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Melbourne Football Club

‘Not a holiday’ for Neal-Bullen

It is good in the way that it’s spending time with family, but I’ve always got in the back of my mind that it’s not a holiday, it’s just a bit of a mental refresher.
Alex Neal-Bullen

ALTHOUGH the Melbourne players have taken some time off away from the club over the New Year period, Alex Neal-Bullen says they’re still training just as hard.

“The break is good in the way that it’s spending time with family, but I’ve always got in the back of my mind that it’s not a holiday, it’s just a bit of a mental refresher,” Neal-Bullen told Melbourne Media.

“Because you’re still training as hard as you are when you’re at the club, but it’s more so you don’t have to come into the club and have any meetings.”

On the back of an AFLPA agreement, all clubs have an extra week off this year, but the 21-year-old understands this doesn’t mean he can completely check-out.

“The AFLPA worked hard to get it done, but I think it’s more so because the pre-season before Christmas is so many hours and pretty grueling,” he said.

“They just wanted to have three weeks so we’re more mentally refreshed.

“That’s the biggest thing, now they’re putting a lot of trust in the players hands that we still do a lot of hard training over this three-week period.”

With Melbourne making a preliminary final in 2018, the club started its pre-season later than usual, putting more of a training emphasis on the holiday period.

“There’ll definitely be more high intensity sessions in our training program than previous years because we’re still building towards our peak fitness,” Neal-Bullen said.

“Whereas this time last year we were potentially a couple of weeks ahead fitness wise.

“But in saying that I feel like this is a great opportunity for blokes to really take on the challenge of training hard and pushing ourselves, so we can make sure we get even fitter this next year.”

While the South Australian is continuing to put in the hard yards, he is also enjoying the opportunity to see his family.

“That’s probably the best thing about this break, you get some good quality time with everyone who’s back home in Adelaide,” Neal-Bullen said.

“And just being able to check in with everyone and really mentally refresh which is great.”

During the time off, all players have had a number of compulsory sessions to complete each week, with a focus on conditioning, weights and skills.

“A big key focus for me is to take my footy boots with me everywhere and a footy,” Neal-Bullen said.

“That’s the biggest thing at this time of the year because if you stop kicking for three weeks it can take you a week to get back into the cycle of kicking.

“I’ve got a younger brother who comes for a kick with me and tries to teach me a few things which he hasn’t quite got the handle of yet, so we go for a few kicks down on the old school oval.”

Neal-Bullen has always held himself to high standards but believes the entire club has come a long way since his arrival in 2014.

“The way we train now would be a standout compared to five years ago,” he said.

“That’s how our club’s developed, everyone understands the work ethic you need and how hard you’ve got to work to have a successful football side.

“Everyone knows how hard they have to work to put themselves in the best position to play good footy for 2019.”