The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – February 27, 2023: Likely NSW Cup Team Sheds Light On Eels Depth

Tomorrow’s Team List Tuesday will answer questions about how the Parramatta Eels will cope with their current injury crisis. Supporters and critics alike will debate the strength of the named NRL team.

However, the examination should not end there.

For the more curious Eels supporters, eyes will quickly move from the NRL team to that named to play NSW Cup. That listing will provide an enlightening glimpse into the overall depth of the extended roster.

The two trials provided some insight into the form of some players who are less well known to the larger Eels fan base, especially Jayden Yates, Zac Cini and Toni Mataele. These players were arguably amongst the Eels best, with some supporters calling for immediate upgrades.

Jayden Yates

Furthermore, the performances provided validation of some of my preseason training assessments. I endeavour to provide commentary on players beyond the likely top 17 but these individuals need to then replicate their training track efforts in matches. Fortunately, these likely Cup starters did just that in the trials.

At the very least, the encouraging performances of some of those outside the top 30 provided hope for Parra to feature in this season’s NSW Cup finals.

As far as the opening round is concerned, the well-documented list of unavailable Eels doesn’t just impact the top grade, the effects permeate right through to both the NSW Cup and the Jersey Flegg Cup.

Players expected to start at Cup level will be called up to fill the holes left in the NRL team. That’s the most immediate consequence.

Then there are those who were predicted to be selected in NSW Cup who are also unavailable. Sean Russell is under suspension, Daejarn Asi has a knee concern and Zac Cini suffered a rib cartilage injury. Nathan Brown has been unavailable throughout the trials with a hamstring issue and will be unlikely.

The absences will probably extend to Haze Dunster and Bailey Simonsson who would be at long odds to return via the NRL and must still be in doubt for NSW Cup selection.

Those are the higher profile omissions that we are aware of.

So what might the announced team look like?

I’ll take a punt that it will look something like this:


Jordan Rankin

Matt Komolafe

Sam Loizou

Zac Cini*

Isaac Lumelume**

Brendan Hands

Jake Arthur

Ky Rodwell

Mitch Rein

Ofahiki Ogden

Toni Mataele

Dan Keir

Makahesi Makatoa/Wiremu Greig ***



Jayden Yates

Tevita Taumoepenu

Jontay Betham-Misa

Luca Moretti

Jack Colovatti


* If fit

** If not selected for NRL

*** one of these two might be in line for NRL selection


Considering the number of Eels players in the injury ward, should a team resembling the one I’ve named take the field, that will reflect positively on the overall depth of the squad.

The NSW Cup match is scheduled for Saturday at Kellyville. It may also be that any NRL bench players who play minimal minutes could back up in NSW Cup.

Isaac Lumelume

Moving forward, the Eels will be looking to recruit a prop and an outside back to finalise their top 30. Because they can use second tier and development contract players in ten weeks, I think it’s likely that they’ll look externally rather than upgrading existing personnel. This will add further depth.

Injury results in opportunity, both at NRL and NSW Cup level. A fully fit roster will result in some decent footballers missing selection throughout the season, especially if recruits are added.

It makes for an interesting Team List Tuesday, every week.

Eels forever!


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15 thoughts on “The Spotlight – February 27, 2023: Likely NSW Cup Team Sheds Light On Eels Depth

  1. Josh Randall

    As the President of the Loizou fan club, I really hope he has an injury free run and kicks on to 1st grade this year. There’s a talented player there. I respect what Rankin has done for our youngster’s but I think it’s time we bring someone else in. I assume Asi might play 6 and Russel 1 if not selected in 1st grade?

    1. sixties Post author

      Both Asi and Russell have versatility so yes those positional selections are possible. Jordan is transitioning towards a coaching role in pathways and sits outside of the top 30, whereas Asi, Loizou and Russell all have NRL contracts.

  2. LSB

    Sixties, which players do you think we would be scouting for? It is quite slim pickings atm, I look at the market for Props that off-contract this year and I consider Ogde, Makatoa, Greig and Rodwell all better than 90% of them.

    1. sixties Post author

      To be honest, I am of the same opinion. They need to have 29 signed up soon so maybe they have a signing that is from left field. If not, then it has to be an upgrade.

    1. sixties Post author

      To be honest, it caught me by surprise when it hit the media, to the point that I hadn’t asked any staff about what happened. It simply wasn’t on my radar. It’s not listed on NRL sites. The best I can determine is that he was suspended after week 1 of the NSW Cup finals series last year.

    2. Anonymous

      Hip drop tackle v the Bulldogs in the final last year. The Bulldogs player ended up with similar injuries to Haze Dunster.

      1. sixties Post author

        Which Bulldogs player? Russell was only suspended for a week. Perhaps you are confusing it with Naiduki’s cannonball tackle on Souths player Liam Knight back in July which put Knight out for the rest of the season. Naiduki got 3 weeks. The 3 week suspension of Naiduki generated headlines at the time for being too light, and that was in a NSW Cup regular round match. I think you are correct about a hip drop but I reckon if Russell did similar damage to that done to Dunster and it was in a Cup finals match, and then only got one week, there would have been big headlines. This hasn’t been on anyone’s radar.

          1. sixties Post author

            Appreciate that reply and link. I’m surprised it didn’t make more headlines. Hope Bailey is recovering well.

  3. !0 Year Member

    Do you think JA will go the way of Ryan Matto and bulk up and play lock? He just seems too tall for the halves

    1. Mick

      I don’t think he can bulk up that much, he has a body shape that will stay relatively the same his whole career. It really is a pity, he has the drive,he has the “footy” smarts, he has ability, and he is going to get better, the only thing he doesn’t have is the body shape. I honestly believe if he had a traditional half back body, ala Moses, Hunt, Reynolds etc, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

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