THE TRANSITION back to small-group training has been a big positive for Melbourne’s Christian Salem.
The classy left footer, who returned to the Club for the first time since March this week, has been revelling in the change, benefitting both and off the track.
“It’s heaps better, not only seeing everyone, but just the training itself is better quality,” Salem said.
“You can do more game-like drills – still no contact obviously, which is a little bit frustrating, but it’s been better than training just in pairs.
“The other point is obviously catching up with everyone. We’re used to seeing each other every day, so it was weird going for six or seven weeks without seeing everyone.
“It’s just good to be back.”
The Demons have had to make several adjustments to their program, ensuring they follow the AFL’s strict COVID-19 guidelines.
They have been training in groups of seven at Casey Fields, with only two groups on the ground at one time, and each group allocated one coach to work with.
But for Salem, who has been training with the defenders, it’s simply a chance to develop further as a group.
“It’s been different, particularly as there’s no contact,” he said.
“I was training with Nev most of the break anyway, but just seeing the other boys has been good.
“We’re just building a bit more connection as a backline.”
It was this connection that proved slightly challenging throughout isolation, with players only permitted to see one other teammate for training purposes.
While technology allowed for plenty of catch ups and banter, it didn’t quite replicate the daily shenanigans.
“You struggle a bit with the connection,” Salem said.
“We were doing Zoom calls, Facetime, having a laugh and a few meetings over Zoom as well, but it was hard.
“Training wise, it was alright. We had a bit of a set-up from home with heaps of equipment, so I was able to train pretty hard.
“It was just the connection piece that was a bit off, so it’s great to have that back.”
While this week has partially reunited the group, strict protocols have been further implemented to minimise any potential outbreak of the virus.
From temperate checks to COVID-19 tests, players, coaches and staff have had to adapt to health and safety measures that are expected to be in place, in different forms, for the rest of the season.
“The Club has been good in telling us what we need to do and when we need to do it, and you just get it done,” Salem said.
“The hardest bit is following the restrictions out at training, just with no contact and no high fives, but I think we will get used to that by the time games start.
“It is what it is – every club has got to do it.”
Now based at Casey Fields, the Demons are making the most of their isolated facilities, away from other clubs.
And with the plan being to remain there for the foreseeable future, they’re keen to put their own stamp on it.
“We’ve got our own facility now, so it’s just us,” Salem said.
It’s a bigger ground than Gosch’s Paddock, which is good for training, and the facilities are great – we’ve got the gym sorted.
“I think a few of the boys will bring their PlayStations and we’ll get a table tennis table, so I think we’re just going to deck it out with a few different things.
“I’m sure a few things will be rolling in next week.”
Melbourne will move towards full group training next week, in adherence with the AFL’s guidelines.