Cool conditions greeted the players at Old Saleyards today, no doubt a stark difference to the heat at last week’s camp at Alice Springs.
There were no additions to the squad this morning, with the NRL players involved in post-season rep matches yet to return. That said, Gowie was part of the session, having missed Monday morning training last week. The evergreen forward looked in fine fettle – as if he knows any other way!
I’ve referenced the integration of conditioning and skills work this preseason. Whilst last season also combined the two aspects in the field times, the seamless transition in this year’s sessions has been worth noting.
For that reason, I’m going to report on the sequence of today’s drills. I’ll skip the warm up but this session run down should provide an insight as to how the two hours on the field unfolded.
This involved the players running at about 90% of their top speed over approximately 60 metres. Completed in small groups of around seven it was easier to monitor, and Trent Elkin was more concerned with observing their running form than their pace.
Elkin positioned himself at different vantage points for each set – sometimes side on, front on or end on, sometimes crouched down, other times upright. This allowed him to provide immediate feedback for particular players.
A couple of adjacent grids were set up on the field, with the players sent either to the left or the right grid. This meant that the play would be either a left side or a right side shift.
This was a three on three drill, with the defenders staggered which gave the attackers an advantage. The aim was to stay alive after drawing a defender and to position themselves in support when the final defender was drawn. There was a definite goal of catching everything – it was a “catch” cry repeated throughout the drill.
The squad completed repeated sets of just over 110 metres at about three quarter pace, with very little recovery time between runs. During these sets, it appears as if the goal is to keep in a line during the run. Consequently, anyone who lags behind stands out like dog’s wheels.
Play The Ball
This skills work is completed immediately after the conditioning runs. The players hit the ground – aiming to land in a position which allows for a rapid play the ball. Make no mistake, this repetitive task is not easy when done under fatigue, and the coaches kept a close eye on (and called out) anyone not playing the ball correctly.
The squad broke into two teams of nine, right side players vs left side players, with a marked sideline narrowing the field to about two-thirds of its normal width.
Each team alternated between attacking and defending, moving the ball up and down the field, with no tackle limit for each set, but with a kick finishing the set on the try line. Though the ball movement was sharp, it was actually a defensive drill, with positioning, movement and communication of importance.
The squad were probably at their most vocal during this work. Up to this point during the morning, the talk had been a little down on previous sessions.
More of the sets of around 110 metres, but this time some players appeared to push harder. I’m not sure whether this was under instruction, but certain players forged ahead in the line. Special mention to Andrew Davey, Jaeman Salmon, Rhys Davies and Haze Dunster for standing out at this point.
Once again the players followed up the sets of conditioning runs with repeated play the balls and leap frog over/unders.
Conditioning was wrapped up with sets of Malcolms – though I’m not sure that they’re referring to them by that moniker anymore. And for the fellas who only returned last week, there was a couple of extra sets waiting for them!
Before launching into extras, the squad spent about 15 minutes working on a range of shapes when attacking the line. Today they drilled different set up plays leading into a variety of attacking shapes.
When they rehearse like this, it’s about every player knowing their role and contributing to the play. They aren’t running at defenders, they’re just getting the shape right.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already into the fourth week of the pre-season. For those who can make it, remember there’s a big open session to be held on December 20.
See you all tomorrow.