Day 9: Saturday, January 23
The final day of Melbourne’s nine-day pre-season camp on the Sunshine Coast has arrived.
In reality, aside from an 8am recovery session comprising of stretching/mobility on the grassed area at the Twin Waters complex and a dip in the ocean, it’s predominantly a travel day.
Elite performance manager Dave Misson takes the players for their final session, which lasts for roughly 45 minutes before the crew prepares for their flight back to Melbourne.
Misson says the boys have pulled up well from Friday’s training.
“We had a pretty big session yesterday, so we’re just doing a recovery session this morning,” he says.
“We’ll do a bit of flexibility on the grass and then head down to the beach and jump in the water and then get ready to come home.”
For Misson, the standout player of the session and the camp is ruckman Max Gawn, who was also lauded by Paul Roos and received $100 from the coach after tearing it up on the track on Friday.
But Misson adds that there are several others who leave the Sunshine Coast having had a strong camp.
“I think Max Gawn has been fantastic,” he says.
“Dean Kent’s had a great camp, but for me, it’s some of the guys who have cycled out of rehab and into the main group – guys like Bernie [Vince], Sam Frost, Angus Brayshaw and Dom Tyson. They almost did a full session yesterday and trained really well.
“For us, that’s a bit of a tick for our rehab program, with [development and rehab coach] Daniel Cross and [strength and conditioning team member] Alex Sakadjian. They’ve done a great job there and we’re looking for those players to get more and more footy into them over the next few weeks.”
Manager of development Brendan McCartney says it is “splitting hairs” to nominate the top few performers from the camp, as “right across the board” there have been players to impress.
But he adds that he has “really enjoyed seeing second, third and fourth year players show more of what they’ve got” on the camp.
“In their first year, you see little snippets and we saw that with some of them last year. As they get into their second, third and fourth year, they start to do it more regularly. That’s more painting a picture of the player they’ll become,” he says.
“There is some phenomenal young talent in this club and I said that at the end of last year – they’ve gone to another level of physical preparation and the physical capacity to do more work. They know more about the game and they’re starting to feel a lot more comfortable that they belong and that they can have an impact.
“It’s important us as a footy club continues to give them the opportunity to flourish and coach them in a way that’s got a consistency to it and a level of firmness. We’ve still got to remember that they’re still young guys learning about life and the game.
“Dom Tyson, Christian Salem and Angus Brayshaw – they’re showing more and more attributes that is going to see them as great long term players. All [of the players] have contributed in their own way – either vocally out on the field or in meetings. They’ll all put their hand up and done their bit, which has been pleasing.”
The final mini-bus trip, with game analysis and education coordinator Craig Jennings at the wheel, consists of front seat passenger coach Paul Roos, senior assistant coach Simon Goodwin, players Mitch White, Matt Jones and Dean Terlich, plus media crew Matty Goodrope, Sam Laidlaw and yours truly.
We stop at a local petrol station to fill up the mini-bus, before dropping it back at the airport. A few of the other mini-buses in our crew also pull up.
Poor ‘Jenno’ is soon caught in a tricky situation, having encountered a ‘sorry, I’m empty’ sign when he pulls up to a pump. With every other pump occupied, except one, he has to undertake a James Bond-like driving manoeuvre, combined with a dash of Austin Powers reversing and Mr Bean parking to claim it. Although Jenno was – pardon the pun – under the pump, he managed to remain cool, calm and collected under pressure. A big tick for the newest member of the coaching staff!
It’s just that when Roos goes to top up, the hose won’t quite reach. It’s agonisingly close. Another quick adjustment by Jenno with the mini-bus and we’re filling up with gas!
Perhaps, it was a ‘you had to be there moment’, but the sight of seeing this all play out and one of the game’s greatest names attempt to fill up – when the pump didn’t quite reach – was quite hilarious. Naturally, there were plenty of suggestions, encouragement and laughs from the mini-bus!
With the group now at the Sunshine Coast Airport, the midday flight is now the last part of the trip.
Overall, the club is rapt with how the camp turns out.
The facilities for the players, coaches and staff have been excellent – from the accommodation at the Grand Mercure Twin Waters to the Maroochydore Multi-Sports Complex, where the squad had its main training sessions.
Melbourne Storm’s facility at Kawana Sports Precinct, the Maroochy Beach Gymnastics and the Alexandra Headland Surf Life Saving Club also provided first class venues.
AFL Sunshine Coast regional manager Paul Tresise was again a great help, while property manager Anthony Brown praised the help of volunteers Lawson Whitworth, Loki Haines, Jack Tomkinson, and Tarj Townsend and trainers Kandi and Tori at training sessions.
Roos says he’s delighted with the outcome of the camp and he’s eager to build on it when the club returns to Melbourne.
“It was a little bit different last year. Last year, we smashed them physically and this year we did that at Sorrento, so we purposely changed it up,” he says.
“We really wanted to build up this week and finish off with a good session and we’ve had three really good, hard footy sessions – not as hard as last year, although today’s (Friday) was.
“We’ll have a little break and then get stuck into the footy conditioning phase over the next month. It’s still early days, but it’s really good to finish on a high and now they’ve got three or four days off, so it’s good to have a break after a good last session.”
So what’s next for Melbourne before its NAB Challenge campaign starts against Port Adelaide in Elizabeth on February 27?
“We’ll just keep building our footy program. We’ve got a couple of sessions down at Casey in the next couple of Fridays. We enjoy going down there, as it’s a big ground,” Misson says.
“It gives us an opportunity to really hone in on the game plan and really embed that, so we’re really looking to get some decent sessions in before we start playing some games.”
“We made a decision after last year that it was probably a couple of days too long, so I think nine days has been perfect. We got four good sessions in, in that time. Overall, it’s been a great camp and I think everyone’s ready to go home today.”
It has been a fantastic camp and anyone who bleeds red and blue can be assured that the players, coaches and staff have done their absolute utmost to ensure Melbourne continues its journey towards success.
It’s very exciting to ponder where this group will be in the next few years. And if you think about the names that the club has secured in recent times, it only reinforces it.
Bring on 2016 and beyond!