Will Penisini has now returned to training which means that every squad member is back at Kellyville. That includes club captains Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo who are both involved in rehab as they recover from knee and toe operations respectively.
Will looks to be in very good order, and this has been true for all returning players. The photo below captures Will following his brother Richard during Monday’s conditioning work. Note the different builds of the two brothers – Will is that powerful stocky build we are all familiar with. Richie is taller and at just 18, also a strong build.
When it comes to conditioning, it’s difficult to make individual or collective comparisons to last season, given the late return of many players due to the World Cup. It was a preseason where a number did not begin training until January.
Most clubs were in the same boat. Nonetheless, the squad looks advanced from a conditioning perspective and being able to work on systems with an entire squad this early in the preseason has to be a major positive.
This first field session of the week involved conditioning for all players, but it appeared that there was a greater load on the backs and edge players than there was on the middles.
Rather than competing against each other, the players were probably competing against themselves. The start of each player’s run was slightly spaced, and each appeared to be close to top pace and closely monitored via their GPS devices. Though it was near impossible for me to assess pace, Bailey Simonsson looked very fast.
In keeping with the trend of this preseason, the session included a continued emphasis on the technical and tactical, with the squad working through attacking shapes and defensive systems.
The middles in particular were doing the work where they live – doing the tough carries and defence in the middle third. It’s interesting to watch the coaching about positioning, movement, footwork and communication.
In this report, I wanted to make mention of some of the NRL players that hadn’t featured as much in the reports thus far.
* Shaun Lane – the tallest* rugby league player in the world (*lacking any shred of verification) is usually a slow build into the preseason. He has returned in better shape than in any previous year.
* Matt Doorey – last year would have been a challenge for Matt. He arrived as a player with a history of injuries and a resume of games starting from the bench. Injury again hampered him at times in 2023, but he looks like he’s been doing the work in the off-season that would give him the best possible chance of playing 80 minutes on an edge.
* Luca Moretti – his NRL experience in 2023 has him starting this preseason as close to a top 17 incumbent. He’s still not on a top 30 deal but perhaps his self belief is at that level. There’s no question that he’s put in some hard work during the off-season.
* RCG – with Junior in rehab, Reg has stepped up as a senior voice in the group. Alongside Moses, he can be heard encouraging the efforts of others.
* J’Maine Hopgood – a total professional. If this was last season, I’d be raving about the Eels new signing. Instead I’m almost taking his work on the training track for granted. That’s a measure of his standards.
* Dylan Brown – looks a million dollars. It’s as simple as that.
There was no training report from last Friday due to a variation in the Eels program for the week.