Day three of the Eels preseason brought the second field session of the 2024 campaign to the Kellyville training track.
Ten more returning players increased the total number in work to 34, with more to come next week.
Wednesday’s returnees included former Silvertails Morgan Harper and Kelma Tuilagi.
Harper was a bit harder to spot with his close cut hair. In contrast, Tuilagi was hard to miss. He’s a big human and wears his hair in a long “ponytail”.
To be fair, in the past we’ve seen Manly players arrive in somewhat ordinary condition. They’ve turned up with niggles, needing rehab or not at comparable levels of fitness. Both Morgan and Tuilagi looked ready to get stuck in.
The others back at Kellyville included Ryan Matterson, Wiremu Greig, Joe Ofahengaue, Bryce Cartwright, Joey Lussick, Bailey Simonsson and Sean Russell. Makahesi Makatoa was busy in rehab following his injury in the Pacific Championships.
All of these blokes returned in good shape, with Carty most consistent in rolling up ready each year as one of the best conditioned.
With such a large squad in action, it was split into two groups to give the staff the opportunity to observe the efforts of every player.
There were a few more questions asked in conditioning today. It was nowhere near as testing as it gets by mid December and early January but the players were feeling it.
As I pointed out in Monday’s report, players maintain a level of fitness whilst they are in their off season. You don’t want to bring on injury when they return – but by the same token, if the players expect to be able to go from unfit to fit in a preseason then they are in trouble. The preseason is about building fitness and increasing the players’ capacity to perform under fatigue.
A strength and conditioning professional such as Trent Elkin won’t be doing one off testing. He will be constantly monitoring the players efforts during their fitness work. The loading can change to suit the group or the individuals.
As per Monday, there was a merging of technical and tactical skills with the running drills. This moves the group forward in honing their ability to execute whilst under fatigue.
To that end, on Wednesday the team worked on basic shapes working out of their red zone. This was complemented by defensive structures and decision making around the ruck.
There are a number of new faces in the squad who are learning the calls and names of shapes, plus defensive structures/systems. Furthermore, NRL clubs with lower grades also like to implement similar systems throughout their grades which means any player called up will be familiar with their role.
Towards the latter part of the morning, ball work became a bit more expansive as the squad went through shifts from the middle of the field to both left and right wings.
All of the coaches had drills that they led during today’s session, with BA reminding the players about his expectations with regard to standards throughout.
Bring on Friday