If you’re in a full time NRL squad and looking to make an impression during a preseason, how do you put your name in lights?
You compete harder than a reality show contestant fighting for screen time.
And when you do, technology is now on your side.
That’s not to say that the eyes of the coaches and support staff won’t notice the fellas busting a gut, or conversely those coasting through on minimal effort, but GPS has changed the landscape.
There is nowhere to hide.
Distance covered each day is important, and allows for individualised programs. But perhaps more critical is that GPS also measures the pace of the work, after all, a player could cover 5km at walking pace or at speed. One of those outcomes indicates an NRL player who will make effort on effort under fatigue during a match.
Today’s session was undoubtedly the best of the preseason thus far. Questions were asked of the players’ willingness to compete, and consequently, opportunities were there to impress.
Nobody wanted to hide!
Two fields were in action for most of today’s session. After the warm up, the squad alternated between modified footy games on Field 1, and skills/conditioning on Field 2.
Put simply, the session unfolded as follows:
Warm up – Skill – Game – Skill – Game – Skill – Game – Contact – Extras.
There was little time to rest during the two hours, with the players quickly transitioning between the fields.
This brought out some of the talk that had been missing earlier in the week. Unquestionably football players love playing footy. There was plenty of footy this morning, with these rapid fire games on a full field. The talk followed and the players were sharp!
After each game was completed, the players moved across to Field 2 for their skills/conditioning. In saying that, there was no shortage of conditioning value in these games.
The first game was three tackles, touch footy. Apart from a few specific rules about what play was allowed (eg minimum passes), the emphasis seemed to be on maximum ball movement with minimal possession.
The highlight of the first game was Salmon’s beautifully executed grubber kick for a George Jennings try.
The second game looked to increase possessions to about four per set. The major difference to the first game was that the “tackler” had to exit the field, then run around the nearest sideline marker pole, before returning to the field of play.
If the player was from the middle, a far greater effort was required to leave and return to the play, not to mention the longer period of time that the defence would be down a player. A quick follow up play down the middle could effectively take out a second defender.
Player movement was constant, with the defenders running off the field and attackers shifting the ball rapidly. The highlight of this game was the pace of Ryan Matterson and Stefano Utoikamanu in chasing down line breaks.
The final game involved defenders remaining on the ground after each tackle. This not only took out a defender with each play, but also showed the track followed by the attack during a set in possession. There were many more attacking opportunities in this final game, with the defence constantly challenged.
It was the ideal way to wrap up the games component of the session.
The squad was broken up into three groups – spine, middles, edges – with each group taking on a drill station. They rotated to a different station after each transition from the games component. The stations were essentially as follows:
Station 1- Contact, Malcolms, over and unders
Station 2 – Short, explosive movements
Station 3 – Specific skills in a grid
The variations mostly occurred during the grid station.
When the edges were at the grid station, they worked on a draw with a longer pass, with the defender chasing.
The spine worked 3 on 2 , with shorter passes.
The middles worked on running lines and catching passes into bump pad contact. Oregon, Stefano and Gowie caught the eye during this work.
After the final game, the squad received specific contact and ground work coaching. This is very technical – gaining control of the tackle and ensuring that the defender is able to be off the ground and in position before the attacker. Given the defensive issues from certain games last season – with defenders still on the ground as the ball was being played – a continued focus on these techniques during the preseason is critical.
As usual, the morning concluded with extras. The squad separates into small groups, working on specific skills such as the kicking, passing, or catching that is specific to their position. To put this in perspective, Reed’s precision passing and kicking from dummy half comes from being the last off the field during extras, Fergo’s faultless defusing of bombs from his catching practice, Moses’ and Brown’s long passing games are honed during their extras work.
Old Saleyards hosted a group of students from Parramatta Marist High. Organised by Marist teacher, Craig Brennan (Eels SG Ball Coach), the young blokes were a credit to their school with their impeccable conduct.
Their visit began with some time with Brad Arthur, before they watched the session unfold. A big tick to Ryan Matterson who high fived as many students as he could as he moved between the fields.
And the timing for the visit was good, with both Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo back into work.
Next step for the students was a visit to the Centre of Excellence at ANZ Stadium. I’m sure they would have done their school proud at each venue today.
More from training tomorrow.