Squad planning 2021 onwards

So with an interesting discussion occurring about our roster moving forward, I thought it best to break it into a separate blog.

The club has wrapped up its spine for the future. Gutherson, Moses, Brown, Mahoney, Paulo, RCG, Matterson are all on long-term deals. Throw in upgrades and extensions to Jennings and N. Brown and our best players aren't going anywhere.

Now the club has a chance to engage in a little squad rotation which will be needed to keep up the competition for spots and bring in some more firepower.

Movements we know already:

Stefano Utoikamanu: He's already headed to the Tigers. His departure will free a top 30 spot although only release minimum wage in the salary cap.

David Gower: He was going to retire last year but has played on for one more season. Again frees a top 30 spot but is also on minimum wage.

The maybes:

Daniel Alvaro: Clearly on the outer with the Eels given his loan to the Warriors, it's likely he'll be allowed to move on at the end of this season.

George Jennings: Like Alvaro he's been loaned to the Warriors. If he was in the club's immediate plans it's unlikely he'd have been permitted to leave.

Kane Evans: Off-contract at the end of the season, he's reportedly had some Super League clubs sniffing around. His form has been outstanding this season and I wouldn't be opposed to re-signing him at a lower value.

Brad Takairangi: A great contributor and team player over his time at the club it's unclear if he will be retained. His utility value though has been useful, playing centre, wing, five-eighth and back-row during his Eels tenure.

Players needed:

Hooker: There is no clear back up to Reed Mahoney. Kyle Schneider may be promoted to the top 30 next year or the Eels could hunt around for an offcast hooker who is happy to play either off the bench or ply their trade in Wenty as injury cover.

Fullback: The moving on of Josh Hoffman means there is no recognised replacement fullback should Clint Gutherson go down.

Winger: If George Jennings were to be released then it's down to our juniors or Jordan Rankin. However Rankin has apparently been playing in the halves recently.

Centre: Should Taka be moved on there would be no recognised back up and a junior would need to be promoted or another centre recruited.


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  • As backup players I think Rankin has the abiity to play Halves and Centre, Davey whilst not a recongnised Hooker has been training in the role, Jai Field has had some exposure to the Halves as well as Fullback experience.  Could probably step in on the wing despite his size if needed too.  Stone also as a hooker, lock or 2nd row.  Additionally Dunster and a few of the other youngsters.  I think we have the minimum coverage we need if we moved on all of those players, although I think it unlikely that they'll all head off.  Taka's for example may be retained on a reserve grade/bench contract.

    • If you really think stone or Rhys are quality dummy halves you know nothing about rugby league. 

      • I didn't say they were quality, simply that they can perform if required. I'm definitely not against having another 9 in the team, but at the right price. A Peat's at the end of his career if we don't have any decent prospects in Reserve grade for example. this is all about coverage across the whole team in the listed 30 players, and the salary cap. 

  • I think you'll find Alvaro is under contract for another year, although he may find another deal to his liking.

    As a backup for Reed Mahoney the options that I can see are Nathan Peats, Andrew McCullough & Elijah Taylor. All are out of favour and would be handy as their respective clubs are shopping them like crazy.

    Few teams have ready made backup fullbacks, if they are good enough to start there, then they probably are. I think Jordan Rankin or Will Smith are going to have to be our options.

    Winger, Rankin & Dunster should be adequate cover.

    Centre, I'd say other than hooker this is our most pressing need. I'm not convinced that Taka is going anywhere. He's chosen to stay the last two years on the club's terms, even after we aquired Waqa Blake. Unless BA wants him gone, and there is no indication of that, I think he'll remain our first backup option. Backup centres are a bit like backup fullbacks, if they are a specialist they are probably starting anyway. Some cheap options would be Jordan Kahu, Dale Copley, Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku, Tom Opacic, 

    • When one looks at the eels team page, the only centres listed are Blake & MJ & Taka, but Taka is more utility and plays mostly in forwards these days. Salmon listed as 5/8 along with Field and DB, I noticed that Rankin is actually listed as a fullback. Certainly I would agree that the centres and hooker are a pressing need, but I would suggest that Field although would like to see some size put on his frame, with Stone as the prmary backup for that spot. Not forgetting that on the eels team page they have Rhys Davies listed as hooker, his performances for CC last year especially in the GF was not the greatest though.

      Am thinking that for 2021 several of the off contract players will not return, even some who are on contracts may well be looking elsewhere also.

      • I don't think you will see Taka in the forwards again Colin unless as a 4th choice off the bench. His last game when he was picked on the edge showed he doesn't have it for the pigs anymore. 

        Taka should take on a development role in the club through Reserve Grade, maybe as a captain and assistant coach. There is probably room to pay him a minimum and keep him in the top 30 unless we get an obvious better centre replacement. In the right circumstances he could still start as a centre, but realistically no where else.

        With regard to the Hooker role we still have Schneider to come through, obviously we have had no reggies this year and he has not been monitored in that respect..... but it could be a blessing as I am pretty sure he trains with the squad and at least he will have another 12 months of growth....which was always a problem.

        I have to be honest and say I dont know much about Schneider but everyone that speaks about him says he has a talent level in the Brown / Mahoney territory. The fact he plays hooker is great but I would also look to develop him as a half....they are so interchangeable these days and apparently he is a natural  leader and has a good kicking game.

        In saying these things having a GM Football in O'Neill means all these things are being thought about and I'm sure they are in place, at least in some theory.

        II don't know how BA & O'Neill get on, but they are complimenting each other beautifully..

        • pops, no disagreement with you here, the element that I have been saying regarding a few of the eels younger players is that without the CC comp, the only work they are getting is on the training paddock, which is ok but not the same as actual match conditions against opposition that wants to beat you.

          I would be very surprised if Taka is given another year, especially if we get some other decent players, in fact I would suggest this weeks team against the dogs is very much a pointer towards the future regarding him. Evans needs an injury free and big end of year work for him to be resigned.

          Stone is probably back in round 14 so he's possibly on the bench and maybe in Evans spot, depending on any going down.

          • No worries Col, Evans had a pretty good season when he has been on the field....which is not enough....does seem to have a few injury problems notwithstanding.

    • We need to be hunting replacements for Jennings, Fergo. Young guys we would need to sign from anywhere with the potential to graduate. 
      As of today's roster I think only another Hooker is a pressing issue. I'd take Peats back for sure. 

      • MJ has signed for 2021-22, Fergo for 2021.  The biggest problem really is that the players we have underneath the primary 20 odd are not getting any game time as there is no longer any CC games to help in development.

        Would Peats come back to the club with our current coach in charge"? he was pretty down on the situation when he left.

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