The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 20, 2023: Hello Dylbags

The Eels NRL squad moved a step closer to having everyone back to the preseason when Dylan Brown fronted for training this week.

And it didn’t take long for him to showcase his athleticism. More on that in a moment.

This was a typical Monday for this preseason. The proportion of the session spent on the technical and tactical was high, whilst the conditioning appears to be left for the other days.

The forwards began with draw, pass and score drills. Once more the reminder was there that planting the ball over the line is a requisite part of the task. The odd misdirected pass under defensive pressure emphasised why teams practise this basic skill.

Draw, pass and score

Simultaneously, the backs commenced their running mechanics/sprint work.

Running in groups of three, on a course with an arc, the players opened up at what would have been close to top pace. They appeared to be matched with others of similar positions. From a curiosity perspective, it would be interesting to watch “match races” between the fastest, but it was still possible to get a sense of the pace of different players, in addition to the difference in size.

For example, Mitch Moses was running with Dylan Brown and Ethan Sanders. As Moses and Brown competed around the bend, Sanders sat on their heels. The three are comparable in pace with Dylan Brown possibly even faster than Moses.

Dylan hits top gear. In the background, Blaize leads his group

Where there is a difference, is in their size. Ethan Sanders is a tall half, and though I have no stats to go by, he must be at least around the 6’2 and much heavier than Brown and Moses. I have no doubt that if he was required to make an NRL debut in the halves in 2024, that he could handle the physicality.

The other player who looked impressive striding out was Blaize Talagi. I’d estimate that Blaize would be both taller and heavier than Dylan Brown, and might just be a tick over 90kg.

There are many comparisons between Dylan and Blaize, with both joining the full time squad at a young age, both being pathways stars and both being very good defenders. Similarly, the weight of expectation is falling on Blaize as it did with Dylan.

Probably the major point of difference is that Dylan played exclusively in the halves as he progressed through the grades. Blaize has excelled in the halves and centre, and even played off the bench as a utility in his first year in Matts.

Talagi and Sanders are the highest profile pathways players in the squad, with maybe Matt Arthur the other to garner media attention. We can all be guilty of putting pressure on them, and the other pathways players involved in this preseason, with our expectations. We have to temper that with remembering that many of these pathways fellas were playing SG Ball earlier this year. It would be a massive step to climb from Junior Reps to NRL in the next season.

When it came to the forwards and their turn to do some sprinting, they too were grouped with others in similar positions. Shaun Lane in full stride really caught the eye. The big man gapped his group. Jock Brazel also displayed good pace.

The rest of Monday’s session involved more drawing and passing grid drills, in addition to defence line movement. Just before extras kicked in, the back five spent time on kick returns. They took this a bit further by fielding high kicks from the halves during extras.

Bring on Wednesday.

Eels forever!


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

28 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – November 20, 2023: Hello Dylbags

  1. Poppa

    Given Sanders size, was anyone prepared to look at him as a bench alternative, sounds like he could handle hooker as well as any position in the backline.
    In saying this I am not aware of his defensive capabilities in such a role but all his skills as a half would come into a game as a hooker…..physicality is really the only diff between a half and a hooker these days.
    After all Ben hunt is arguable the best utility in the game and it would be the type of incentive that Sander’s may have needed to stay at Parra.

  2. Poppa

    PS I love the idea of having a running hooker with pace, 10 minutes either side of half time can change a game for that type of player.

    1. sixties Post author

      Poppa, I can see where you’re coming from, but Sanders sees himself as a specialist halfback, so trying him in a bench/dummy half cover role would not be an incentive to stay. I’m not saying Parra wouldn’t use him in such a way. Just letting you know that he would be trying to build his brand as a halfback, a position which is in much higher demand than a utility role.

      1. John Eel

        How old is Sanders? It should be remembered that he won’t reach the peak of his powers until late twenties.

        What you say about him though promoting his brand is very understandable.

          1. Poppa

            Spoke to a mate of mine 60’s and he said the same as you i.e. where he (Sanders) see’s himself.
            One of the reasons there is a shortage of halves, is exactly because of what he is doing…..good young halves being pushed too early and he needs to understand that as part of his own development.

            This brings us back to mentoring and the way we need to approach it. We have other young players becoming available through the current group and all of them have first graders in front of them….we need to establish an approach that works in keeping them.
            I suspect we are pissing in the wind getting him back in 2 years, mainly because if he is a success, we won’t afford him and because if he is a failure, then the process is also a failure.
            We cannot afford to develop players and not provide a pathway. The utility angle is something that needs to be sold to him as a beneficial opportunity as it eases him into the fray, and if his potential becomes obvious through such a process,. then nobody is going to be blinded as to his “want” to be a half. Other clubs are addressing this and Bronco’s manage to keep their up and comers in the process.
            Its a hard one to address but we need to come up with a better process than losing the best of what we are developing.
            This type of forum does provide ideas and I would like to think there is nothing new in my comments that haven’t already been thought of, looking at the non thinking I see in the game, I actually wonder how true that is.

          2. sixties Post author

            Poppa, Sanders will play out 24 at Parra. He is on the supplementary list which means that BA can use him from round one. I don’t think he’ll be used early in the season, but injury could change things. BA sees him as a resource and I believe that the club hasn’t given up on keeping him. I’d still back him to depart, but there’s no question that he’s putting in at training. We’ll see what sort of offer comes his way when round 6 hits.

  3. John Eel

    I agree with those thoughts. Sterlo began his career at the Eels as a FB. I get that was a different era. But the way the game is played now you can imagine Sanders filling in off the bench as you have suggested.

    Is Lock out of the question? Probably. However it is a ball playing position in the modern game.

    1. sixties Post author

      John, he absolutely has the size to play other roles. Should he do so? It’s debatable, but one thing we know is that Sanders is already recognised across clubs as an elite teenage half. If he was on the open market now, especially after his profile was raised even further by 19s Origin and Parra’s late season finals surge in Flegg, he would be swamped by offers, such is the dearth of specialist halfbacks. He might be correct in thinking playing other positions could dilute his reputation and therefore his value.

    2. Poppa

      Actually he started as a 5/8, the one game he played as a fullback was as a fill in a semi final, he was so highly regarded that they took the view that he could do the job.\
      He played most of his minor grades as a 5/8 but was earmarked as a half from the time he was first identified. It was the type of imaginative thinking that we now require…..BUT he is still not ready to play first grade and to think he is likely to start at Canberra straight away in First Grade is not good for the kid’s development.
      Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns an explain it is not in his interest. The problem just the same is that Ricky is supposedly going to start him on a 350k contract, if that is the case we really need to do something about TPA’s or we are wasting our time with pathways.

      1. John Eel

        I understand that he needs to build his brand as a seven. But is that going to happen at the Raiders or is it better for him to be exposed on the field to the skill of MM and Dylan.

        If the figure of $350,000 is true then with short sightedness (is that a word) it would be easy to jump to the Raiders.

        I get what Sixties is saying and he is typically well informed. However I do wonder how much of this move is down to instant gratification so common in the younger generation of today’s youth.

  4. Hamsammich

    Great to hear the young fellas are pushing the established players, one of the great things about pre-season. I hope they’re able to showcase their abilities in the grade that will challenge them whilst also being competitive. This includes Sanders, we’ve seen over a year collectively that he’s able to play Flegg. He should be given a spot in reserve grade.

      1. Hamsammich

        That’s where he should play, others may want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” but that’s not how I think we should do our business. It’s alleged Sanders will sign a 2 year deal, there’s a chance he could come back after those 2 years. Trey Mooney should be a regular first grader but ricky constantly signs players in front of him, something similar could happen with Sanders.

        1. sixties Post author

          I agree Ham. He needs to be considered part of BA’s resources for the season, and needs to depart without any bridges burnt. And who knows what will happen when the actual formalities play out after round 6.

  5. Hindy111

    On Sanders of Canberra offered a good junior in the backs or Cotric to get him this year I’d happily send him a year early.
    He isn’t part of our future now. If Moses went down seasons shot regardless who backs up.

    1. sixties Post author

      I guess that’s a call to make after round 6 and if Canberra come up with an offer. At this stage I see him playing out the season at Parra.

  6. Richard Leader

    Sixties, so far there has been no mention of Josh Hodgson working with
    Joey Lussick and Brendan Hands
    Is it happening, and will it happen?

    1. sixties Post author

      Josh is working in pathways. I don’t know whether there is any work happening on other days or times. I’m only watching the three main field sessions. If I get the opportunity to speak with any staff, I’ll ask.

  7. Harry P

    Great read Sixties.

    Realistically, in your opinion, what are the chances of Blaize Tailagi or Richard Pensini getting a go this year. If theres a good chance, what positions do you believe they would take. Centre or wing?

    1. sixties Post author

      Realistically, it is more likely later in the season. Blaize can play a number of positions but in tipping a debut for either I’d probably have to consider where the team is likely to have issues. Wing and centre first off, followed by fullback are those positions. So I’ll suggest wing for Richie and centre for Blaize. But I wouldn’t suggest rushing things and I think it will only be if they succeed at NSW Cup level and then later in the season. I’m looking forward to the start of serious opposed work at training.

      1. Harry P

        yeah I totally agree. Once the serious opposed work starts that’s when it’ll become interesting to see how far off some of these youngsters are from the more established members of the first grade squad. Just quickly, I saw young Richard Penisini posted a video to his Instagram story earlier today of an opposed session (didn’t seem serious or any much contact) where Richard was defending at Right Centre and Sean Russell was defending next to him on the Left Wing. Interesting to see these players being put on these sides, I’m all for those players becoming used to those sides. But what i found really interesting was that the player on the opposite team attacking on the right wing and making Rusty look silly was who I could only picture as Ethan Martin. Has he been training much with the first grade squad? and if so how does he seem to be going?

        1. sixties Post author

          Ethyn has just resumed preseason after a week away. Yes that was him. He was able to pull up really quickly causing Sean to lose his footing. There were a few laughs as it happened.
          I’m not reading too much into what side the players are lining up at this stage. Ethyn was also playing on the opposite side to where he played in Flegg.

  8. Milo

    Sixties what do you make of Rodwell and where do we see him fitting into the equation? Reserves yes, but could he be considered for a bench spot too?
    I’m also interested in Guymer and where he could play for Reggie’s / Flegg and what is his best position?

    1. sixties Post author

      Milo, Rodwell had a very encouraging 2022, but a few jumped ahead of him in 2023. He looks like he’s going to give himself the best chance fitness wise to succeed in 2024.
      As for Guymer, I reckon edge forward is his best spot. Not sure what grade he will start in but I believe he’s destined for NRL.

  9. BP

    Great to see the pathways players taking part in pre-season. I have commented before that we are likely to see more squad turnover in the coming 1-2 seasons than we have in the past couple of years, and I have hope a number of pathways players will make their way into first grade.
    The comparisons between Blaize and Dylan are hard to ignore. I as at Leichhardt this year for the Ball semi vs Roosters and Blaize looked classy with everything he did while also embracing the physicality of the contest. I hope he has a good pre-season and continues his development – who knows, we might have an answer to part of our backline needs already…

    1. sixties Post author

      BP, I agree about the turn over in the next couple of years. These pathways players have the right attitude. Whether or not they become regular NRL players, they seem to have the work ethic at this stage

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: