Day 2: Saturday, January 16
The first full day on the Sunshine Coast has arrived. And so has the rain!
It’s absolutely bucketing down and it’s a far cry from yesterday!
This morning’s session is at the Maroochydore Multi-Sports Complex – home of the Maroochydore Australian Football Club. It’s the first main training of the pre-season camp.
Although it’s rainy, it’s far from cold.
Still, some of the crew opt for a lighter jumper – the new Melbourne apparel, of course! And it’s available from all good outlets … specifically The Demon Shop! Ka-ching!
For Victorians travelling to Queensland, it does sound unfathomable to don a jumper in the middle of summer! But there is a slight chill in the air.
Senior assistant coach Simon Goodwin takes the pre-training meeting after the players prepare for their session.
Goodwin, along with manager of development Brendan McCartney and defensive coach Jade Rawlings, highlight areas of the game plan to focus on.
The future Melbourne senior coach is impressive when he speaks to the players.
He’s measured, calm and clear in his delivery.
During his pre-training address, Goodwin praises several players on their recent efforts.
He mentions a group of players who performed particularly well in a recent three-km time-trial, held before the camp. He also acknowledges the few players who got their skinfolds down over the Christmas/New Year period. And he makes special mention of a few players who have been injured and completed their rehab with strong intent.
“There are lots of positives that we’re starting to see [as coaches],” Goodwin says.
“We’re watching everything,” he adds.
Coach Paul Roos listens and watches intently, before concluding with his own message.
Although Goodwin is being groomed for 2017 and beyond, Roos is still the main man for 2016 – even if the signs are that the transition is absolutely on track.
Before Roos finishes, he looks at the Maroochydore honours board and poses a question to the group – and then specifically to rookie and ‘local’ Queenslander Josh Wagner.
“Which premiership player won back-to-back best and fairests?”
It’s a little cryptic, but if you look at it carefully, the answer is Melbourne stoppage coach Ben Mathews, who played for Maroochydore after retiring as a premiership player with the Sydney Swans. For the record, Mathews won the B&Fs in 2010-11, before he started his coaching career in the AFL – firstly with Gold Coast, before joining Melbourne.
Training is underway and a strong crowd has turned out to watch Melbourne go through its paces.
It’s a willing hit-out. The boys genuinely have a crack and it’s noted by the many Melbourne supporters who turn up.
At one point, Christian Salem’s training top is ripped by Tom Bugg in a tackle.
During the session, Jack Viney shows his leadership skills, by pulling draftee and No.4 pick Clayton ‘Clarrie’ Oliver aside. The purpose is to encourage and give instruction. He gives the first-year player some genuine advice and it’s impressive to see.
It’s also promising to see Heritier Lumumba running laps after he had surgery on both ankles during the off-season.
And the players get right around Jay Kennedy-Harris, who is shining in the competitive handball drills.
The chat, bubble and purpose are high throughout.
For Sam Weideman, drafted at No.9 in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, training in front of an estimated 350 people – albeit in slippery conditions and in unfamiliar surroundings – it’s a situation he laps up.
“The weather was a bit cooler than I expected and the rain bucketed down, but it was a good session,” he says.
“It’s a weird feeling, because we didn’t normally get anyone at training in the under 18s and now we’ve got a big crowd and the fans have come down.”
Full credit to the Queensland-based Melbourne supporters, who are out in force – they really are a loyal bunch of red and blue fans.
The Wagner fan club is also up and about, as they watch their local boy train with pride.
Despite the weather, they stick around and gather their autographs and pics with the Melbourne players.
Weideman even signs the arm of one man, who becomes particularly excited when he realises Sam is the grandson of Collingwood great Murray.
One Melbourne supporter, Jeremy Smith, is as one-eyed as they come.
To prove it, he’s just had the new Melbourne logo tattooed on his arm. In fact, he has several old red and blue emblems adorned on his body.
Smith says he got the new emblem a couple of weeks after it was released on November 12 last year.
And he wears it with pride!
With the session completed, elite performance manager Dave Misson sums it up in a most positive fashion.
“We planned this as one of our big footy sessions for the camp and it turned out really well,” he says.
“We got a lot of solid work in for about 90 minutes and had good numbers on the track.
“Rain didn’t really interrupt the session, even though it was a little bit wet, but the ground was immaculate and it gave us an opportunity to do a really good session on the big ground. Overall, the players’ energy was excellent.”
The squad heads to Kawana Sports Precinct in Bokarina, about 20 minutes from the apartments, for physio/massage, leg weights and education sessions.
The players are split into three groups and rotate between the activities for the rest of the afternoon.
Education focuses on the game plan, which is run by Goodwin and McCartney. During the session, players are also divided into small groups, as they dissect the intricacies of match scenarios.
Leg weights are conducted in Melbourne Storm’s gymnasium facility – yes, the same Storm that shares the AAMI Park facilities with the red and blue. For the record, the Storm has recently set up an academy on the Sunshine Coast.
The massage sessions are welcome for several players after a solid hit-out earlier in the day.
Weideman gets about three or four 30-minute massages each week and a few “flush” rubs for 15 minutes, before training sessions. In total, he has “four or five” massages a week.
He says it’s something he definitely looks forward to throughout the week.
“It refreshes your body and you feel good, so I love it,” he says.
Already Weideman is finding the benefits of being in a full-time AFL environment are significant.
“Recovery is pretty big and it’s crucial to get right,” he says.
“The training load has gone up from the under 18s, so we need that recovery – and you look forward to it.
“It’s a chance to refresh your body and you feel a lot better going into the next session. You’ve got to be very professional about how you go about things and it helps a lot.”
Imagine that? Four or five massages per week!
If you’re pondering a scenario that evokes sounds of dolphins, raindrops in a forest and incense wafting around the room, then switch your mind to masseurs/physios who have the ability to use their metal rod-like fingers to poke, prod and burst open spirit level bubbles!
They are that good!
It’s not that we don’t like the dolphin-raindrops-incense scenario – they’re awesome too! But the club’s physio team and trainers – including training services coordinator Peter W. Roberts and physiotherapy team Sam Pietsch, Steve Allan, Joel Ames and Jake Treacy – do a mighty job. For this trip, a handful of local physios are also on board.
It’s not easy work. But they are another key piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
With the day’s activities completed, it’s now up to each apartment to prepare their own meal for the evening.
The more mature members of the group might be inspired by the likes of Peter Russell-Clarke, Philip Paxton or Gabriel Gaté, while the younger brigade will surely turn to Matt Preston, George Calombaris or Gordon Ramsay for inspiration.
No doubt the meals will vary from party pies to baked beans to sardines on toast.
Through to raw smoked wagyu, with horseradish soured cream, fermented crisps and raw funghi. Or slow braised quail, brioche, grains, hazelnuts and coco button mushrooms. Maybe even a seared duck breast with a Cognac infused apricot chutney?