The Cumberland Throw

Eels Pre-Season Training – November 29, 2023: Here We Go!

Some big questions were asked today after what was easily the most punishing session of the preseason.

And when it was all over, a little practical joke from the staff brought laughter from our corner of the field, and maybe also from the coaches. But as far as the players were concerned, it was probably more a case of sweet relief. More on that later in this report.

Warming up

Our Eels team is renowned for their second phase play. Over the past two seasons they have led the NRL for offloads. So it should come as no surprise that the draw, pass and score drill at the beginning of the session involved an offload component.

There was plenty to like from the players in terms of skills, but it was the energy of Luca Moretti which caught my attention. He pushed through purposefully in support and charged into gaps.  If you had to pick a group of players to run a demo of the drill, he would have been one of the first selected.

From there the team was split into two large groups to work on shapes for both their left and right side attack. This was run as an opposed drill, meaning that it was simultaneously working on the defence.

The two groups of players then came together so that the width of the field could be opened and they repeatedly practised particular plays. With equal emphasis placed on the defence, errors were forced out of the attacking players.

From here it became more interesting.

The squad was split into two teams with reserves, using the full field. This was the closest there’s been to seeing players in preferred positions.

Each team alternated their time in possession, commencing a set from their own quarter, and trying to execute some of the shapes that they had been drilling.

Full field action

At times, Arthur was not happy with an early play in the set and made them go back to the first tackle.

Individually, there weren’t too many opportunities to individually shine. However, I was impressed with the direct running and lines of Charlie Guymer. I also noted Kelma Tuilagi who showcased some deft ball skills and Carty who sliced through the defence line after running into a hole at pace.

It was then that Trent Elkin took the conditioning to another level.

For the next half hour or so, the running was relentless. The squad was split into three groups, outside backs, middles, halves and edges, and the running was structured differently for each group.

Keep on running!

The conditioning standard of the squad as a whole was very good, though there were some players who regularly led their groups.

Middles – J’Maine Hopgood, Saxon Pryke and Ky Rodwell

Edges – Dylan Brown, Bryce Cartwright and Jock Brazel

Backs – Bailey Simonsson, Sean Russell, Richie Penisini, and Blaize Talagi

There was some respite, if you can call it that, when the squad transitioned to completing defence line movement drills. But the break from the relentless running was short lived.

More conditioning runs followed, with each group rotating through a set of defence line Malcolms.  Anyone familiar with Malcolms know how sapping they can be.

In Monday’s report I referenced the professionalism of J’Maine Hopgood. During today’s conditioning runs, when the squad was called in for a drink and a short break, Hopgood quickly took himself through an extra run set before grabbing his drink. That’s genuine role model stuff!

Back to the bit of fun had by the staff.

After being called in for a drinks break, the players were told to prepare to go again. My first thought was “they’re still running? I thought they were done!”

As they lined up waiting for the sound of a sharp whistle that signalled the start of the every run, what they heard instead was a full-time whistle blast.

There could not have been a sweeter sound for all of them.

Eels forever!




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29 thoughts on “Eels Pre-Season Training – November 29, 2023: Here We Go!

  1. pete

    Great read Sixties.
    Glad to see Hopgood leading the way. Always said hes a future captain. It’s a shame nobody went with him on the extra run… We want players to take ownership of Their training. They should have finished with 100 pushups for not recognising that a team mate needed them. Nobody’s finished until everyone is finished. Don’t clock off early!
    Thanks again

    1. sixties Post author

      Pete, Hopgood wasn’t doing an extra set in any grandiose way. It was literally sneaking it in as the others were summoned over for the break. There may have been a number that didn’t notice. But for mine, any that saw his effort would get a strong message about success not coming easy.
      Over the years I’ve witnessed other senior players finish a run, then go back to run alongside struggling players.
      I mention this anecdote about Hopgood because many see his leadership potential. Well he takes no shortcuts and in this instance he felt like he needed an extra set before resting.

      1. pete

        Full credit to him for leading the way as I said. But the coaches should be using that to teach the others about teamwork and effort on effort. You play how you practise and it’s just an illustration that I’m glad you pointed out.

  2. EA

    Three things:
    -What happened to Jabriel Kalache. Was absent last year and this year disappeared?

    -I wonder if Fogarty resigning till 2025 has an impact on whether Sanders wants to stay. This signing shows that Sanders will be only a back up at Raiders or eels till end of 2025 as a minimum. Personally, if I was Sanders Idk why the fuck he should leave the eels. Ricky has not developed a top half back at that club or any club. Wighton is overated as a 5/8. Look how well Moses and DB has developed at the eels. Barret is here who IMO was a major contributer to the growth of Luai and Cleary. Sanders should stay at eels till the end of 2025 and than assess his options from there.

    -Who is ur prediction to earn the last development spot? Richie, MA, Ethyn Martin or someone else.

    1. sixties Post author

      EA – Jabriel stepped away from footy.
      We will be discussing our opinion on Canberra’s decision in tonight’s recording of our news podcast.
      It’s a huge call if that Dev spot isn’t filled. I firmly believe that Boods Arthur should be on a deal, but that dev contract for him kicks in after next season. If not him, then the likes of Richie Penisini and Saxon Pryke go close.

      1. ron

        What’s going on re parra outside backs? Titans are chock a block with them and signed smith shields- surely we could pinch one not named Aaron schoupp as he’s very poor? Morkos, a good young player, left Canberra – surely we give him train and trial? Kayak iro still on outer at sharks? Broncos are chock a block with talented junior backs. Everyone seems to be strengthening backs or already have a decent backline but poor old parra is sitting on their hands for yet another year. I don’t rate smith shields but I also don’t rate many centres/wingers currently at parra. There’s plenty of potential out there but we are happy with mediocrity it seems.

        1. Ron

          I would like isiah tass as south’s don’t have a spot for him but it seems parra can’t sell him on the club or aren’t interested. If they were and he prefers to play Reggie’s for souths instead of nrl centre at parra, it’s yet another reality check for this organisation – just cause you stumbled into a gf appearance and got pumped doesn’t mean you can continue same stingy ways

        2. sixties Post author

          The Iro situation is strange. He’s talented but turns 24 in February. He’d be keen for an opportunity that the Sharks don’t seem to be offering him. By the same token I now want the Eels to make a backline signing that will be a difference maker. For players like Iro or Tass, I’m prepared for Parra to sign them at the right price – which is as fringe players, and therefore I think they might be only marginally better than any players we currently have and I could wait for our blokes to finish up or be moved on first. And remember, without us finding a new home for players, we only have one spot left. We need a big signing or two for our backline, not more fringe players.

  3. B&G 4Eva

    Saw your earlier post, seemed like it was basically an attack on the coach and his son. Bringing Kalache into it was strange as Matt Arthur doesn’t play in the same position and his development deal doesn’t come into force until 2025.
    Giveback that Jabrael took this season off, you need to move from irrational personal attacks as most of us are over them just one more point , if you had seen the junior reps you would have seen the very crucial and important role played by Matt which took them to winning the SG and close in Flegg.
    Just give the attacks a rest and if Kalache comes back to play, then we can see his merit and hopefully watch him progress..

  4. Jack Saunders

    Great read mate! Keep it up. So excited for this season. I hope we can land another outside back soon with Scott falling through

  5. Anthony

    Hi Sixties,

    Have been reading TCT for a while this is first post. Just want to compliment you on doing an outstanding job. The updates are fabulous and the insights into our Juniors is really appreciated. I have 2 questions – I’d like your personal opinion on (you seem very well informed and qualified to make an opinion)

    1. How confident are you – in the backline we will have available for 2024. (Including maybe blooding a junior/s later in the year.

    2. How do you rate the defensive work you see developing (obviously this was an issue in ‘23) ?

    Thanks again for all the updates

    1. sixties Post author

      Thanks Anthony. I am realistic about the backline. It is an area where I believe that we need strengthening. Given that, I also believe it is where there is an opportunity for a debut. Both Blaize Talagi and Richie Penisini are future NRL players and maybe that future is a little sooner.
      Parramatta’s strength continues to be found in its forwards. They are good enough to take Parra to the finals, but if our discipline is as poor as last season, or the run of injuries is as bad, we will again be in trouble.
      From a defence perspective, there are players that are critical – their inclusion either enhances or diminishes our defence. For example, we need Dylan Brown defensively. I will make a judgement call on our systems for 2024 after I see the serious opposed work.

      1. Hamsammich

        Yes the backline needs to be strengthened but I don’t think it’s as easy as some are making it out to be. Next year we will have at least 1 or 2 rep level (S.O.O or tier 1 nation) forwards coming off the bench for us, some teams will struggle to name a forward pack. If we want to strengthen the backline we will need to get rid of at least 1 highly paid forward. Are the fans going to let that happen without kicking up a stink? Hopefully we don’t have to wait and see.

        On recruitment and retention. I am getting more and more concerned regarding junior retention. I’m seeing a lot of our development squad kids popping up at other clubs. The club have done well in the last 12 months or so of bringing in kids from outside the district that look promising but I hope they aren’t leaving talented players from the PJRL out to dry.

          1. Achilles' Eel

            I think it’s more Darcy than Cyrus, and yet how I wish I could say that it was Darius and Xerxes instead!

  6. Parramatta Tragic

    Love reading the training reports mate. Great job. I must admit I had a bit of a laugh when you wrote “the draw, pass and score drill” because as you know….”you pass, you score, you win” 🙂

  7. Tanky

    Thanks 60s I really appreciate your effort and input for the preseason at this stage for me I’m just hoping a couple of the young blokes burst through or we can jag a major top class speedster. I know it’s a big long shot but Joey manu from the roosters would be ideal but 1.. too expensive and 2..I think he will be loyal to the roosters

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