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Daniel Wagon training exclusively in the centres partnering Eric Grothe Jr on the right hand side is the first notable selection surprise for 2005 if evidence from the Eels open training session at Mounties was any indication.
Given Parramatta?s defensive problems down the flanks in 2004 with Jamie Lyon and David Vaealiki were unavailable, this move could prove a very effective use of Wagon?s defensive ability and help the former lock rediscover his running ability ? in the halves it seems coach Brian Smith will roll the dice with two former hookers in the key playmaking roles.
PJ Marsh looks to have the inside running on the run-on halfback jumper as he operated at first receiver during the opposed ball work sessions, while John Morris worked a little wider in the pivot position. He also could shift to hooker to cover for Mark Riddell who looks well and truly entrenched as the starting rake.
Rookies Tim Smith looks like a Scott Prince clone in both appearance and style but looked a tad rushed at times as he tried to impress his namesake coach with the firsts when Marsh and Morris had spells on the sideline.
Marcus Perenara who ran the show for the seconds was most impressive, the former Warriors junior who joined the Eels with his older brother Henry looked very composed and comfortable orchastrating the plays against the firsts defence and has the potential to be the Eels long term solution in the number seven ? in the forwards it was hard to find a standout trainer as the Eels focused on ballwork sessions exclusively (no doubt to entertain the crowd of Eels fans on hand) but Paul Stringer looks quite fit and was used in several set plays running off the first receiver.
New additions Glenn Morrison and Chad Robinson also trained well but as mentioned it was hard to get a read on any of the forwards as it was primarily a ballwork session.
Michael Vella is sporting a shocking moustache which suggests he?s given up footy, changed his name to ?Buck Naked? and you can deduct what his new career path could involve.
Jack Afamagasa is sporting the biggest thighs since Mal Meninga and the scary thing is at only 20 years of age he could keep growing.
In another drastic turn of events prop forward Fui Fui Moi Moi trained for the entire session suggesting he?s reconsidered his former training motto of ?if I play for 10 minutes I train for 10 minutes? which he adopted at South Sydney.
On the injury front, winger Matt Petersen sat out the session due to a shoulder injury but may have another calling as he displayed excellent 12th man qualities supplying the boys with the Gatorade, while Nathan Hindmarsh is recovering from back surgery and Timana Tahu didn?t participate in the on-field drills.
Brian Smith who has copped a lot of flak from supporters and the press in recent seasons was very hands on during the opposed ballwork sessions and was very demanding (as he should be) that the set plays from dummy half, tap kicks and scrums be carried out to the letter. It appears that speed in shifting the ball is a big focus of the Eels playmakers which aims to take advantage of the extra strikepower the team has added to the edges of the ruck. Some of the plays were quite crisp and will help revitalise and Eels attack that ranked 11th in 2004.
Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY ?Your definitive sports resource? Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected]