Is it possible to compose a suitable introduction to this report?
Maybe I could have created a witty simile? Perhaps I should have referenced something topical?
I really wanted to write an opening to this post which didn’t read like the classic rugby league cliche. But honestly, if I’m going to try to describe the toughest pre-season field session I’ve ever witnessed, I have to call it exactly that.
As the session began, we were given the tip that something special was in store for the squad. It’s also been reported that the players had some warning that it was going to be next level. Ultimately, to put some perspective on the session, I was probably uttering as many expletives as the players – and I was only watching from the sideline!
Without question, some players would have learnt something about themselves today.
Here’s how your Parramatta Eels pushed the tank gauge beyond empty this afternoon.
Can You Feel It?
After what seemed like an extended warm up, the players began what I thought would be the major component of their conditioning. This involved running multiple sets of short distances for a period of around 4 minutes, with short periods of rest in between. The more educated sports science readers might offer whether this is technically interval training.
Regardless, I was wrong about how significant this would be in the context of the physical demands of the day.
What caught my attention during this time was the talk. There was plenty of it, and some voices urging others were unexpected – Marata, Oregon and Stoney were amongst the more prominent.
Run, Malcolm, Run!
Not so much a sub-heading as a play list!
Running sets of 800, 600, 400 and 200 metres is not uncommon in footy training. Completing Malcolms (I’m not sure that this moniker is being used by the staff this year) is a tremendous form of rugby league specific conditioning.
If you complete sets of each, one after the other, with minimal rest periods, then repeat and repeat and repeat (I won’t list how many repeats there were, but at some point my surprised expletives started kicking in), there is no respite and nowhere to hide.
In fact, players that fell behind were still running when the main part of the group got a short rest. Their fatigue was compounded. It was tough to watch the squad go through this extended conditioning – even those who were excelling looked to be feeling the burn.
The running wasn’t a slow jog. The leaders looked to be hitting close to three-quarter pace – on every run! I’d estimate that the intensive conditioning work lasted for well over 60 minutes in what was close to two and a half hours on the field.
Rather than mentioning any players who struggled, I’d prefer to celebrate the outstanding performers.
Rhys Davies continued to shine in the conditioning stakes, and he was closely followed by Kyle Schneider. Davies led a number of runs home, though this took a bit out of him in a couple of the middle sets of runs. Schneider didn’t finish outside of the top 3 in any run.
Will Smith, Ethan Parry, Mitch Moses and Jaeman Salmon we’re also consistent performers, but the big blokes deserve some star billing. Daniel Alvaro was a top five finisher in virtually every run. The bloke looks ripped. Young guns Stefano and Oregon were not far behind Polar and seemed to be finishing stronger with every run.
Time For Some Footy
Under fatigue, the squad first drilled their kick chase. This involved the last two carries in a set followed by the kick and chase. The first up tackle and second carry tackle would then be completed before the set would “re-boot”.
The highlight was once again a big hit from RCG. The target this time was Ethan Parry. Perhaps Junior has passed the Parry smashing baton to Reg this year. In all seriousness, Parry kept running hard into Junior with every carry last preseason, and those hits from Junior helped to prepare Ethan for NRL.
Relentless defence, or perhaps it was relentless attack, was next on the footy menu. With one team being given all of the possession in the quarter, the other was forced to defend for extended periods. The talk was the best of the day, and some collisions were surprisingly ferocious. This was impressive, considering how the squad had to be aching badly from the conditioning work.
Just when it looked like the session had concluded, the players were brought together for contact drills. By the time the last of the extras had been completed, the clock had registered about two and a half hours of field time.
I could quote how many kilometres had been recorded by the GPS, but even that figure would underplay the relentless nature of today’s session.
It was truly the toughest training I’ve ever witnessed.
A quick mention of yesterday’s session is necessary as it marked the start of Joey John’s second week with the club. I was fortunate enough to catch his specialist coaching during the morning and it reinforced my belief that his input will add a new dimension to the Eels play this coming season.
For obvious reasons I won’t go into specifics, but watching him cover the technicalities of passing, catching, footwork and kicking is eye-opening. Some of the pass types are surprisingly difficult to execute consistently well, and the message is delivered that the players have a responsibility for practising in their own time to ensure that it becomes second nature.
Watching the different ways that the defence could be engaged by a playmaker’s movements and actions, you realise that a good half will sell what he won’t do just as well as communicating to his team what he will do.
A Final Word
I will be unable to attend further sessions this week due to other commitments. Maybe I need a break after watching today’s torture.
Hopefully I can provide some feedback via a couple of reliable TCT associates.
* No empirical evidence available to support this headline.