps at Wyong this weekend.
Wow, that is impressive then mate and i stand corrected…..so a few from the central coast too!!
Milo you will miss Rd 1 of junior reps at Wyong but worse, your missing the first day of the new school year.
Hi John, ha yes i will miss it mate and i love the junior reps but the school? Hmmm a break is ok for me at this stage,
Hope you are well John.
Lol…Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Parra v Blacktown.
Actually the U16’s Manly team fielded Friday night were all Manly locals. You might even find that halfback that tore you apart just happened to be Brandy’s son. Fully bred Manly junior!
If that was Brandy junior he went well, as did the lock.
Good to hear eagle, but i hope he has the same western Sydney toughness, brought up on Jamison Park and Whalan reserve…..
It is good to see that Sam Hughes is getting a second shot at the NRL.
I hope he is well and that it works out for him. Showed so much potential as a youngster
What happened to David Hollis?
David stepped away from footy Anon and returned to the bush.
Where is Sam Hughes?
Dogs. They love ex Eels
Hmm they do – let’s hope he does well. Shame abt David Hollis…
I thought Hughes was the better of the two. Not that I saw much of either of them.
They are also getting Spencer Leniu. That is one player that the Eels should be moving heaven and earth to snatch from them. He is an absolute beast and if he joins the Dogs he WILL turn them into heavyweights.
He would have been an alternative to Tapau. Would not be cheap
Massive upgrade on Tapau. Only young and can play. Always destroys us when we play the Panthers.
Union disputes are never about money.
Until they are.
The RLPA dispute is clearly about money and more of it for the players.
The players get a piece of the NRL revenue pie. They now want a bigger slice.
John – I feel the players are well paid and I look at it this way; we are a small country and Rugby League isn’t huge in many countries unlike here hence tv revenue etc. If the players went on strike I am not sure if they’d have the majority of fans support; and let’s not forget that during covid time they were allowed to play which was somewhat ironic compared to the various jobs shut down – and I know other sports played too.
It also must be remembered that they got to play because of Valandys and Abdo