In an interview during Friday night’s Fox League match preview, Brad Arthur confirmed that nine Eels players were unavailable for trial selection.
Amongst those out of action were first grade contenders Maika Sivo (knee), Bryce Cartwright (fractured jaw), Waqa Blake (broken arm), Haze Dunster (knee) and Bailey Simonsson (shoulder).
You can also include out of favour middle Nathan Brown (hamstring) and dummy half Mitch Rein (head) to the injury ward.
Whether any of those players will be available for round one selection is not yet certain, but after the trial Shaun Lane (broken jaw) and Ryan Matterson (suspension) have to be added as definite outs for the opener against Melbourne, with Zac Cini (rib cartilage) and Matt Doorey (ankle) also in doubt.
If all of the players listed above continue to be unavailable, that will represent more than one third of the roster. With only 28 players currently registered in the top 30, that means just 18 Eels would be fit for selection.
The reality is probably not as gloomy though it remains a test of Parra’s depth. Early indications are that Matt Doorey and Maika Sivo should be right to go, but outside of them question marks remain.
Haze Dunster is listed for an opening round return. In terms of match fitness he’s unquestionably underdone and they may opt to bring him back via the NSW Cup.
If Dunster were selected it takes the pressure off a Waqa Blake return. Sean Russell would shift to centre in Blake’s place.
Will BA roll the dice with Waqa?
My answer would be yes. If the athletic Blake gets a medical clearance, it’s a bone injury to the arm, not a joint injury. He’s continued to maintain his fitness during rehab, he’d been involved in the preseason prior to his injury, and is a highly experienced NRL player. Someone like Waqa doesn’t need to return via the lower grade.
I’ll go out on a limb and lock in the Round 1 three-quarters as Sivo, Penisini, Blake and Russell. Given Russell’s trial form, there won’t be many objecting to that line up.
The edge forward problem is not so confidently solved.
Let’s forget about forwards in other positions. Nathan Brown and Mitch Rein are scheduled to return but neither solve Parra’s problems on the edge.
At one time, Browny’s presence, even off the bench, might have eased the pressure. However, recent headlines have all focussed on his departure from the club. The former Origin star has been recovering from a hamstring injury during the latter part of the preseason, and prior to that he didn’t appear to feature in Parra’s plans for the season.
With the injury toll at such numbers, it’s likely that Momoisea will get the nod.
The recruit from Newcastle was in an early battle with Matt Doorey for the right edge spot. After a less than stellar trial against the Panthers, he arguably played himself out of not just a starting role, but even a place in the top 17.
His form in the second trial was much better, and given his versatility, he could be back into contention for the interchange bench.
But replacing a game changer like Shaun Lane is another matter altogether. Jirah has trained on the left a few times during the preseason, but if BA selects him there he’ll be demanding that he finds more than his exposed form, especially against the Storm.
Bryce Cartwright would be a similar gamble to Waqa should Arthur opt for him. He has the experience to handle the pressure of returning straight to NRL level footy, which is a definite advantage. However, he’s more likely to come into consideration for the bench.
The other option is Jack Murchie. This bloke has trained impressively in the middle during opposed work, but he has NRL experience as an edge forward.
Again this is not a great outcome, as it is robbing Peter to pay Paul. In other words, it would be weakening the bench to fill the vacant back row position. A bit of left field thinking might see Murchie start in the back row, then become part of the middle rotation at the first interchange with Momoisea or Cartwright coming onto the edge off the bench. Marata Niukore did similarly at different times in his career at the Eels.
Should the Eels upgrade Toni Mataele? He’s fit, aggressive and at 20 years of age has a promising future. I’ve tipped him to be the next rising Eel to earn an NRL debut, so perhaps that will come much earlier than I anticipated.
On the other hand, Arthur has selection traits that have remained true for just on a decade. Based on past evidence, the Eels coach prefers to debut young forwards via limited minutes off the bench. That doesn’t align with the back row, a spot that is often an 80 minute responsibility under BA’s tenure.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a crack at a round one team list. Injuries and trial form have changed the landscape around the pack and the bench.
My back row would now be Doorey and Murchie. As I suggested earlier, I would then make Murchie part of the middle rotation at the first interchange.
Turning to the bench, it would be Arthur (who would be there as cover for the spine and would likely get minimal minutes), Cartwright/Momoisea, Makatoa and Greig.
I fully expect my selection of Jake Arthur to generate howls of disapproval. BA might not take this path. However, when the Cup side doesn’t play on the same day as the NRL team, it makes it possible for BA to cover his spine on the bench without diminishing Jake’s development in NSW Cup.
When Lane returns, I see the bench being Matterson, Murchie, Makatoa and Momoisea/Cartwright (all the Ms?).
I have no inside knowledge as to what BA will do. He has around four field sessions to work it out. One is already under the belt and I didn’t attend it.
Forced to predict his call, I reckon he’ll opt for Momoisea ahead of Carty. But whether he starts Jirah or brings him off the bench is the big question. He has also signalled his preference to select Jake in NSW Cup, so he might go with an extra middle such as Ogden or Rodwell.
All will be revealed at next week’s Team List Tuesday.
Kinda the elephant in the room and nothing we can do about it.. But geez Ryan Matterson must be looking sheepish at training sessions. I wonder if we can get him to play on compassionate grounds lol.
I didn’t agree with his call and nor did I agree with the NRL’s ruling on his appeal.
I thought Parra would have used the NRL’s decision to turn the pre-season into a “competition” to reduce Matto’s suspension.
Weren’t allowed to.
Hey sixties, totally off track on suspensions. Did you see Luke Patten’s detailed summation of why Paasi didn’t get cited for the tackle that put Taylan May out for the season? Watch the tackle and you will see little difference to when Junior got suspended for a leg drop tackle, if anything Paasi hit May much harder, whereas Junior just grabbed and hung to the players waist but got swung onto the legs purely by momentum. Paasi also hit the waist but forced May forward and landed on his legs. Junior was sure fire dudded…and I’ll move on now. Oh… Read more »
BDon I did not see Pattens explanation but from my memory of Juniors tackle, I totally agree with what you are saying.
The point I’m trying to make Sixties is, when Parra approached the NRL to reverse Mattos decision, the pre-season trial games were just that, trials. I think it was a week or so after the knock back from the NRL, V’landys decided to turn the trials into a competition for points and prize money, surely this could have been used to wipe 2 games off his suspension considering it was an NRL sanctioned competition.
Interesting weeks ahead. Tight wad Matto. Disappointing. Looking forward to how BA will handle this adversity.
I am too. I’ve obviously had a crack at tipping it but there is so much going on with players I really can’t be sure
Yeah, not happy with him considering the wage he earns and he was worried about that fine. Way to put the team first I reckon and I am a Parramatta supporter too.
Great work as usual. Is there any indication yet as to why N Brown is out of favour and do we believe the Manly switch is on?
It was reported Harper did his ACL but now he is listed as a knee injury to return Rnd! so maybe its still on. Id rather give Brown a run and see how he goes after a pre season.
Who knows what will happen. We’ve already paid him about a third of his 2023 contract money.
Brown ain’t going to Manly. We need him now more than ever. I don’t think he is one to kick stones
He fell out of favour with his form in 2022 and he was dropped to Cup. His management sought clarification about a contract beyond 2023 and were told it was unlikely. I think both parties are still looking for a solution but I don’t think it will involve Harper.
It better not involve Harper
We can only get better, that’s the good news.I sorta like that we’ve got our bookends, spine, industrious lock, and an interesting mix of backs (eg old matesPenisini/Russell). The newer guys will just need to do their job, high energy,run/tackle hard, all will be good.
And what a great piece on NRL.com – 3 things to fix.
I guess the health of those key players you mention validates their extensions.
Interesting panel for the players, certainly the injuries will/may play & who may get a run? Watching Kayo last week with the eels against NCLE, I noticed a knights player who pretty much destroyed the eels on two occasions with his speed, and scored against us, I tend to wonder with the eels how they may contend with players like him, at least having enough players that were strong enough to cover the opposition with their better & stronger game play, both in defense & attack/defend. While it was a trial, & from what I saw, a couple of the players who had… Read more »
What player are you referring to Colin? None gave me any long term concerns. On the side that featured Young, we were fielding Momoisea, Cini and Lumelume. PNone are yet to be NRL regulars and have no experience playing together.
I may be wrong Sixties but I did not think Greig is an NRL player and has not really brought much overall to the club. The other one, at least to me is, Mitch Rein.
I may well be wrong on both accounts but not sure regarding their futures, with Rein likely reaching retirement I admit that he was a fair player in his earlier days, Greig is another matter for a player of his size and what I have seen of his game play, is he just filling a spot?
Based on first trial game form …I tend to agree re Grieg. Maybe BA needs to do something very unlike BA. I still remember Brian Smith would not give Jarryd a run and then caretaker Jason Taylor gave him a chance and how awesome was that
Wiremu will be good for us , I hope by Rnd 5 with all players back that he will be a ‘must’ pick on the Bench. A big lump of a lad, just like Paulo in his early days – will take age maturity to get seasoned miles in his legs and head too
His carries were very strong, they had that look that getting to his feet and playing the ball quickly gave us mtrs in the next ruck.Haven’t been able to get the microscope on his defence.
I believe Colin thinking of Lachie Miller the Knights fullback, he did show some pretty neat stepping and acceleration, he is dangerous.
Ex Eel Greg M was also a handful on return carries, took 4 Eel to stop him, also looks like someone finally taught him how to catch the high ball.
The Storm have Rugby convert on the wing, big and fast so hope Sivo is fresh
Miller had a very good game but didn’t score which is why I didn’t think he was referring to him, same with Marzhew, who also had a couple of big moments but is more power than pace. Anyway, despite the decent games of those three, and the dangers they brought, it mattered little to the result. There will be teams that have a fast player or two that can cause problems, see JAC with the Dogs. What matters is who plays with them.
I don’t like criticizing players, especially when they are part of our team, also more often than not. When Greig came out on the paddock I wondered who he was, especially with the new hair cut, but I could well be wrong on that. What also helped what I said was the particular player stood by the side of defense and did not get involved in several defensive moves. Again if I was wrong fair enough, & I accept that aspect. Re Mitch Rein, he has been a fair replacement when called upon with the eels, helped a fair bit when… Read more »
Brendan Hands can play hooker just needs a go , played all last year in different spots due to injury (6,7,9,11,13) hard to shine
He wasn’t available for the trials
Moses has knocked back the tigers apparently staying with Parramatta great news good for team spirit a mate sent me a link 2 sources Sydney morning Herald and fox sports
I’m must admit enjoying the comments around the traps by some rather salty Tigers supporters. As well as enjoying the news about keeping Mitch for a few more seasons.
Yes, the reactions from Tigers fans are priceless.
It’s my new favourite hobby.
Happy in their unhappiness
Is that you laneo
Yes Tanky, it seems to be on the money.
A little birdie has told me that our Hindmarshian fullback is carrying an ankle injury and maybe out round one.
We’ll still lap those purple crooks
News to me. I guess we’ll see.
Brendan Hands was also unable to play trial games due to injury
I am aware. But I focussed on top 30 or those with the possibility of being used, such as Cini.
My opinion hasn’t wavered. BA will pick JA on the bench come round 1 and round 2 and round 3 and …. It has nothing to do with injuries. He has consistently shown that he believes Jake belongs on the NRL bench as a utility and nothing will change that.
There shouldn’t be any howls because it’s totally expected.
Actually Spark, I don’t think (and I’m close to certain) that he picked him in the past as a utility. I’ve documented that late in the season he was picked specifically to cover the halves who each carried injuries and he filled in at training for them. I know he ended up jumping in at dummy half very late in matches, but you know how brief those minutes were. Furthermore, his bench selection at the start of the season was not because of his utility value, but rather Dylan’s. For BA to shift Dylan he needed cover in the halves.… Read more »
Sixties, you have the advantage of attending training sessions so defer to your inside knowledge. I continue to disagree. Jake has NO ability as a utility or a bench warmer in the NRL side. Last year he was picked on the bench and an excuse was given that there were injuries in the halves. He stayed on the bench for the rest of the year. We don’t have injuries in the halves at present so there is no valid reason why Jake would be anywhere near consideration for a bench role. We have better and more experienced players who could… Read more »
I think you are wrong Spark. BA did say that Jake will not be on the bench this year because it is not good for his development. As Sixties posted earlier, we only have 18 fit players to pick from, so there might be a backflip by BA re Jake on the bench, and if he does pick him, I guarantee it will only be for the first 2 or 3 weeks until we get players back.
Mick, I could even be wrong about BA selecting Jake in round one as a utility. That’s my selection based on circumstances and the draw for NSW Cup
There was no “excuse” for picking Jake, Spark. Covering for the halves was a reason for that entire late season period.
I rate Jayden Yates and anyone reading my training reports would know that. I’d like him to get regular game time in NSW Cup as his stepping stone. It’s something that hasn’t been afforded to him. Likewise, Hands has been unavailable for trials and missed games last year. I’d like to see him get some regular footy this year.
Yeah, it annoys me how he picks his son all the time. He isn’t a league player yet but not according to his Dad.
I disagree Darren.
Prediction for Round 1…. JA to be No14 v Melbourne on Thursday night. Then to back up and play half back on Saturday for Reserve Grade……
Yes, that’s what I predicted.
Parra just need to compete well for the first month or so; and defence to be on song. The rest will sort itself.
Melb are always going to be tough and nothing will change here, prepare for the first half bartering and stay patient and use ball well to work their beasts around.
Our bench has to be strong…..
Thanks for a wonderful off season again and for the in depth reports and reactions to trials. Being o/seas it’s great to have the chance to listen in.
Hopefully be back this yr or sooner.
What about Asi for utility? I’m sure he is top 30 but haven’t heard about him in training reports or what his injury is. Regarding forwards, depending on his injury, I’d put him at lock and have Hopgood as edge forward at least until get troops back.
The season launch photos showed him in a knee brace. I hadn’t seen him at training for a week or so prior, so the brace explained his absence. He didn’t play in the trials for that reason.
Meant to say Nathan Brown, if fit, at lock.
I think he is some way off getting an NRL run at the moment.
Great read sixties, love the reports!
I wouldn’t complain to see a player like Yates get upgraded and used as a cover for hodgo as 14 during the earlier rounds.
Looked solid in both trials when he came on.
How do you rate him compared to Hands and Rein?
I think there will be genuine competition between Rein and Yates in NSW Cup this year. Of course, Yates can play lock. Hands is someone that I was hoping to see more of to make a judgement, but in the games he played last year he didn’t seem to settle in one position. It wouldn’t surprise to see him in the halves in Cup this year.
Yates is skilful and has a calmness that usually comes from experience in the NRL.
Having said that I would hate to see him pushed too early
Isn’t Yates like 24? How old is he. Perhaps I am wrong.
I don’t know. I assumed he was younger than that.
I believe he is 24 this year. He’s about the same age as Haze.
yates seem to be similar to cotter at the cows
Nathan Brown – going or staying? There must be more to this than meets the eye. He can’t get a game at Parramatta and no other club wants him. He must have done something bad to be so far on the outer.
I think it’s fairly straight forward. He’s on very good money at Parra and we are now 4 months deep into the last year of his contract. He doesn’t need to rush to get out of Parra. He earns that money whether he plays NRL or Cup. I believe there have been a couple of clubs interested but agreements haven’t quite been reached.