With the week long camp in Armidale now behind them, the Eels returned to home turf at Old Saleyards today. The weather was particularly kind in what would turn out to be a field session of just over two hours duration.
I had the opportunity to grab a few words with some players and staff before and after the session and it was a big thumbs up all round for the week in Armidale. But all that’s history now, and the proof will be in attitude and team dynamics down the track.
Team relationships had been a big focus during a media call in week one, and the young additions to the full time squad have undoubtedly earned the respect of the established players in a very short time. Blokes like Gutherson, Salmon and Mannah have retained their status as supremely conditioned athletes, but the Flegg graduates are pushing them every step of the way.
Both fields were used today during a session which saw the squad organised into two groups with the work split between conditioning and defensive structures. All coaching and support staff appeared to be in attendance as the players moved into week 3 of the pre-season.
Here’s what went down:
Besides their interval running, the team were asked to add to their kilometres via a circuit around the Saleyards facility. Under the watchful eye of Adrian Jimenez, the course took in the small hill in the northwest corner – just enough to test the lungs and legs. I’d estimate that the players would have run at least 6km during the morning.
The longer runs made for interesting observation.
And before describing the performances, the following has to be stated again: Clint Gutherson is a freak! Cue Rick James song. (Any clever wordsmiths out there – some King Gutho Superfreak lyrics would be appreciated)
With so many young players joining the squad, the Eels could not hope for a better role model for elite fitness and dedication. Tim Mannah sets his own high standards as a bigger forward, but Gutho in full training freak mode is a sight to behold.
The Red Group had most of the benchmark setters, including Gutho. From the starting whistle, The King sprinted to the front and defied everyone else to get near him.
Those who took up that fruitless challenge were mostly the younger brigade. Each run saw the red group finish with a top 6 in the same order:
The Blue Group was led home by Jaeman Salmon in each run. Taking inspiration from Gutho, the “Apprentice” surged to the front, with Will smith in hot pursuit.
The Blues finished with a similar top 5 in each run:
It’s obvious that the new young members of the squad will have made an impression on the staff. Conditioning might not be an indicator of match performance, but it’s an essential part of the game and sends a strong message about attitude.
It seemed like a very technical defensive drill today. Kidwell, Potter and Murphy appeared to be working on defensive line positions, line speed, movement forward and movement back.
There was plenty of talk on the paddock during this drill, with Gutherson, Norman and Moses the loudest. Potter was strict on calling penalties for undisciplined offside movements. All coaches were particular about issues like communication, body and feet position, and staying aware in their movement back into line.
As the session progressed, structures for defending on the line were drilled.
The group came back together for some two hand touch football. The speed was hectic, with quick play-the-balls and the smaller players taking advantage of a retreating defence.
This part of the morning seemed to be as much about conditioning as it was about footy. As the two teams battled it out, those substituted off were handed over to Adrian Jimenez for more running.
The football skills continued as the session wound up with extras. Passing and catching, kicking, and dummy half work were the order of the day, with a number of the younger players being amongst the last to leave the field.
With a full squad of coaching and training staff in action, Arthur took on an overseer role today, moving between groups to speak with players and staff as necessary. Likewise, Lachlan Wilmot seemed to be moving between the groups and monitoring the data from the gps trackers.
Joey Grima was in attendance today. In addition to assisting with drills, he worked with some of the squad during extras.
After commencing just after 9am today, it was getting close to midday by the time the squad completed their field session. Only just over four months till the footy begins…