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.
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:
Makahesi Makatoa/Wiremu Greig ***
* 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.
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.