The team’s down on the scoreboard.
The opposition has had repeat sets on your line. They earn another drop out.
How do you handle it?
The ball finally comes your way. You get to the kick.
How good is your chase?
There’s no question about what a high performance side would do.
They’ll work harder.
They’ll find something extra.
They won’t let the opposition see fatigue.
They’ll be ready for any loose ball.
They’ll chase in a strong line.
How does an NRL team prepare to be a high performance side? That was the challenge put to the players today because that’s what the team will need to become going into next season. That has to be the goal, because anything less will see a repeat of 2018.
As the team hit the pain barrier this morning, Adrian Jimenez found football analogies to drive the players harder. He made it relevant to this team. Every run was given a purpose. The reason for punishing their legs and their lungs stated clearly.
He exhorted them to push through the pain, and I believe he got them to dig deeper than maybe they believed that they could.
And I swear, as the players were finishing exhaustive shuttle runs, hitting the deck every 20 metres, some of the players yelled out for more.
This is the unspectacular, tough slog of a preseason. It was tough yards, and plenty of it.
Aside from the conditioning there was some full field two hand touch and repeated red zone opposed sets. The Red and Blue teams each received about 15 minutes of attacking possession from contrived situations in the quarter. Conversely, it could be said that they were each given 15 minutes of repeat sets to defend.
Unlike the Friday session, this was not match-like conditions, but rather repeated attacking sets. You don’t get a true sense of halves controlling the game from such drills, but you do get to see skill, combinations and attitude.
* Moses and Norman ran together in the Red team. They were joined by Gutho and Mahoney in the spine. I didn’t read too much into the team, with Smith and Hoffman in the centres and Dunster and George Jennings on the wings. Michael Jennings, who had returned to training last week, was in the Blue team today. Ferguson is yet to appear.
* The highlight of the spine was the work of Mahoney. His pass selection was spot on, and he seemed to hit the right forward in a number of plays close to the line.
* Salmon and Brown were at 6 and 7 for the Blue team, with French and Stone completing key roles. Stone is very much the fill-in at dummy half, with more time spent as a middle forward in opposed sessions. However, his passing off the ground has improved dramatically and his defence is quality. He is still learning the craft of the position.
* The forwards continue to function well as a unit. There’s been good passing exchanges, second phase footy and clever lines run.
* Stefano Utoikamanu again caught my attention with his carries. It’s only training but he imposes his presence in virtually every contact drill.
* Kane Evans hit the line powerfully in a continuation of his solid work on Friday.
* Bevan French scored a clever individual try and was very vocal working with Salmon and Brown
There’s been very good feedback from Saturday’s whole club training session. I mentioned in last Friday’s report that some players had spoken about it, and it seemed like something that they were looking forward to.
So what do NRL players get from an event like that?
They don’t need the conditioning delivered on the day, but what they gain is much more important.
This session provided the full time footballers with an opportunity to be leaders within the club. Whether they realise it or not, these blokes represent the pinnacle that younger players are aiming to reach. They had the chance to share what that means, even if it was just by training alongside others on Saturday.
The young players there are in the same colours. Undertaking the same drills. Mixing and talking with the NRL stars. The pathway becomes a shared journey, and the young players become Parra aspirational.
What a terrific initiative from the club. It was no small undertaking, given there were close to 300 players and staff gathered for this event. It’s taking the days of three grades training together to an entirely new level.
This was another step forward in making the club a unified organisation. One Parra!