The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 10, 2023: Roster Update As Pathways Players Bring Great Energy


Before detailing the final field session of the week, I thought it best to address the updated Eels roster posted on Friday on the NRL’s official site.

TCT readers might remember that I wrote about the Eels top 30 back in August. At that stage I believed that 27 of the Top 30 spots had been filled.

The retirements of Hodgson and Davey have been offset by the recruitment of Harper and Tuilagi.

However, according to this updated list, all 30 spots have been filled. I cannot comment on the accuracy of this list. Certainly all players named have presented at preseason, but I’d suggest waiting on more news.

Regardless of whether the accurate number is 29 or 30, if the Eels are planning on game changing recruitment for 2024, at least two players will need to be moved on.

Of interest to me is the confirmed Supplementary List (Development Contract). It contains three players from the successful SG Ball team (Sanders, Guymer, Tuivaiti) alongside a Flegg team mate (Brazel) and a 2023 NRL debutant (Moretti).

This leaves a Supplementary List spot open. It also confirms that the media made an error regarding Matt Arthur’s contract, a fact I noted after the reports on his contract first emerged. His Development deal (Supplementary Listing) kicks in for the 2025 season, not 2024.

Remember, all those on the Supplementary List are eligible to play NRL from Round 1.

So, with all that background covered, the current Eels squad, with the age that each Top 30  player turns in 2024 and the final year of their contract in brackets, is apparently as follows:


Reagan Campbell-Gillard (31, 2025), Bryce Cartwright (30, 2025),  Matt Doorey (24, 2025), Wiremu Greig (25, 2026), J’maine Hopgood (25, 2025), Shaun Lane (30, 2026), Makahesi Makatoa (31, 2024), Toni Mataele (22,  2025), Ryan Matterson (30, 2026), Jirah Momoisea (26, 2024), Joe Ofahengaue (29, 2025), Ofahiki Ogden (28, 2024), Junior Paulo (32, 2026), Ky Rodwell (25, 2024), Tevita Taumoepenu (23, 2024), Kelma Tuilagi (25, 2025)


Zac Cini (24, 2024), Haze Dunster (25, 2025), Morgan Harper (26, 2024), Will Penisini (22, 2025), Sean Russell (22, 2025), Bailey Simonsson (26, 2024), Maika Sivo (31, 2025)


Daejarn Asi (24, 2024), Dylan Brown (24, 2025), Clint Gutherson (30, 2025), Brendan Hands (25, 2025), Joey Lussick (29, 2025), Mitchell Moses (30, 2026), Blaize Talagi (19, 2024 with 2025 option)

Supplementary List

Charlie Guymer, Ethan Sanders, Jock Brazel, Luca Moretti (2025 NRL), Sam Tuivaiti (2025 NRL)

Friday Field Session

This was a big session, and exceeded two hours before extras kicked in.

As per the previous field sessions, it was a combination of conditioning along with footy technical and tactical skills.

Following the warm ups, the squad split into smaller groups for drills at stations. The players at the station closest to my vantage point were working in a grid for a basic draw, pass and score drill. There were reminders about following the exact instructions delivered by the coach in charge. Players are expected to execute exactly what they are told to do.

From here, the running commenced. The week had been building to this point, and the appearance of M Runs on a Friday was not a surprise. That said, the running was not limited to just M runs.

The advantage of observing the running today was that the fitness levels and competitiveness of the players was more easily observable.

I have previously stated that the inclusion of young pathways players in a preseason provides both fresh faces and an injection of energy into the squad.

The M runs were split into two groups. Saxon Pryke and Ethan Sanders consistently led one group. Matt Arthur led the other.

Most interesting was the player that pushed up to compete with Boods Arthur in every run – Ky Rodwell. This is easily the fittest that I’ve seen Rodwell in a preseason, not that he’s ever arrived in bad shape. Judging by some of his efforts in the “footy” components of the sessions, he could reap the benefits of the efforts he’s obviously put in during the off season.

Rodwell and Arthur stride out in front

The real fun will begin once Gutho returns from his break, which I believe is next week. I enjoy watching any young gun that decides to take him on, and someone usually does. If they get the upper hand it invariably only lasts for a session or two at most. Then Gutho finds another gear.

I also want to mention Joe Ofahengaue. The Eels mid season recruit takes his preparation very seriously, and it was going to be interesting to watch his contribution to the team with a full Eels preseason under his belt. He has arrived ready for that preseason.

In between the conditioning work, the squad split into three to rotate through stations for their footy skills.

Station one was high energy red zone attack and defence. Station two was hand/eye coordination activities. Station three was four on four continuous touch footy (sideline to sideline).

Touch game in action

Given my proximity to the touch footy station, it was the one that offered the best opportunity to make some notes.

* Sanders chasing down what appeared to be a certain try

* Surprising pace shown by Moretti in scoring a break away try

* Carty creating space with typical Carty deception

* Rodwell and Harper being very involved in their respective games

These games of touch are always interesting to watch. The play is continuous as the scoring team retains possession and immediately starts their next attack in the opposite direction. Every player has the opportunity to be heavily involved so their respective footy instincts come to the fore.


Furthermore, as the fatigue factor is high, attitude and competitiveness shine through in chasing in defence or backing up when breaks are made.

Later in the session, the squad again split into three for specialised skills.

Forwards worked on their hit ups off the ruck, then expanded that to linking via passes. The backs worked on their catching technique and the halves honed their long passing.

The morning concluded with defensive technique drills, conducted in their jerseys.

Week one done!

Final Word

Given that Ethan Sanders has been referenced a couple of times in this report, I’m anticipating that there will be some strong opinions expressed about his departure to the Raiders in 2024.

I’m not expecting Ethan to change his mind about the move.

What is apparent from this start to the preseason is that Sanders is going to be giving his all in this final year at Parra. I also believe that BA will utilise him during the season should injury or circumstance create that opportunity.

Eels forever!


If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.

51 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – November 10, 2023: Roster Update As Pathways Players Bring Great Energy

  1. Eelectricpower

    Looks like a shoot out between simmonson,Harper,Talagi,and Cini for the right centre position.
    I’m tipping Simonson to start the season and Blaze to make his debut later in the season.
    Good to see we have gone with upgrading 2 Junior pathways players in Cini and Talagi rather than buying superstar x factor player, I remember we had one of them he name Was Jarrod Hayne, bringing our juniors through is best way forward to winning a comp imo.
    This model works for the panthers and will also work.for us.

      1. sixties Post author

        At this stage I agree about Simonsson getting a centre spot to start the season, but there is a long way to go. Talagi is a major talent and there is the opportunity for an outside back from pathways to make a splash in 2024.

          1. sixties Post author

            There are a number in this group he would still be Ball eligible but I would see no point in playing them there. I’d suggest Blaize would start in NSW Cup. Just a reminder. He missed most of Ball last year, then came back to play centre at the end of the season through to the finals. He was then injured in the City vs Country clash, missed a chunk of Flegg and again came back late in the season to feature strongly. What he achieved in such an interrupted season was very impressive.

  2. Anon

    A million forwards and bugger all anything else, so unbalanced, 2024 will be pretty much a repeat of 2023, and worse if any backs or spine go down with long term injuries. Recruitment needs a clean out, too happy to be shopping at the reject shop looking for bargains.

  3. Glenn

    We recently signed a young hooker from Penrith. Is he training with the squad?

    From his highlights reel the nuggerty hooker looks very much like ‘block of cheese’ in his physique and playing style being very much a hard runner of the ball.

    1. sixties Post author

      No he isn’t Glenn. When the signing was announced it wasn’t revealed what type of contract he had signed, but it obviously isn’t top 30.

  4. B&G 4Eva

    Sixties, would you care to comment that the roster has got progressively weaker over the last 2 seasons. No elite back signed , some players in the top 30 who really arent expected to be good enough to play NRL , and still unbalanced re backs.
    Junior rep recruitment seems to be switched on looking at signings and players coming through. Not confident we are getting results in the NRL space, can only hope questions are being asked and dare it be said, positions reviewed. Any injuries in the backline , and we don’t seem prepared, really that’s not good enough for what is judged the biggest club by most measures in Sydney.

      1. Ron

        The backline and depth generally is shocking. Will probably be another year of rubbish before they can remove some people on. But even if they do that, we know parra will only go shopping for discards – it’s generally quantity not quality for the signings. I just cannot believe how poorly that roster is constructed. Almost negligent in the lack of quality depth for the backline or spine.

      2. sixties Post author

        Toni Mataele only missed the last three or so games in NSW Cup when he dropped back to play prop in Flegg. I believe that he can be a very effective middle.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’ve written extensively on the issues as I saw them on the 2022 roster. If no major signing is possible, and it appears we need to shed players for that, then we will need to fare better with injury and suspension in 2024. Do I think Parra can play finals football – yes. Can the roster win the title without additions? Probably not. Will a pathways player or two emerge this season? I’m increasingly confident of that.

  5. LakeEEL

    Once again a great report providing us mere mortals with a sharp insight into what we may see in ’24.

    I was sad to see you do not think Ethan Saunders will stay with the EELS past the ’24 season. Iwould have thought the club would do everything they can to keep him on board, why would they not offer him a decent contract fee with a g’tee of playing maybe 9 NRL games throughout the season so he can grab some headlines ?

    He has an opportunity to learn from an elite 1/2, play alongside an elite 5/8 and with a few NRL games under his belt would be a sitter to replace Mitch if he was injured or decide to retire early. Ethan is simply too good to let go elsewhere so a creative retention approach may be able to turn him around.

    Keep up the great work and thanks again


    1. Offside

      The club knew he would go they’ve backed Mitch and Dylan.
      We will always need a decent back up half again following Penrith is a good idea in the last year they have had Cogger and O’Sullivan both played roles within the season then moved on

    2. sixties Post author

      Mike, I am sure that the club has looked into what can be done. But I think the horse had bolted. That said, the early evidence is that Ethan will make the most of this season. It’s important for both parties to never burn bridges.

  6. John H

    Center backs require review
    No known centers who can hold or attract defences to create room in back line attacks…

  7. EA

    My takeaway’s:
    – Talagi has been my favourite junior coming through so I am excited to see him have a top 30 contract. Hopefully he has a great pre-season and stays injury free. With Simmo expected to start the season at centre, it will be interesting to see if Talagi overtakes Simmo at some point through the season. Will also be interesting to see if Talagi starts the year in SG ball since that season starts early. Or if he will go straight to NSW Cup and skip flegg.
    – Sanders is probably leaving which is shit but he is going to be our second back up half (behind Asi). I wonder what is happening to Lynn.
    – I recon JBBM has left the club since he is not on any sort of contract. I hope not because he could have been our Leniu and was my prediction for rookie of the year if given a chance.
    – The club way of signing early 20’s players seems like they start them in cup and promise to give them a top 30 contract the year after. It is was happened to Cini, Taumapenu and Mataele. Neither of these 3 should be in our top 30. Given our spine and outside back shortages, Mataele, Tauamapenu, Moimesia and Rodwell should be moved on ASAP.
    – Love seeing Guymer, Tuivita, Brazel in our development list. I recon Richie P should get the last spot.
    – I feel sorry for players like Moretti who are on development contracts but than we have dead wood players in our top 30. Him and JBBM would be more fitting than some of those forwards.

      1. sixties Post author

        Lynn has been involved in this preseason. I spoke to AMS towards the end of last year and he said he was contracted to the club, but it wasn’t a Dev Deal.

  8. Offside

    I don’t about having Sanders here or not to start the season.
    Looking at our squad list fills me with complete confidence that we are a bottom 8 team and as such we can all make holiday plans for September next year.

  9. BP

    I think we are still a top 8 side for this year but in reality 2024 is a transitory year to reshape this squad. We need a few contract expiries (Momoisea, Rodwell, Ogden etc) and 12 months of development in senior grades for some of our pathway players to then really reload in 2025 and beyond. A few of the senior core are entering their final seasons as well so I expect to see some squad turnover in coming years, after a number of seasons with a similar squad.

      1. Tony Marsh

        So are we saying sixties that AMS is contracted but not in the top 30?
        I find that strange if it is the case as he made his fg debut last season.
        I like him, he has some David Peachy about him and I could see him playing fullback with Gutho in the centres and Bailey on the wing.
        Could always swing that around if needed and AMS goes to the wing Bailey back to centre and Gutho back to his spot.
        I also think Lynn has as much potential as Sanders

        1. sixties Post author

          That’s exactly what I’m saying as AMS already had a contract for 2024 that I don’t believe was changed/updated. He started 2023 in Flegg and due to circumstances was first elevated to NSW Cup and due to that he started training with the NRL group.
          Lynn will be an interesting player to track. He did very well when he was brought up to NSW Cup. Didn’t look overawed. In fact looked very confident.

  10. Parrapetty

    What people are forgetting about season 2023 is, while we finished 10th, one more win, we actually finished 7th and play finals. We lost 4 games by 4 points or less.
    Given the key injuries and way too many suspensions in 2023, I don’t think 2024 is necessarily all doom and gloom as some will have you believe….

    1. sixties Post author

      Parrapetty- I believe I’m being realistic in saying that Parra can play finals if injury and suspensions aren’t like 2024. But recruitment is needed to advance further.

  11. pete

    Good read.

    Interesting about top 30.

    Cini, Harper and many others need to spend the off-season with Bump Farrell. He was credited in improving Mitch’s defence a few years ago. Not sure why this hasn’t happened?

    Sprint coach Roger Fabri- bring him in for some sessions.

    Junior probably playing to preserve his long contract. Needs to be off the bench. Turning 34 in final year of contract. It is possible he can sustain that. I truly hope so.

    Sorry to hear JJBM might have left. We cannot keep everyone but it’s seems the eyes get picked out of our Juniors each year. We seem unwilling to prevent it.

    If you get O’Neil in please ask him to explain our inability to attract key Signings? I mean are we taken seriously in the market? Or are we just used to bump up players contracts…Also ask why we lose so many juniors and cannot pro actively recruit players into our obvious deficiencies. Who has the power over recruitment? …

    1. sixties Post author

      Pete, I assume you meant Bumper O’Farrell whom the club used as a contact specialist. Parra will always lose juniors, it’s whether we lose those that we should keep. I’m not happy that we couldn’t keep Lachie Metcalfe.
      As for the player market, I’ve been clear in my opinion that I believe we should bite the bullet with a marquee target. It seems that might be unlikely in 2024. I’m also not losing sight of the amount that the Eels have spent on retentions.

      1. pete

        Yes, Brett O’Farrell he used to play for Storm and Mitch called him ‘Bump’ in his interview a few years back 2017. Mitch’s defence has improved out of sight since then. He had the highest missed tackles in the competition before that. Now he’s great just ask Kenny Bromwich lol. The point is we’ve done it before and we know it works and we have a known deficiency in our defence. Why not get him back?

        Also, the need for speed and power in back 5 – Sprint sessions are in need.

        We always do lose juniors. I did say we cannot keep everyone but we need to know why we develop players that can sometimes end up playing against us? I mean Ethan Sanders is a classic example.

        And what are our recruitment team doing? If we can better understand roles and functions around that. As said if talking to O’Neil maybe he can shed some light on all the unknowns.
        Thanks again

    2. Ivan

      Pete on your question are we taken seriously in the player market I’ve got to no a player manager not we’ll but I can ask him questions and he told me parramatta are very difficult to deal with when it comes to doing deals ,difficult to listen to when you realise what club/ clubs he played for

      1. pete

        Thanks Ivan, Interesting to hear that. I also suspect there are issues and that’s why there’s a lack of transparency.

  12. MickB

    Good stuff, interesting read including all the comments.

    Not sure of what to make of 2024 predictions. I’m probably just too biased, but on paper we have an elite spine (Mitch, Dylan, Gutho), and forward pack. Sure our outside backs aren’t of the same quality, but all NRL squads have their weaknesses (maybe ex-panthers). Plus you add onto this the stability in our roster, I’d think most clubs would be happy to have this roster to make a tilt at the title?

    If we can sort out our defence, get the tactics right especially at the ruck, and have some better luck with injuries and suspensions, we should go OK.

    I also hope BA keeps up use of the bench in the forward rotation too. Given we are heavy on forwards, it would seem ridiculous to regress back to Junior and Reg playing 60+ mins a game.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’ve made the call that we have the team to play finals but need more pace/a game changer to take the team further. Maybe that person is coming through the ranks already?

      1. B&G 4Eva

        Indeed we are in serious need of a younger player stepping up, the one player that looks most likely is not 18 yet , so will not be able to play NRL.

        The issue remains thatwe have sought to sign layers like Billy Smith, Blake Wilson, Farnsworth, Tracey etc and are unable to get any of them across the line. To be honest not sure that’s good enough results from those tasked with improving the roster.

        Fingers crossed someone comes from the clouds and makes the jump, the roster remains unbalanced and has been that way for a couple of years for some reason.

  13. Avenger

    I’m tipping Morgan Harper will surprise many and take that left centre spot or fill in effectively if there are injuries. He has plenty of pace and has basically been judged with one howler of a game against the Sharks.

  14. Mick

    I think what a lot don’t understand re: recruitment is, if we sign a player like Billy Smith, that would give us a centre pairing of Penisini and Smith, one that will hold us in good stead for the next 5yrs minimum. Then what happens to juniors like Talagi, is he willing to play as a back-up for the next 5yrs, no, he will look elsewhere and you can’t blame him. Sanders knew this to be the case with Moses and Brown locked in for the next few years. Sanders knows he is near ready for top grade, why should he hang around on minimal coin when he knows he can triple his contract money by moving on. We are in a position where we have a crop of exceptional juniors coming through at the same time. We need to be patient and let the R&R do what’s best for our future. Having said that, a decent speedy winger wouldn’t go astray.

    1. sixties Post author

      Mick, without question, trying to balance current needs whilst still offering future opportunities for talented juniors is a challenging task. Penrith have got it right, and it’s meant allowing some players to move on and some talented juniors to also head elsewhere. But they’ve got it right because they keep winning titles.

    2. B&G 4Eva

      Mick, your idea that a club doesn’t sign players because a junior may be ready in a coup”e of years doesn’t make sense. Injuries, loss of form all contribute to players performance and improvement.

      The problem we see is that we are vulnerable in the 3/4 line and have been for a few years, that should be addressed and the luxury of of giving younger players time to mature and be ready for NRL is what we see at most clubs.

      There really isn’t an excuse for the structure our top 30, shouldn’t have happened and should be addressed. Think you will find that MON and the manager of Sanders talk to each other through gritted teeth and can’t see that changing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: