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Melbourne Football Club

Day 5 diary: The big session

I think we brought Melbourne weather up here. It might be a bit cooler, but it was one of our better sessions of our pre-season I would’ve thought. The boys really dived into it
Nathan Jones

Day 5: Friday, February 2

8am: The big session

Preparation is under way for the biggest training session of the camp.

The players and staff head out to Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex.

Once there, the crew is ready for its session.

It’s announced this morning that assistant coach Craig Jennings, who is in the role of strategy and education coordinator, has been handed the reins for the upcoming AFLX series.

Jennings, who previously worked at Essendon and the Western Bulldogs, is now in his third season with the Demons.

He says it’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to coach the red and blue and says a host of players and coaches have helped him along his journey.

“I’ve worked with a lot of players and coaches across three clubs and their positive response to my coaching style has motivated me to put everything into being the best coach I can be for them,” he said.

“In particularly, [I’d like to thank] Jobe Watson, Nathan Jones, Max Gawn and Neville Jetta. There are a lot of people who have mentored me in coaching – great people like Paul Roos, Gary O’Donnell, Brendan McCartney and Daisy Pearce.

“I hope they understand how much they have helped me, and how thankful I am to be in the position of being able to coach Melbourne in the AFLX series.”

With training under way, conditions are far from sunshine and heat.

It’s wet, rainy and slippery. It’s not cold, but it’s far from the humidity experienced earlier in the week.

The session is focused around game style.

It’s physical and players are expected to perform under fatigue.

It’s a solid hit-out and the session finishes with several contests.

Roughly 200 Melbourne supporters are at the session and given the conditions, it’s a good turnout.

Michael Hibberd’s torps are a highlight in the wet; Clayton Oliver’s ability to handle the ball in greasy conditions and Jesse Hogan’s training are among the features of the morning. 

Alex Neal-Bullen and Tom Bugg continue to make strong strides at training and young Oskar Baker is another to impress. The Queenslander has a fan club at the session and rises to the occasion.

The only downer from the session is when draftee Harry Petty, who was selected at No.37 in last November’s NAB AFL Draft, cops a heavy knock.  

The South Australian collides with another recruit, Bayley Fritsch, and is taken off on a stretcher.

After being checked out thoroughly by the club’s medical team, Petty is soon sitting up and having some lunch.

Elite performance manager Dave Misson says the first-year defender will be OK.

“He was knocked out, but he was under observation from the club doctor. He’s fine,” he says.

Teammate Dom Tyson praises Petty’s courage and says it’s already a noticeable feature of his game.

“He went in hard and got knocked out for a bit there,” he says.

“He’s back on his feet. He’s had some food and he’s had some water and he’s got a good doctor and support staff around him, so he’ll be fine.

“He’s only a couple of months in, but we like the way he attacks the footy – although it’s not ideal that he’s been knocked out – he’s earned the respect of his teammates pretty quickly with the hardness that he shows.”

In assessing the session, co-captain Nathan Jones says it’s probably his squad’s best for the pre-season.

“I think we brought Melbourne weather up here. It might be a bit cooler, but it was one of our better sessions of our pre-season I would’ve thought. The boys really dived into it,” he says.

“It’s pretty wet up here – it hasn’t stopped raining for two days now, and it was quite a physical session. We were really put through our paces and we are getting out what we want from the camp. We’ve got one big session to go and then we’ll be back home.”

“I think the facilities have been amazing and where were staying is perfect  we get everything out of it that we want to. I think this year is shaping up to be one of the more promising preparations for the season.”

Despite the conditions, Misson says the morning goes as planned.

“We didn’t deviate from the session, even though the ground was a little bit wet,” he says.

“It wasn’t quite as clean as we would’ve liked with the footy, but they actually did pretty well. They ran 11 or 12km and on that ground, it was probably worth 14 or 15km.

“This is our fourth year up here and we’ve got our schedule down pat. It’s been great. We’re staying in really good accommodation and getting some good lifting in and this was our second big session, with one more big one to go.”

Misson adds that the other pleasing aspect is that players are starting to integrate back into the main group.

“We haven’t got too many in rehab at the moment. Jack Viney is one of the main ones – he ran really well today. Joel Smith is another one. He ran exceptionally well,” he says.

“Then we’ve got Aaron vandenBerg and Patty McKenna, who haven’t quite started running yet, but they’re not too far away.”

3pm: Rotations

After a testing morning, the players return to Sebel Twin Waters for lunch and then pool/beach recovery sessions

From there, the players complete three one-hour rotations, consisting of leg weights, growth and physio/massage. They run until the early evening.

A team dinner is next on the schedule for the players, coaches and staff.

It’s expected to be a quiet evening, although Jones says with a smile that there will be “a few fun things” on the agenda.

Overall, it’s the end to a big, but successful day for the team.

The players will have some rest and relaxation on Saturday, before completing rotation sessions on Sunday and preparing for one last big training run on Monday.

Back in Melbourne on Saturday, it’ll be a big day for the footy club, when its AFLW side hosts GWS Giants at Casey Fields. The match starts at 5.05pm and should be an intriguing encounter. It's great to have footy back!