It’s the last day of the first week of pre-season training. You’ve got about a third of the squad in attendance. You ease into the weekend, right?
Though I wouldn’t describe this week as the most demanding week of pre-season that I’ve ever witnessed – nor would I expect it to be – it did end with a physically challenging field session.
I had considered breaking this report into the subheadings of conditioning and skills, but that would not have done justice to the structure of the session. I’ll therefore attempt to describe the session from a sequencing perspective to provide an insight into the coaching that accompanied the physicality of the work.
In this field session, the squad commenced ball work straight after the warm ups. Three on two plays in a grid prepared the players for some of the drills that lay ahead.
The skills work continued as more players were added in attack and defence as the work seemed to be about short side corridors. At this stage, it looked to be as much about attacking decisions as defensive ones.
After the first drills wrapped up, the group transitioned to a sequence of conditioning runs – 800, 600, 400 metres. This was completed around a course with bends and curves rather than running in straight lines up and down the field. Between the runs, each player had to field footballs – obviously under fatigue. Real footy is always played at varying levels of fatigue.
It was then back to corridor skills work which this time was most definitely about defensive positioning and decisions. In these drills, the numbers advantage is always given to the attacking group, the aim being for defenders to shut down plays despite being outnumbered.
This work was completed near my vantage point so I was able to listen to BA coach individuals about their positioning and movement, and how a particular defensive decision would force attackers to respond and what that might mean to the space available to them. Listening to moments like this provides a small glimpse into why so many players have spoken to me over the years about the quality of BA’s coaching.
More running followed with the quick bursts of fielding under fatigue. A note at this point. As we observed the conditioning, we wondered whether certain players were being selected to lead each run out. This was because every run would see a different player go out hard to the front to lead the group. I checked on this but it was apparently each player looking to set a standard. Special mention to Johnny Fonua for his stand out efforts today – and to Stefano Utoikamanu for starting the preseason in tremendous shape.
Was the conditioning done yet?
Not a chance.
Malcolms were then introduced. For those unfamiliar with my reports from last year, Malcolms simulate match conditions via players doing short sprints and hitting the ground every ten metres or so. That up and down off the ground is the type of exertion required in defence.
In this instance, after a quick set of Malcolms, each group of players ran to collect a ball and immediately begin a set of six. This was all about each player quickly finding a role for themselves after gaining possession, and to make themselves heard as they moved the ball. Everyone’s contributing. Everyone’s talking.
What I value about this, is that it’s coaching the players to think and communicate. From conditioning runs where the players were told to think as they ran, break up their runs and not go into mindless run mode, to these early ball sessions, the message about the mental side is being emphasised.
Finally, an extended period of Malcolms rounded out the toughest field session of the week. I haven’t seen the contact, the gym, the kicking or any of the other sessions which take place over the five days of training, but after this morning, the players will definitely need a couple of days of recovery!
Week one done! We saw a little bit of Reagan Campbell-Gillard in action today. I’m hoping to be able to report more about him and Dylan Brown next week.