That’s the philosophy of the Eels club and their supporters in the charge into 2020.
As Trent Elkin asked some tough physical questions at Old Saleyards today, there was strong evidence that the players will be all in with their support for each other.
When the going gets tough, you want your mates to have your back. There was plenty of that today, especially during the conditioning work.
Last Friday, my report took you through the structure of the session in order to highlight how the conditioning component was used to place the squad under fatigue for their skills work. You can take it for granted that the players were again under fatigue this morning during their ball work.
With that noted, I’ll be breaking down today’s report into conditioning and skills sections.
After the warm up, Elkin took the players through their running mechanics. The players were asked to sprint for about 70 metres holding their form as they worked into the acceleration and then their speed zones. Individual coaching was provided for those who required it.
The players ran numerous sets of just over 100 metres throughout this session. On most occasions, the specific total distance corresponded (time-wise) with the amount of time that the ball would typically be in play in a match (without a break). For the majority of the runs, the squad was expected to remain in line.
Cue the team talk. Cue the support.
As the sets unfolded and their lungs began to burst, reminders were called out by squad members about body language, and encouragement was given to any who were struggling.
And there were consequences!
The tough side of Trent Elkin was on display today.
After completing a set of runs, Elkin asked a player how many sets they completed. After getting the answer, the new head of strength and conditioning informed them that extra sets had been added on for poor body language. He emphasised this by stating that he wouldn’t police what they did, but he would penalise it.
As more run sets unfolded at different stages throughout the session, Elkin would ask different players for a set count. The importance of keeping the mind on the task has been a focus on each day – and long may it continue! I’ve got a fair idea about what the consequence might have been for an incorrect set count.
Typically, the conditioning concluded with Malcolms. I reckon that there won’t be too many of these blokes who will bestow that name on any male offspring!
Once again, a significant proportion of time was assigned to skills. Pass and catch technique around the ruck kicked off the ball work. As the drills expanded, the basic shapes for hitting the ball up off the ruck were practised.
Later in the session, the play was started with either a tap or a play the ball from specific points on the field. In some instances it was the wingers restarting from out wide. In others, it was the dummy half passing the ball.
For those wondering why the wingers receive such prominence in these drills, consider the number of times a set will begin with a winger passing the ball. It might be the result of of a penalty touch-finder, or going to dummy half after the fullback fields a kick.
After BA coached them through the goals of the drill, the emphasis fell on the players to determine the shape that they would run, and to communicate this to each other. BA and the staff reminded the squad that they needed to hear their voices.
This was Matto’s first session back in Eels colours, and I have to admit that I’m stunned by his size. The Parra junior is listed at 193cm (6ft 4), and 103 kg, but I can’t believe that he’d hit the scales at that weight. To my eye, he looks heavier – and in a good way!
Matterson looks to have arrived in decent shape. Given it’s been close to three months since he last played, he certainly impressed with his current fitness. He’s obviously kept up the work during his time off.
It also seems that he’s returned with a leaders attitude. At one point during the session, after BA had delivered some instructions, Matto gathered the group together and enthusiastically provided his own message. Given the inexperience of the group, it was encouraging to see him immediately taking on this role.
A Final Observation
Special mention to Kyle Schneider and Rhys Davies who caught the eye for their conditioning work. The longer the session went on, the stronger they performed. When the final sets of runs were undertaken, it seemed like the players were told that they didn’t have to remain in a line. This was the signal for these two to head the pack.
This was a demanding start to the week!