The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 22, 2023: The Big Unit Is Back

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.

Maika is back

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.

Conditioning work in action

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.

Apa Twiddle sets up Matt Doorey

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.

Carty juggles the footy after hitting a hole

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.

Richie and Sean having fun

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.

Final Note

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.

Eels forever!


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34 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – November 22, 2023: The Big Unit Is Back

      1. Ron

        I agree but, as I said, poor planning to have journeyman like Rodwell, maka, Ogden, momesia all taking up space that a junior could have spotted into.

        1. Milo

          Agreed Ron. Some of the above mentioned are not the future. This is poor from the retention group. Poor again. We also lost a young kid called Myles Martin a yr or two back. Another promising one.
          Not good enough for me; this is beyond ridiculous from the club.

  1. Mark camman

    Thanks for your observations as always Sixties.
    Given that the boys train week in week out during the off season and during the season on defensive structures why does it fall apart so badly when they take to the field. Our defence out wide has been diabolical for several seasons. Teams like the Rabbitohs, Roosters, Broncos keep cutting us the spreads by simply moving the ball out quickly with the FB coming in yo create the overlap. Our centres and wingers have no clue. What’s being done to fix that?

    1. sixties Post author

      I honestly believe that any issues in 2023 were individual errors rather than system errors. In certain instances the errors are made with players falling out of systems in field or straight out missing tackles. I watched them work every week on defensive systems and positioning and movement of players. I can assure you that players weren’t staying in systems at times. What you have to remember is that we had many edge defenders missing due to injury or suspension (esp Dylan). Most teams if not all have similar defensive systems, and the number of times that wingers jam in at the wrong time each weekend is countless. Souths are great at exploiting that against all teams, and the strike rate of their wingers, like Johnston, is testimony to that. Look at how many times Johnston just has to catch the ball and stroll over. To be fair, many of Sivo’s tries have become like that.
      Where I agree with you is Parra’s defence from scrums. They work on it but something regularly goes wrong and it need fixing.

  2. BP

    Dissapointing about JJBM. Agree with the comments around poor squad planning on that one.
    While I think we are getting much better at our pathways, seeing JJBM leave while we handed a top 30 spot to a south’s flegg player in Tevita is a puzzling to say the least.

    1. Ron

      They seem to prefer to block pathways with journey men then give young forwards a red hot crack. Stefano, jjbm, Myles Martin, Ethan sanders etc will have all left because of plodders in front and a la k or real pathway shown to them. When will parra get the balance right? Will it be soon? I hope so but I’ve got minimal faith in the recruitment and retention team after the state of affairs of last few years

        1. Ron

          No mate, I’m saying if sanders saw a top 30 pathway earlier like Jonah Pezet at storm he may have been more likely to stay and wait for Moses to leave. Instead we had heaps of forwards in top 30 with minimal spine players let alone a promising rookie half.

          1. sixties Post author

            It’s sort of that Ron. We needed to put him on a Dev Deal in 2023, and therefore full time training, with maybe top 30 in 2024. But ultimately, he wants to be an NRL halfback and with Moses locked he was still likely to make a similar call at some stage. Maybe just a year later. We’ll see what happens come round 6.

      1. sixties Post author

        Ron, should Sanders depart in will be because Moses and Brown are locked in long term. Martin left some time back and it was t because of who was in front of him. Stefano left due to a huge offer from the Tigers, though we could have secured him without them getting the chance for such an offer. Even taking out the “journeymen” in front of JJBM, there is more depth in middle forwards down to Flegg than any other position.

        1. Ron

          I agree those those factors are real and part of the decision making process for those guys but I just think that the better run clubs don’t lose many of the ones they wanted to keep. We lose too many that we want to keep. There are ways to ensure most stay rather than leave at first sniff if bigger pay or opportunity at cellar dweller club but we haven’t got it right with roster planning

          1. Emjay

            Are you assuming that we wanted to keep Betham-Monty or is he someone that you wanted to keep.

            I think if the club was keen to keep him, they would have made him a top 30 offer before going external.

        1. Gol

          Not that Gus is always trustworthy, but he rubbished the Bulldogs top 30 listing that the NRL provided. Sounds like it was thrown together from NRL data rather than provided by the clubs. NRL data stuff-up sounds more likely to me than anybody offering Taumoepenu a top 30 deal.

  3. Hamsammich

    Good to hear Bailey pushing up in the conditioning work. It’s a big year for him, he should be our starting left centre. Let’s hope he isn’t pushed out to the wing as time and time again he has proven that isn’t his position to fill. If he wants to keep that left centre spot he’s going to have some fierce competition pushing him with Talagi and Penisini on his heels.

  4. Stubbyholder

    Nice shout out to Browny, Sixties, and well deserved. Albeit a short stint in the role it seemed to reap some benefits very quickly. I know his old man, John, pretty well and have chatted with Nathan a couple of times and he’s a quality human being. Certainly a better send off than another site with some absolute nufties who would have never met him bordering on slander with their disgraceful comments. Same site that continually bags you and this site and show their total lack of knowledge. It’s an embarrassment to Eels fans and I’m surprised that Phil hasn’t pulled them into line – anyone commenting with common sense is attacked and harassed and lies, derogatory comments and stupidity abounds. Thanks to you and the team for your continued balanced and well thought arguments – sensible criticism when deserved and praise when it’s deserved in equal amounts.

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers mate and thank you for your support. Though Browny’s tenure was only short, I have no doubt that his influence and impact has been a positive one. Only ever heard good things about him, and we always found him very approachable.

  5. Tony

    If JJBM thinks he is worthy of a top 30 spot at a nrl club right now then good on him.
    I think he is a undersized young prop with good leg speed and that’s about it.
    No doubt he was offered some sort of development deal but not top 30.
    If it meant we keep, Tuivaiti, Tupou, Brazel, Guymer, Mataelle ahead of JJBM I’m fine with that.

  6. John Eel

    There was a Brent Read article this morning on Aidan Fonua Blake and I quote “Bulldogs are one of the few clubs with the salary cap space to accommodate his salary demands “.

    This quote is infuriating on a number of levels. Firstly there have been stories around regarding the Dogs being unable to sign players due to cap restrictions. Secondly AFB does not become available until 2025.

    By 2025 any number of Sydney clubs could make space for him. The other issue the Dogs could run into is “Constructive Dismissal “ which is something the RLPA seems to be onto already in the case where Gould is trying to push last years captain out the door.

    Constructive dismissal is illegal and comes about where the employer makes the work environment for a particular employee so toxic they leave.

    1. sixties Post author

      I hope that RFM stands his ground at the Dogs and that the Dogs are forced to pay him out fully. It appears that their policy of sign them now, make them fit later shows no sign of abating.

    2. Mick

      I can’t see how the Dogs can afford to pay a million for AFB. The Warriors don’t have to put in because it’s AFB’s decision to leave.

    3. Hindy111

      They did lose TPJ and the Pommy guy. There is 1.6 mill there.
      Really they have no pack at all. Who in the side is on huge dollars?
      Burton,Crighton,Mahoney,Kikau… Even JAC is on only an average amount. Reports suggest 550k which is ridiculous. The rest of the back line would not be a huge expense.
      I mean look at our side and we have a 1,6,7 all on huge dollars and a very expensive forward pack that includes Joe O and Matterson on the bench who would both cost quite a lot.
      Dogs would have a lot of cash free imo.

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