Training at Tullamarine in pleasant sunshine 13/12/13
9.30 am saw me sitting as directed on the large flat rock behind the goals at the airport end and as I looked south towards the cafÃ© the instigator of that direction my good friend the ace reporter Tiffany hove into sight on the running track walking towards me. Now for those of you who weren‘t present, and that‘s nearly everyone, let me describe the sight before me. Tiffany was wearing a Santa costume, at least the top half of one where a very brief top of red trimmed with white hovered precariously about thigh length shiny red boots. A Santa hat was all that was needed to complete the picture but in a spirit of patriotism Tiff had opted for a red and black pom pom hat which was very fetching.
Players heads started poking out of the hanger as she walked past and you could see Fletch explaining to the newbies who she was and broad smiles seemed to indicate approval for this feminist Santaette. Tiffany plonked down beside me on the rock scattering a tribe of skinks who had been basking in the sunshine and deposited a cane basket covered with a cloth at my feet.
â€œHi Tiff â€“ what‘s in the basket?â€
Tiff swept off the cover and produced cocktail glasses and a shaker together with olives in a jar and ice.
â€œCocktail time Jackie!â€
â€œWhat‘s the occasion I ventured?â€
â€œWell Jackie go back two seasons â€“ we were banned from training by Hird. Now we‘re here and he‘s banned. I call that a result.â€
Well this was a delicious irony and I speculated as to whether he might be skulking somewhere trying to get a glimpse of training like we had been forced to do but there was no sighting so I guess he will just have to rely on my report. We quickly settled into the drinks and I composed myself to bring you the day‘s training.
The background to today was that the players had experienced a three day camp at the venue, sleeping in tents, performing gruelling trials of strength and being sleep deprived by four commandos who woke them up at one and three to perform physical tasks. Much the same as Colorado but without the snow or the altitude. I was discussing this with Tiff when she nudged me and said
â€œI heard all about that Jackie so I have come commando too.â€
While I was digesting this the players entered the oval and went through a series of drills for agility, ball movement and defensive pressure and I pondered the differences between Hird and Bomber as coaches. Bomber is much more vocal than Hird and seems really switched on this year now that he is in charge and constantly stops drills to explain and direct especially in the end to end practice match which followed the initial drills.
Using the situation of where to play Hurley as an example it is known that the two coaches disagreed and consequently Bomber has become much more vocal now that his ideas don‘t have to pass in the upper house. Bomber is more a man of the people, less aloof and possibly more willing to listen to others and talk to people. However this is just an impression I have and Hird may have been just as effective with a different approach. I would add though that my opinion is that Hurley will be predominantly back and Carlisle forward this season.
There is a constant emphasis on spreading and making position, getting back to defend and setting up shots at goal. When Hams started calling to other players Bomber berated him with â€œThat‘s what you should have done three minutes ago.â€ There is every evidence of the development of a plan for running and ball use and players were constantly urged to keep performing when they were tired. I have been told that recently when a session was considered sloppy that Bomber kept them out there until they did it properly. On the other hand Hird was a great stickler for precisely timed sessions. Bomber is also emphasising Fletcher‘s responsibility to set up the backline positioning during play.
Turning to some individual players I was impressed with following:
Chapman shows great strength in the packs and spent a lot of time working with Winders and if they can both get on the field I feel that they could be very damaging. After training I noticed Bomber in deep conversation with Chapman and I presume he feels that Chapman can bring a great deal of leadership to the club and too the coaches.
Zack Merrett impressed me with his positioning in the midfield and his ball use. It was suggested to me the other day that he will be one of the best users of the ball in the AFL within two years.
Joe had a good day in front of goal â€“ he kicked at least four â€“ one snap and about three from CHF - and the coaches are helping him develop a routine. He puts the ball on the ground, then rubs his hands on his shorts to compose himself before picking up the ball for his set shot. He still spins it in his hands though and one would hope that the new forward coaching will keep him away from leads to the pockets. He was also impressive in general play and will be a pivot up forward.
A lot of the players are going well â€“ Stants made good position today and Kavanagh has impressed with his general play.
Training on an MCG sized oval will increase fitness much more than training at Windy Hill simply because the players will be forced to cover so much more ground in any simulated match play.
Training was impressive today â€“ they spent about two hours outside but after the match play and a slew of cocktails I felt disinclined to go over to the second oval where the players finished up with some more running and wrestling/tackling drills.
My meditations on training were suddenly interrupted by a shriek from Tiff who leapt violently into the air.
â€œWhat‘s wrong?â€ I asked
â€œSomething went up my dress it was cold and slimy and wriggled a lotâ€
It suddenly dawned on my that Tiff had gone commando and perhaps one of the skinks on the rock was looking for some shade.
â€œIt‘s a skink Tiff â€“ lucky you weren‘t at St Kilda â€“ it might have been a ■■■■■.â€
That earned me a slap but I was pretty happy â€“ we‘re training well, the venue‘s good, Bomber is firing and I‘m sure Santa will bring me something nice for Christmas.