There’s the rare occasion when I should simply record a one word expletive and present that as my training report. Today was a case in point.
I rocked up to Old Saleyards this morning confident that I’d be watching a fair chunk of opposed work. Instead, I witnessed one of the most physically demanding sessions from the past five years.
But please don’t interpret my preference for using profanity as disappointment. Instead, lets stroll down the path of my stupefaction at the physicality of what was on display. I really wasn’t expecting it.
The focus today was conditioning and defence.
The rationale – the unwavering determination that the team want to hit the ground running in Round 1.
To set the scene, today’s warm temperatures, combined with the high humidity, produced arguably the most uncomfortable conditions yet for this pre-season. The ground was still carrying some moisture from the last few days of rain, and this was a strong factor in creating the steamy conditions.
The work was again conducted across the two fields – Field 1 for the conditioning work and Field 2 for the coaching.
Conditioning – Reed “Cash” Mahoney You Freak
The warm-up, stretching, running technique and core strength work with Lachie Wimot kicked off the session. There was probably around 10 – 15 minutes of this before the squad shifted into the hands of Adrian Jimenez.
Adrian has tests that he puts the players through and then levels them. The interval running that they complete demands effort on effort. A close eye is kept on players to check for short cuts (ie – not grounding a foot behind a line) and body language. Players are also expected to self assess themselves and the group.
The conditioning continued between the two periods of defensive drills, as well as at the conclusion of the session.
And the harder it got, the better Reed Mahoney performed. In fact, by the time the team was put through its final paces, “Cash” had moved past the King to clear away in the last and most exhausting run of the morning.
Now, the following names might just be a surprise. Obviously Gutho finished second but not far behind were Michael Jennings and Manu Ma’u. And when the big fellas started struggling – the likes of Will Smith and Reed Mahoney moved back onto the field to run alongside them in a sign of support.
We spoke very briefly to Adrian Jimenez after the session and he was extremely pleased with how far the squad has come.
The early skills work today was all about the kick chase and the ensuing tackles. The message from BA was clear. The team need to commit to this from the start of any game. No warming into it. No excuses.
Ideally any team wants to kick deep, chase in a good line, and make the opposition work hard to get out of their twenty metre area. Kickers have to get their kicks to land near the corners, without rolling dead.
For the team fielding the kick, the positioning of the winger and centre were scrutinised. Were they offering the level of support needed by the fullback?
As this was being drilled, I found myself being concerned with some dropped ball. Even if this wasn’t the intent of the drill, you don’t want loose carries or poor execution with possession.
I then considered the glass half-full perspective. Solid hits from the chasing team were forcing the errors. And weren’t there some hits to remember! Junior Paulo and Reed Mahoney absolutely smashed Ethan Parry in a big collision and Greg Leleisiuao came off second best when he crash-tackled Tepai.
The sound of the collisions were exclamation marks signalling the intensity.
Later, the squad was broken up into three groups to drill defence decisions and techniques close to the ruck. It reinforced the contact work done in the pit, with a bit more game simulation.
This final defensive drill was conducted under extreme fatigue – right at the end of the session. This was undoubtedly very deliberate. The majority of a rugby league match is played with some level of fatigue, and a team’s ability to defend or make effort on effort is probably just as crucial in the 80th minute as it is in the first.
I thought that the talk today was a bit down on previous sessions. There were constant reminders that they needed to talk more to the person next them, but I wasn’t convinced that it reached a level that the staff would have been happy with.
One player that couldn’t be accused of being quiet was Clint Gutherson. The Eels co-captain barked at his team mates, talking up and demanding effort areas. His co-captain, Tim Mannah, was also spotted moving to different players for individual words of encouragement.
The consensus of opinion from players and staff afterwards?
Refer to that aforementioned expletive.
Bring on Friday.
(Shout out to the brave crow that took a strong interest in the Eels drone. Not the first time a bird has wanted to take it on.)