What a stunning day at training today. 22…23 degrees, light puffs of breeze, the smell of freshly cut turf, and I’ve named the Wagtail Billy.
Quite a few onlookers today - maybe around 50 by the time training got into it. The boys emerged from the cavernous hanger just before 1000 and went for their usual warm-ups. It gets tough to recognise players with those red caps on - they all tend to look similar. Though I make no mistake between Ridley and Stringer, because I’m ace.
Spirits are high - the group is vibed-up, shouting and cat-calling. It feels good. A group heads towards Marvell Ground - Joey, Begs, Parish & McNeice. They are soon joined by Fanta, Brown, Hooker, Ambo, Francis McKenna & Smack.
Rotational drills begin - 2 large groups.
First drill is fast hand-passing, keeping moving. More like an advanced warm-up than anything else at this point.
Second drill is 1-on-1 contested marking in the goal square, with players matched against each other, and taking it pretty seriously, as young competitive guys tend to do. Ball is kicked in, two players run to opposite points, then converge on the ball-drop for the mark or spoil. Two goes for each pair, then change-over. The group rotated through this drill about 5 times. Just because it’s fun, here’s how it went:
Shiel vs Hepp - equal
Drapes convincingly beats Stewart
Myers vs Laverde equal
Ridley beats Mutch
The two tall unknowns equal (the blond is called ‘Andrew’) Edit: Emerson Jeka / Andrew Courtney
Dlarke beats Guelf
Zlarke vs Harts equal
Pidge vs Ham equal
Jok beats Dea
Langers equal to Dea, then Zlarke, but then beats Jok.
Anyway, moving on…
Langers in general is looking pretty swish. Not only does he appear fit, toned and in great spirits, but he also seems to have matured in the way he speaks and handles himself. Which isn’t really surprising, since he is so young.
Joey doing laps on Marvell
All in all, till the end of the session, Joey went around maybe 10 times, and ran about 4x 100m straights.
Finally spotted Jok’s weakness. A drill scooping up a rolled ball gazumped him time after time. Jok is impressive in many ways, with stand-out skills. His weak areas are staying in focus, keeping moving as an option, and ground balls.
Back on the Marvell ground, Fanta, Begs, McNeice & Parish were bursting off the line and stretching for a high ball. Everyone but these four and Ambo rejoined the main group for what was the main drill for the session.
This drill was a high-intensity ball-movement sim using the entire MCG ground. Ball was moved rapidly by hand or foot from one end to the other without stopping. When a goal/point was scored a ball was immediately brought in to continue on. 11 trainers and coaches were used as ‘pressure’. Particular focus was ‘staying in the game as an option’, ‘keeping involved’, and interestingly – ‘drawing the press’ – which basically means countering the high press by drawing the field one way or another, creating room elsewhere and maximising the efficiency of ball movement through those spaces. Jok & Long need constant guidance here from Rutten. Zerk, Hooker & Rids were very impressive.
Joey was still doing his light running during this, and I overheard McNiece saying that his legs were building up too much lactic acid, hindering his running.
Zerk & Francis went off to do some runs – 100m straights, timed. These two would do well to bond - they’ll be linchpins for us for many years. Fanta also doing hard running, and Benny laps.
During the break, a few players practised goal kicking. Stewart seems to have lost most of his stutter. Begs took part in goal kicking.
Hurley arrived at around 1100, and seemed a little flustered. Turk took him for warm-up and then runs on Marvell. He joined the main group about 30 mins later.
After the break players split into two groups again, one drill being an ultra-fast handball drill in a small space – around the size of the centre circle. This was rigged as a game, with a red mannequin fixed either side, and the aim is to hit the mannequin by handball for your team. It was scored, and even had ‘sin-bin’ for transgressions.
The final main drill was again ball-movement on the whole ground, originating alternatively from kick-out, ruck, or back pockets. Fanta & Parish took part. Man, Stewart is a lovely field kick. It seems like the highest priority this preseason is maximising our particular skills in ball-movement, defensively and offensively. And it’s looking pretty awesome.
Straight after training, Shiel, Langers, Parish & Stewart practiced goal-kicking, with Langers confirming his beautiful action.
A fun bit of fluff to end –
Smack was taking banana shots from the boundary, pulling balls off the cart and slicing them to goal. He wasn’t doing that great, as Fanta jogs by and stops, grabs a ball, and says - $100 if I get it in? Guy driving the cart says – I’ll buy you a coffee. Fanta says I’ll do it from behind this cart – casually kicks the ball and before it even gets to the goal posts, jogs off saying…"thanks, lads!”.
Smack just shook his head and laughed.