Sivo, Sivo, Sivo.
Finally the big Fijian has returned to Kellyville, meaning that Will Penisini remains the only squad member yet to present for either training or rehab.
Sivo wasn’t the only addition to the training track on Wednesday. Rising Flegg prop, Brock Parker, was given his first NRL training session and it was good to see the workaholic front rower arrive ready to match it with the other middles.
It’s only two and a half weeks into the Eels preseason and already I can declare that it is distinctly different to previous years.
Don’t worry, this isn’t about “the toughest preseason ever”.
The technical and tactical components of the sessions are much greater in these early weeks than they have been in any past preseason.
Furthermore, the conditioning work has been changed up. Given that Trent Elkin would have mapped out how the team’s conditioning will build over summer, I acknowledge that I’m only commenting on a small sample of a much larger program.
Nonetheless, I am noticing distinct differences on previous years. I shan’t be going into precise details as clubs prefer to keep their methodology to themselves and I have to respect that.
The Wednesday field session began with half of the squad continuing to hone their draw and pass skills. Running against defenders, each small group of players was instructed to attack the space, with support runners needing to make decisions about the line that they would run.
But the early part of the session wasn’t just about promoting the football. The squad also drilled defence line movements. You can see basic systems at work here, in addition to communication and a decent fitness component.
From there, the running kicked in. I’m not sure how to best name it, given that I’m not going into specifics about distances, timing or numbers of sets. Let’s just call it relentless short distance sets, with the intervals varying according to positions – middles, edges, and backs.
Dylan was setting the pace for the backs, and Baz was barking encouragement for him to keep setting the standard, whilst pushing others to try to keep pace with him. Bailey Simonsson was probably doing the job of being the leading chaser.
In the other groups, Carty was consistently pushing to the front with the edges, whilst Rodwell, Pryke, Ofahengaue and Lussick impressed in the middles group.
It seemed like the coaches were looking for the players to compete hard in every aspect of their work.
After a significant period of conditioning, it was time to drill a range of attacking shapes.
The squad worked on both left edge and right edge attack, and it appeared that there was also an equal emphasis on the defensive decisions of players.
Following that, they worked through a particular shape, including the options/variations to go with it.
A few observations
* All of the halves looking sharp
* Precision service from Matt Arthur
* Ofahengaue running powerfully
* A very focussed RCG who at one stage delivered an unexpectedly strong defensive hit on Charlie Guymer
* Fun banter between Sean Russell, Richie Penisini and Bailey Simonsson. They all managed to find each other for a shot, verbal or physical, with the highlight being the laughs when a move from Ethyn Martin caused Russell to lose his footing.
At the end of the session, Murf gave the squad a couple of scores. I’ll be interested to find out what the numbers meant.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Nathan Brown in the Eels office. He hasn’t left as yet and will be working with the club up till the Christmas break.
The Cumberland Throw extends our thanks to Nathan, both for his work with Parra’s pathways and for his assistance in our coverage of the junior rep season in 2023.
You’ll hear many good things said about Nathan in rugby league circles, and I can understand why. He is one of the most affable blokes you could meet and I’ve spoken to pathways players and staff who are full of praise for what he’s done for them.
We wish Nathan well in his future endeavours.