Training at Tullamarine in warm conditions.
A long session today which began with a warm up to music in the hangar and didn’t finish until noon. I managed to spare a moment’s reflection at 11 for Remembrance Day for Lindsay McGhie “the boy from Vietnam” who came back from the war to execute prodigious kicks from full back to rival Fletcher of the modern era.
McKernan seemed to be the only rehab player today although I didn’t see La Verde. McKernan looked pretty good running laps and left the physio blowing in his wake.
A main thrust of the coaching is the integration of the returning ten with the under twenty fours who were the other players training today. The spirit was good and I didn’t notice any problems in this area.
Watson, Heppell, Stanton and Howlett spent the early part of the session doing specialised training. Watson has slimmed down and looks terrific and when you saw him dishing off his perfect handballs you realised how much we have missed him. Dyson looks good too. It might be my imagination but I thought he looked a bit quicker today and perhaps he has been working with a running coach as he seemed to be lifting his legs higher and had a much more pronounced arm action.
Kicking skills need a lot of work and at one stage the successive effective passes were 5,1,1,3 which is pretty bad although the four above mentioned players did manage a sequence of 22.
Greg Williams is doing some skills coaching. I would hope that he is going to concentrate on our handball in particular following the success of Footscray’s handball in the finals as their bullet like, forward hand passes under pressure in the packs was some of the best innovation we have seen since Teddy Whitten’s flick pass.
One of the tasks I set myself was to carry out an objective assessment of Aaron Francis who many feel will be a key component of our next premiership. He is to be congratulated in doing a lot of work over the break and he looks to have slimmed down somewhat in an effort to improve his endurance. He did some things well but in his group of four for the 200 metres around the boundary he was trailing the others each time. In the reflex marking drill with a ball kicked hard by a trainer from about five metres he uncharacteristically dropped three marks which was surprising as I believe he has good hands. In sum the effort is there but there is still a way to go before he grabs a permanent spot in the side.
Francis rotated through the forward line with the other talls: Daniher, Hooker, Redman and Stewart. Stewart’s work was promising today and his goal kicking was quite good. He is a good height but probably needs to build up a bit in the gym. As usual much of the forward line revolved around Joe and he moved and marked impressively. In the reflex marking drill he, Walla and Fantasia were outstanding and Walla was also showing a turn of speed in the boundary runs outpacing Longy in a spirited duel. Earlier in the piece Longy had tried to run through a Hocking tackle which was a big mistake.
A lot of time was spent in the latter part of the session moving the ball from the backline down the ground. Usually a couple of lateral kicks before swinging the ball back into the corridor with run and handball. It was good to see various forwards leading rather than static high kicks coming in to one on one body contests. In particular there was a concentration on kicking the ball over the head of a forward running into goal to mark going with the flight. Forwards had to finish off by taking their shot at goal which was good.
What is the atmosphere like? If you had seen Walla piggybacking Joe you would have said it’s pretty upbeat at present.