THE CHRISTMAS break wasn’t all about prawns on the BBQ, sunning on the beach or backyard cricket for the players. In fact, some serious training was undertaken.
Still, the mental break from the players’ day to day surroundings gave them an opportunity to train in a different environment.
For defender Joel Macdonald, his came in the form of the United States of America, when he visited San Francisco with his girlfriend Jess, who hails from the Californian state.
“It was good to train and do my run throughs and kicking on a high school NFL oval. It was also good to watch some college sport,” Macdonald told melbournefc.com.au.
“Jess’ family lives down the road from the local high school and that was what was amazing – a lot of the local high schools have great facilities.
“The NFL ovals have AstroTurf and the grass is in good nick, plus there is an athletics track around it, so it had everything you need for a pre-season program.”
Macdonald said watching the hype and scrutiny around a college football match was an eye-opening experience.
“When you step outside the fishbowl of Melbourne, you tend to appreciate how good we’ve got it. You see the other spectrum, they had about 93,000 (93,359) for a college Rose Bowl Game, between Stanford and Wisconsin.
“So that was a good experience, and it was good to have a break there, because we trained really hard up until Christmas. It was just good to get away and do some training in a different location.”
“It’s also good to get a local’s perspective of a city, rather than a tourist perspective.”
Having been in the game since December 2002 – when he was drafted at No. 70 by the Brisbane Lions in the Rookie Draft – the 28 year-old said this pre-season had been particularly demanding.
“It’s been really challenging. This is my 11th year, so it’s always about what motivates you and what gets you out of bed to go to work,” he said.
“At this time of the year, it’s about trying to improve and get to a level where you’ve been before.
“I’m not expecting massive improvements now that I’m at an older age, but I’m more about how I’ve prepared in the past to perform. So, being consistent has been a real goal of mine, as much as the old body lets you.”
But Macdonald said his body had been holding up strongly over the summer.
“I’m feeling really good, actually. I’m feeling stimulated. There are a lot of new guys here and the game plan hasn’t changed a lot, particularly as a defensive group, so it’s been pretty easy to focus on trying to train hard,” he said.
“What we talked about last season was that when we were down at three quarter-time, we needed to dig deep, and try and fight back. Neeldy (Mark Neeld) pointed out that you can’t just pick that up in a game, you need to train for it over several months.
“That’s where the [pre-Christmas] Darwin camp and how we’ve attacked pre-season have all been in the right direction.”