The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – January 30, 2023: Opposed Standards


Last week I was asked about the realistic standard of the NRL team, given that the opposed work is against mostly NSW Cup players. Perhaps there’s a false sense of how well the NRL team was performing?

All NRL teams doing opposed work in their preseason could be posed a similar question. It’s also accepted practice for every camp to pump out positive news stories at this time of year. As if you’d ever hear about the worst preseason in a club’s history! It’s undeniable that the real test eventually comes against outside opponents.

However, keeping it realistic, let’s remember some important factors.

Firstly, there are 17 top 30 squads, that means 30 players at 17 clubs hold full time NRL contracts. Most of those players, and even some from outside the squads, will be required to play NRL during the season. In describing opposed work as NRL vs NSW Cup, it’s arguably more accurate to use the terminology “probables vs possibles” – with a fair share of probables thrown into the possibles team.

Furthermore, injuries, form and opportunity usually dictates that a round one team can look somewhat different to the round 25 side. Those individuals identified as “NSW Cup” in a preseason can turn out to be high value contributors to a campaign. For the Eels, let’s not forget that our squad won their way through to the 2022 decider.

Another factor is that all of the players in an NRL squad are operating under the same systems – attack and defence. They know the calls, the shapes, and the idiosyncrasies of their opponents. There is a level of familiarity that provides a defensive advantage. If they are beaten by structured play that is simply well executed, or an extraordinary piece of unstructured play, it’s a solid indicator of how the attack is progressing.

Finally, with the preseason being an audition for the year ahead, those in serious contention for spots will get training time in the NRL team, and that means players are interchanging between both of the opposed sides. This year, that is especially true of those competing for the first grade bench.

There have been many times in past seasons where BA has mixed up the teams during opposed. This year the mixing and matching has been down on previous years, and given the limited preseason for many players, it’s understandable that the time to get combinations clicking has to be optimised.

Attacking the line

One more important point, and it’s critical to the context of my reports.

Every season I look for some differences in our team to the year before. There have to be variations or significant developments for the team to improve. Standing still is not an option.

Hence, there is always benefit in some roster changes. New players, be they recruited or emerging through pathways, bring energy and potential.

The coaches also need to vary how the team is prepared and how they will play in the new season. Sometimes that can be delivered through new staff. Sometimes it might be provided by a different conditioning program, or by new attacking or defensive systems and the drills associated with them.

All of this leads to a line that can’t be crossed in these training reports. I deliberately limit writing about any specifics relating to these differences. For example, you might read that Trent Barrett has made changes to Parra’s attack, but I won’t describe attacking shapes or their variations. Or I might write about the time dedicated to defence systems or techniques via Steve Antonelli, but his methodology or key points won’t be referenced.

What I can report unequivocally is that I am seeing significant differences in Parra’s preparation for 2023, and my anticipation and hopes for the year ahead are stronger now than they were back in early November.

And so to this week.

Monday’s training was indicative of a team preparing for a game of football. There was approximately a full hour dedicated to opposed work.

Here are my highlights:

* A scintillating left side attacking play linking Hodgo, Dyl, Laney, and Russell before Dylbags backed up for the final pass to score. Conversion from just to the left of the posts successful.

* Hopgood getting away a terrific late ball to help launch the next attack from deep in the NRL half. The Shaun/Sean combo then released Sivo down the wing before he kicked infield for Dylan to regather about ten metres out. A shift right on the next play then provided the field position for a grubber across the front of the posts on the last which was pulled in by Hopgood for the try. Conversion successful.

* The right side said, “Hold our Gatorade!” as they unleashed quick hands to create space for Haze Dunster to score in the corner. Encouragingly, Haze had to beat two defenders in contact to plant the ball over the line. Try converted by Moses from the sideline.

From here, the opposed was changed up. Four tackle touch footy added speed to the attack. Malcolms were thrown in to keep the players fatigued. When the action returned to full contact there were some contrived scenarios (eg designated line drop out, designated penalty restart) introduced.


The notable moments then included:

* Tighter defence from the NSW Cup, with most of the non-contrived play kept between the quarter lines.

* Cini performing strongly with his kick returns for the Cup team

* A try to junior after Hopgood and Moses combined to create the hole.

* Matto (playing for the Cup side) making a crucial tackle on Will Penisini as he threatened to get his arms free for a try-scoring pass.

* A bone-rattling tackle from Sivo jamming in on Samuel Loizou

Sivo! Image via Eels media

* Woody challenging the NRL defence with powerful charges through the ruck

* Jake Arthur, playing half for the Cup side, grubber kicking on the last into the in goal and making a superb dive and regather at the feet of defenders to score the try.

With just two weeks until the first trial, I’m expecting even more footy to feature at training. And I intend having a crack at naming my round one team before the trials are played.

Eels forever!


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75 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – January 30, 2023: Opposed Standards

  1. Ron

    Thanks for the report sixities – it’s encouraging to hear we are tinkering with our attack and defence. Our attack has been good but could really get better (tends to rely on offloads a bit too much sometimes and be too sideways).

    In terms of our defence, we have a lot of work to do. We were not great last year and would concede a lot of metres per set of six plus struggle defending on our own line. Do we have a wrestling/ jui jitsu coach? I’ve seen video recently of Penrith and bulldogs saying they spent hours on the mat each week to help their defensive movements and wrestle

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers Ron.Yes we do have a coach for that. I’ll also be surprised if people don’t notice the differences in our play early on

  2. @parra_matters

    Do I see Doorey in the red kit?
    I’ve got him locked in for the starting right edge spot, hopefully this is just mixing it up as you said.
    How has Momoisea been going at training?

    1. sixties Post author

      That’s how I saw it Parra. If I picked a likely team based on one training session there’d be about 30 different versions during the preseason. Mind you, Momoisea has definitely got himself into the mix. I’ll be posting a team list prediction this weekend.

  3. Colin Hussey

    I’m back from hospital at Nepean, and recovering from the back surgery, which is a slow process, only a brief read of past inputs provide me with some joy looking forward to the season, have really had no reads through the break though.

    Computer hazards have not helped either, but am looking forward to changing to another ISP as the one I have been using for ages now has been a real disappointment & a pain to boot., so now I have to tread the ground to get a new company that does not have the issues like others although I wonder if I am jumping into a fire rather than ashes.

    I note in other reports that MM, still has not made any real move as to his future, while its a bit disappointing, at least one of the opponents has dropped out, but with the almost daily news bits still holding on, I would like to see a commitment in getting him resigned going forward.

  4. Anonymous

    A hypothetical. The scenario is both Hodgson and Rein are injured.
    In your opinion who is next up for DH?

        1. sixties Post author

          I don’t believe that he’d play JA for entire games in that role. I’ve been wrong about team selections at different times but it’s my understanding that Jake is focussing on his halfback skills at the moment. He’s actually spent more time in the NRL spine than both Dyl and Moses this preseason due to their absence – hence Hodgson giving him a wrap.

    1. Shaun

      Admittedly he coached at two of the worst clubs to coach at given back room meddling. I say he might be someone whose current strengths suit the assistant role much better and he was premature in trying for a head coach role. If so an asset to Parra.

      1. sixties Post author

        Shaun, there are coaches who end up preferring the assistant role. The top job is som much more than just footy.

    2. sixties Post author

      There are many examples of extremely good coaches who have had success at certain clubs, but couldn’t get results at others.Whether was a poor fit or there were elements of the head coach role that he struggled with, Barrett looks like a great fit at Parra. The season will either confirm that or not.

  5. Glenn

    Hopgood has been mentioned highly in many of your reports, is he a special for the lock position? Might be preempting your team list but any reply would be appreciated as is your training reports.

    1. BDon

      Anyone who saw Hopgood play late last season was generally of the impression that NSW Cup standard couldn’t hold him, an NRL player waiting to happen.

        1. HINDY111

          They have Yeo who is the best lock in the game and plays 80mins.
          From what I have heard he also was good for a few dropped balls. But once he signed elsewhere he was never going to be favoured for a call up.

          1. sixties Post author

            Granted we didn’t see him as often as Panthers fans but what we did see of him whenever we could, either Reggies or NRL, he looked the goods.

          1. Graz

            there are a number of players who are just the right fit at a particular club. Doesn’t reflect on them or the club where they don’t fit as there can be multiple reasons….behind an outstanding player the obvious one…..Kimmorley and A Johns at the Knights a classic case…..they can flourish under other coaching methods and opportunities etc etc. Actually I’m sick of people elsewhere (esp the media) going on ad nauseum about premiership window, loss of players from 2022…. So many “laughed”/bagged Brad when he signed Papali’i. I truly believe that Parra has made very astute signings for 2023 and beyond. Doorey and Hopgood for starters. And one or two surprises.

    2. pete

      Hopgood and Hodgson will be our best players this year. We just need to make sure we don’t let Hopgood slip out of our net and is signed up long term.

        1. John Eel

          All good Tanky I think that we are all just very excited to see it happen.

          All we need now is Mitch and we will be in the premiership window for the long haul.

          I noticed today the Eels are paying $15 to win the GF.

          1. John Eel

            That is some bet.

            I was listening to a bookie Tuesday on SEN and he rated Roosters as favourites, then Penrith, Sharks, Cowboys, South’s and Storm all ahead of the Eels.

            One that troubles me is the Storm. They have lost four players out of their starting pack and it is barely mentioned.

          2. Parra Pete

            Had it with Betr when it was just starting out. They offered 100/1 EVERY CLUB in the NRL, every Club in AFL, Every horse in Melbourne Cup, All teams in the FIFA World Cup…for a maximum bet of $10 on each…My son collected on the winner of the MelbCup, and the FIFA wORLD cUP….

  6. HINDY111

    Thanks 60s. Nice report.

    I imagine when all fit Matto may end up in the 2nd row and Hopgood stays at lock. But for round 1-3 someone may get a jump on him and he may need to play himself back into the side.
    Especialy if Doorey or Bryce get the edge spot and play well. Personally I’d throw Bryce the jersey as a last crack thing. But I suspect Doorey will get it.
    The bench gets interesting. I’ve not heard Makatoas name mentioned by I imagine he would feature on the bench.
    Look forward to your team prediction.

    1. sixties Post author

      Matto will be part of the middle rotation in my opinion. I have mentioned Makatoa, but he was one of the NRL World Cup players so he missed the early preseason.

  7. Zero58

    Mr Sixties, I read that comment and I thought it was dripping with sarcasm. Your response was well thought out and clear cut even for the average punter. The logical return serve could be thinking of the Australian cricket team. Would they practice batting in the nets against their test opposition? The answer is obvious!
    We have our trials which gives some indication where the team is. But, training together even at times under semi match conditions always helps and builds cohesion and confidence in, not only with the bloke next to you, but also with your team mates as a whole.
    That question deserved no attention let alone a response.
    Some people’s lineage may have been seen running up and down the river barking incessantly.
    Thanks for the reports – I am looking forward to your probable top 17.
    And don’t forget the annual top eight question where we make a hopeful predictions.

    Cheers Zero58

      1. John Eel

        Is that his second time since coming to the Eels Anon? Or did he break an arm previously. He definitely had a break of something.

  8. Parra Pete

    Has anything more been said on the severity of injuries to Waqa Blake and Nathan Brown..I haven’t seen anything since it was reported they were wounded at training!!!

    1. sixties Post author

      No, Pete, because it’s never wise for us to get involved with reporting on injuries. If the club wants to put something out there, that’s up to them.

  9. Martin Pluss

    Appreciate the detail you provide given the need to maintain confidentiality of the session. It a fine line walked extremely well by you.

  10. Milo

    Thanks Sixties for the report and also explaining the training scenarios- it’s all good reading and makes sense.
    The only real tests come when we have the trials and even then our main players only player limited time anyway.
    I truly think our defence will be better this season hence the changes with coaching assistants, and Barrett too and Hodgson as DH will only help the spine gel.
    I felt last season we lost a lot with some moon ball passes from DH that were too slow and long; and also at times our halves were flat footed when taking it off fhe DH. Time will tell and am getting more excited now.

  11. Jimmy Corbo

    Thank you Sixties for the updates, always a great read. Pleased to hear of changes to the defensive structure, it had room for improvement. We are all well and truly all on the Hopgood bandwagon, no pressure, LOL….

  12. HINDY111

    60s one guy who has a lot of power if can get fitter is Ogden. Has he improved his fitness? Greig is the other.

    Also do we have to fill our top 30? How many spots left

      1. John Eel

        I do like Cini with ball in hand crashing through the hole in the defence.

        I also concede there needs to be more to his game to get into the team.

    1. sixties Post author

      Ogden’s fitness seems similar to last year, and he started Reggies on fire early then got injured. But he is top 30 this year, he wasn’t last year.
      There are two spots left. If Brown departs then it’s 3.

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