Eels article on NRL.com

Does this mean we will fill the vacant spots in the 30 from our junior ranks?

 

Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson says a refreshed Blake Ferguson will be crucial to Parramatta's 2021 hopes while also praising the rising crop of young backline hopefuls pressing for spots.

There is one vacant centre spot to be filled pending the outcome of Michael Jennings' provisional drugs suspension but a lacklustre second half of the season and straight set finals exit will no doubt have plenty of players on notice in what is a dramatically revamped top 30 with nine new faces.

 

"We've had a pretty big turnover this year with a good bunch of young kids coming in and a couple of great players coming through," Gutherson said.

"It's freshened up the club. It's probably one of the biggest turnovers I've seen in a long time at this club. It's good for us, it freshens it up, we've got a lot of young kids coming in who are energetic and ready to learn. It makes us older guys look at that and it makes training fun."

Gutherson himself is just a week back in after a late return thanks to his Origin commitments and has been focusing on fitness with limited chances to build combinations so far, but has been impressed by what he has seen from some of the younger players outside the top 30.

"We've got (NSW Junior Origin centre) Will Penisini who's been training well, if he really puts his head down he could have a big future in the game and especially at this club," Gutherson said.

 

Haze Dunster, who debuted in last year's semi-final loss against Souths after the game-day suspension of Jennings made him the third back unavailable, has also impressed.

"Blaze has been great; he got a taste of it in sort of awkward circumstances last year but he did a great job for us in the semi-final," Gutherson said.

"He's come back bigger and better. I think he's finally realised he can do it. He probably lacked a bit of confidence in himself.

 

"We're mixing the teams up, we've got enough players there. Every session all the teams are different."

Former Bronco and Cowboy Tom Opacic plus former Manly and Canberra flyer Michael Oldfield are also in the hunt for the vacant centre slot.

It's a big season for veteran off-contract winger Blake Ferguson, whose form was criticised through 2020 for a lack of tries despite a typically strong yardage game.

Gutherson said he had no idea if reports that Ferguson had already been told this was his last year at the Eels were true but backed the former Test and Origin flanker to return to his best.

 

"I don't know if that's true or not, you don't really ask those type of questions at training [but] he's been great since I've been back," Gutherson said.

"He's fit, his head's on, his body's feeling good. He's ready to go. We need Fergo at his best for us to be at our best so I hope he keeps it up.

"Everyone goes through those years at some stage and last year was Fergo's year but he's left that in last year and that's what we need him to do.

"He's flying at the moment, they've got him a little bit modified just to make sure he gets to the right peak when we need him.

"He's been good chirpy at the moment, he's picking his moments a little bit better this year, he's got his head down and working hard and I'm sure Brad and the staff have told him what they need from him. I can't wait for him to unleash this year and prove how good he is."

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  • Will Penisini is a name that has popped up lately,can anyone offer some insight into him ,age,size,position,ability?

    • He is a Centre, not overly tall but can move. More resembles Willie Tonga.

      He played under 16's Origin and under 18's in back to back years, if not for COVID last year he more likely would have played 18's for NSW again.

       

      He is 19 this year though i feel he could be a decent Jennings replacement

    • He will be in the 30 this year

  • The reports, so far, are all positive.

    Being the cynic I am I do not pay much attention to hot air being blown up my knickers, BUT, the positive talk seems a little different this year.

    Here's hoping it is all real and gets transferred onto the paddock on game days.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YfpaRiAQUg

    Here is a link to footage of him playing Rugby last year, gives you a glimpse of his potential

    • That is one gawd almighty big left step he has there. 

      The cynic in me says let's see if he can go on with it in the higher grades.

    • Hmm, he's a King's Boy. May have played with that kid from Souths (now at the Roosters) that everyone raves about.

      • He did played with su'a, in the video he offloads a ball to him. 

    • The kid looks good.Some of the defense he is breaking looks soft but reminds me of a young Jennings when he runs.So we really do have some capable youngsters coming through, exciting times.

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