The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 15 & 17, 2023: Big Stars Commence Rehab Journeys

Monday was light in terms of the conditioning load, so you didn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that both Wednesday and Friday would be far more demanding when it came to fitness work.

Both days are included in this report.

This week was also notable for the returns of Mitch Moses, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo, Clint Gutherson and Daejarn Asi. For the latter three, that return was of the rehab variety.



Daejarn and Junior were back at Kellyville today. There was no running for Junz following the injury and subsequent operation on his toe. He joined Gutho and Makahesi in off-field rehab. However, a finger injury didn’t prevent Asi from participating in the conditioning work.

Early on, Mitch, Reg, and Daejarn were running some extra metres, I assume to catch up for not being there last week. Mitch looks particularly fit, which was no surprise as he makes it his practice to return to work fitter than the year before.

In these early couple of weeks, it seems like the footballs are in the hands of the players far more often than any previous preseason. Even the warm up process involves footballs. Today, straight after the warm up, draw, pass and score drills kicked things off.

Draw, pass and score

Soon after, the conditioning work began. Once more the young players were prominent in leading their groups. Ethan Sanders, Boods Arthur and Saxon Pryke were consistently up at the front.

The longer the running went, the better Charlie Guymer and Jock Brazel performed. Richard Penisini also impressed. As far as the big men are concerned, Carty, Ofa, and Rodwell looked to be the standouts.

With a serious fitness load completed, the back half of the session returned to the technical and tactical aspects.

There were a couple of plays in different parts of the field that the squad was working on, though it seemed that the emphasis could have been more on the defence than the attack. I base this on some entertaining praise that Sean Russell received for a smart defensive decision.

Finally, the players worked through unopposed sets, marching  from deep in their half towards the opposing red zone. This appeared to be familiarising all of them with basic shapes and their roles. The names of shapes could be heard as the team hit certain points on the field.

Much of the feedback that I could hear coming from the coaches was about communication and positioning.


Once more, after the warm ups were completed, the squad moved immediately into working with the football. This time, they rolled through unopposed set starts.

Then, just like Wednesday, it was time for some running – though maybe it was kicked up a notch – or maybe three! Hello M Runs!!!

Once more I have to give a shout out to Ethan Sanders, Saxon Pryke, Matt Arthur, Charlie Guymer and Jock Brazel. These young blokes set high standards in all of the fitness work. This is exactly what I was looking for via the inclusion of pathways players. Their opportunity is being grabbed with both hands and it’s uplifting.

Keep on running

Brendan Hands, Joey Lussick and Ky Rodwell are also deserving of praise. As noted last week, Rodwell has presented as close to the fittest in the group. Meanwhile there is competition in the dummy half position between Hands and Lussick, and both are looking to impress. Furthermore, Matt Arthur is an outstanding dummy half prospect and part of cadre of SG Ball graduates who made their mark in the late finals surge of the 2023 Jersey Flegg team.

Two other points of interest that I noted during the conditioning runs.

Firstly, Mitch Moses is assuming a leadership role in the absence of Gutho. When one set of runs was completed he was barking at the players to get ready for the next.

Secondly, Haze Dunster appears to be running more freely. I was encouraged by this, as well as by his efforts in some of the other work in this session.

After the extensive fitness work was completed, it was time for more football. Similar to the previous Friday, the squad was split into thee groups and rotated through stations that the coaches had set up around the field. There was a touch footy game closest to my vantage point, a hand/eye coordination activity, and an unstructured attack station furthest away.

Most of my observations have to be about the station closest to me as it was impossible to accurately observe the other work that was nearly 120 metres away. Given that the all of the players rotated twice through each station, I did get the opportunity to watch every player.

Just to set a context, the game of touch would last only three to four minutes but it was rapid pace and would involve roughly five players per team, though one team would get an extra player to create an advantage.

It was continuous play, (four “tackles”?) with the scoring team maintaining possession and then launching their next set running in the opposite direction. They ball must be played properly and not just rolled back. There is an expectation that the players will continually present themselves in support during times in possession, and chase hard in defence. It is a game which pushes their fitness.

Blaize catches a high pass

Assistant coach Steve Murphy was overseeing it, and his animated instructions, demands, praise, and “commentary” make the game even more entertaining to watch. With so much going on, I found myself trying to recall highlights rather than noting them down as they occurred.

This week I wanted to mention some defensive efforts in this game. To me it speaks about attitude as players that break the line in this game can be near impossible to prevent from scoring.

The major efforts included:

* A terrific chase by Charlie Guymer to stop Kelma Tuilagi

* Haze running freely in a big chase on Carty

* A Morgan Harper chase and dive to stop a try

* A Matto chase and dive which went close to stopping a try

The next station rotations were more about skills. Catching technique stations for the back five were closest to my viewing area.

Kicking drills for the halves and dummy halves were in centre field, whilst it appeared to be mobility work for the forwards at the far end of the ground.

These stations wrapped up with the kickers and catchers coming together in their work. The kickers were aiming for a marked zone, whilst the catchers were faced with interference in their attempts to mark the ball.

From recollection, only one ball was dropped. As far as the kicking was concerned, both Ethan Sanders and Matt Arthur were incredibly accurate. I can’t recall any of their kicks that landed outside of the marked zone.


The session concluded with the group donning jerseys for tackling technique. We were able to watch this from close range and hear the impact and some banter. Certain players clearly enjoy this with one particular hit drawing an amusing comment from Reg about its outcome.

Week two done.

Eels forever!



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40 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – November 15 & 17, 2023: Big Stars Commence Rehab Journeys

    1. sixties Post author

      Glenn, Blaize is doing everything that he needs to do. The early part of the preseason can set the tone in terms of attitude and effort and he looks at home in the squad. However, the real mark for Blaize and others trying to push their claims kicks in when the opposed work becomes serious and involves contact. Are they up for the physicality and intensity? Blaize can play a range of positions but I want to make comparisons with our halves. From a size perspective Blaize is bigger than Moses and might just be bigger than Dyl. Like Dyl, he enjoys the contact part of the game. Of course playing the game at that NRL level is another step beyond the training. But the coaches have to make early season decisions based on training, trials and past I’ll be more prepared to offer stronger opinions as we get closer to the end of preseason.

    1. Milo

      Hi Phil
      I’ve been once last wk and aim to go back next week. You can watch from the middle field and walk along side fence and enter – Sixties and co have all the details. But I was with my kids and we watched from a corner near gear container shed! It was fine as long as we stood back.

    2. sixties Post author

      It’s not easy I’ll give you that. I walk around the side fence at the lower end of the complex, then observe from behind the dead ball line. It’s best to not watch from where Milo described as that’s sort of the player only area.

  1. Milo

    Thanks Sixties for the update.
    I know you can’t go into detail but I am hoping and assume we will work on some areas of defence such as slowing ruck down to reduce quick shifts against us and also the defence communication from edge / centre etc as we have been caught here before.
    Do you also see or hear the coaches work on forwards play leading up to kicks? As I saw at times last season the play prior to a kick be a slow resulting play the ball hence pressure on kicker.
    Just some points I noted at times last year.
    I guess the other one will come when the refs come to training- and our ability to put pressure on the ref around the ruck.

  2. Martin Pluss

    One day I should try and see them in action. Seeing them doing their fitness work would be so interesting.

    Thanks for the update.

    Cheers Martin

  3. Ron

    Our play the ball speed, wrestling in defence and metres conceded in middle should be major areas of focus. We consistently rank near bottom on all those categories and haven’t addressed it.

    60s, do you know/see if we have a wrestling coach or are working on these? Ball in hand in not bad thing but our defence is piss weak most years so I thought they would finally seek to implement something that resembles a consistent defence system

    1. sixties Post author

      Yes they have a coach for that. They do some of that work in the gym, but they also work on technique including multi-player contact to the ground and communication in peeling off. They haven’t done that as yet this year, but I expect to see it in the coming weeks.

  4. TolEllts

    Hi Sixties, Thanks again for the updates. Is Josh Hodgson now part of the coaching staff or even training/ giving pointers to our dummy halves?. Thnaks.

    1. sixties Post author

      Not that I’ve seen at these field sessions. He’s working in the pathways space with younger players. If he’s had time with our senior players it’s on different days.

    1. sixties Post author

      Ivan, I had heard something about picking up a couple of Tigers contracted Ron Massey Cup level players today. Jordan Hill fits in with that. Limited NSW Cup appearances so I’d say he’s been signed to a second tier deal.

      1. Parra Pete

        Got this from Stacey – Jordan Hill’s mum.11:35 AM
        You sent
        Is Jordy back in fuill training yet. Is he going OK?

        Stacey replied

        Pretty much back to normal. Sees the surgeon again in 3 weeks for a return to full contact.
        He’s loving it and Parramatta are very professional and hands on.
        The surgeon is saying round 2 or 3 for him
        He hasn’t lost much speed which is a blessing!
        He has been in the top 3 in all the testing

  5. Mark Camman

    There has been a lot said and written in the past few months about our lack of depth in the outside backs.
    I’d like to focus on our wing optionit seems that most NRL wingers have one of 2 main attributes
    1. They are built like a proverbial brick outhouse and unstoppable from 10-15 meters out AKA Sivo
    2. Tall, athletic and blessed with lots of speed. Safe under the high ball and make good metres on kick returns.
    Where do Tussell and Dunster fit in to the mould. From what I’ve seen Dunster is neither 1 or 2.

    1. sixties Post author

      Sean is actually quite tall and has decent pace, though not in the elite speed category. Before he was injured, Haze had a number of positives. Safe, strong (he could invariably beat the first couple of defenders in kick returns) and therefore decent in yardage, and his pace was ok for a winger. Last year he was badly hampered by that bad knee injury and then had a couple of other hurdles. Whether he can get back to his form at the end of 2021 remains to be seen.

  6. James Smith

    Hi Sixties
    Can you confirm something please? In a foxsports article on Parramatta today they said that Steve Murphy and Peter Gentle were the Eels assistant coaches. Is it true that Peter Gentle is back on the staff after leaving us in about 2017?


    1. Milo

      Hi mate
      Saw the same article and I think it’s another Fox error..Barrett is our assistant
      Fox have some terrible reports and some poor spelling errors too.

      1. Harry P

        I couldn’t believe how inaccurate the article was. I assume the journo may find himself in minor strife in the morning

    2. sixties Post author

      I haven’t seen the article as yet but I’d been told about it. BA’s assistants are the same as last year – Trent Barrett, Steve Murphy and Steve Antonelli. Gentle left long ago.

  7. Harry P

    I understand the pre season has barely started to get underway, but I was just wondering if there is any slight indication of the positional pecking order, and if so, is there any rotation in to see younger players in the mix with the more established first graders to see how they go. Obviously not al whole lot of heavy contact but still would be interesting to see who the coaching staff would be keen on seeing integrate with the big boys. I’m also shocked to here JJBM hasn’t been there, surely will be joining at some point.

      1. Harry P

        Surely we wouldn’t have let him go after his impressive outings in the lower grades last year. I haven’t seen anything with him in it at any other club so who knows. Maybe he’s still with the flegg training?

      2. Ron

        What’s there to ask? It’s a given that Parra generally lose their better juniors year on year (metcalfe most recently). The retention is not good at all. Jjbm is one of the few forwards who is a junior + has real aggression + a point of difference with his fast leg speed I like leniu and it seems we haven’t valued that. Instead we have Ogden and Momoseia and Rodwell and makatoa all ahead of him taking up space and it’s costs us. Just like it costs us sanders having plodders in team and not giving sanders a top 30 pathway deal earlier. Just like it cost us stefano not giving him more of an opportunity rather than the journeymen at the time. This forward pack is aging and jjbm could have been fresh blood to reinvigorate it + add real aggression/punch that we lack from bench but it seems the infamous recruitment and retention team that has botched things over and over throughout last few years has botched it again. They would rather fill out a top 30 with journey man than give younger juniors a real crack. Sucks to repeat myself for what feels like 2 years but it’s not up to scratch.

        1. Harry P

          I get your frustration completely. By metcalfe do you mean the young Matt’s half?
          Back to JJBM, I do recall Haze dunster being on a podcast recently and speaking of JJBM as one of the real talents at Parra who could make the leap to the top grade next year so unless somethings changed I’d assume he’s still at the club?

          1. Ron

            Yea he was eels Matts and apparently a great young half roosters have snatched up. Re: jjbm, the talent is there to see but more importantly the attitude. He won’t take a backward step and we need someone like that on the bench to fire up.

          2. sixties Post author

            Lachie Metcalfe hadn’t even reached Matts level at Parra. He is only 15 and was in the Wenty under 16s and Eels development squad. Named PJRL player of the Year. By choosing to link with the Roosters pathways rather than Parra, I believe he has made himself ineligible to turn out for Wenty now. It’s my understanding that Parra juniors can play junior reps for other districts and stay with their local club, but only if Parra failed to select them first.

        2. Anon

          Wasn’t Stefani signed by the Tigets when he was still 19 before he even made his debut?
          Not sure the club could have done much to keep him

          1. Poppa

            Agree on Stefano and frankly he wasn’t up to it when given some opportunities…..he would have struggled making our top 17 until his/this last year with Tigers when he put more effort in.
            At this stage it was a smart move for Stefano and a smarter one for us. He is very overated and it was only the coaches bad judgement that got him an origin run this year gone.
            If he eventually does make it, lets not fall for the trap of crying over spilt milk!

          2. sixties Post author

            Anon, he was on the cusp of a debut when the Tigers signed him. We could have and arguably should have locked him up without having to compete with Tigers money.

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