Training at Tullamarine in mild sunshine and a moderate breeze.
The younger players today in a moderately short, downbeat session as a counterpoint to the excitement of yesterday when the formerly banned players joined the youngsters.
The main thrust of a fairly rusty session was player development and I must say I was impressed with Skippy in his teaching role. The main activity was one on one contested marking of high balls kicked over a short distance. Gleeson was opposed to Francis (looking slimmer), Walla to Fantasia, Joe to Ambrose and Redman on Hartley. Skippy patiently explained holding position when in front, when behind, getting your opponent off balance and getting low to out body your opponent with hips and arms. Often he and his assistant would move the legs and arms of the players to demonstrate the correct position. Player development is arguably the most important job at the club after recruiting and I would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how well we manage this at the club - certainly our excellent facilities are a great help.
At the other end of the ground Parish and Long were practising short passing, bypassing the man on the mark with passes at 45 degrees with variable results. Skippy’s group changed to a little bit of reflex marking, leading an opponent to take the mark over a short five metre distance. This brought back memories of Windy Hill where Colin Hooper would kick full strength passes at Hirdy over ten metres which he invariably took with one sure grab in front of his eyes. Big gap between this and what I saw today with half strength kicks, allbeit over a shorter distance.
I was joined behind the goals by an eighty year old Johnny Synan and Robert Grindrod who runs an Essendon website on Facebook. Johnny is probably best remembered as the trainer who brought the Little Leaguers out in the eighties and nineties. In the 1990 grand final he was fined $5,000 for hitting a trainer and he carries a newspaper cutting with him to show that he was set up. “Sheedy and Mathews threw punches but I didn’t.” A real Essendon fanatic he housed Barnes and Sommerville in a bungalow at the back of his house in Pascoe Vale and complained that Barnesy would appear before his five daughters in his jocks. I suspect that may have been the least of his worries and there are probably several tales waiting to be told there.
This session was then replaced with Joe doing goal kicking practice and you may remember that I was critical in a previous report that there was no one assigned to fox the footies for him. Pleased to report that an enthusiastic Michael Hartley performed this role today and later Mark Harvey.
Joe kicked over a wooden mannequin on wheels which sported a yellow jumper with 25 on the back. Joe had one Essendon sock on his kicking leg pulled right up and the other down. A glove on his right hand covered what was presumably the result of a minor operation but it was not a problem and he later discarded it.
Joe first kicked from acute angles on the boundary line of both pockets which was almost a total waste of time. Then he switched to about 35 metres on a 45 degree angle from the cafe pocket which is the wrong side for a left footer over the manequin on the mark.The initial results were pretty dispiriting but when Skippy came out to advise him he steadied somewhat and his results improved. He then switched to the opposite side and finished with set shots from about forty metres straight in front. The hook which was his initial problem has been replaced with a slice, particularly from the cafe side and the hook is a much more occasional error usually from the opposite side of the goals.
As stated previously the effort and enthusiasm is there and he is making progress overall so we should be pleased I think.
Zach Merret came out with Harvey and practised snap shots from all sorts of angles with Harvs showing him how to take a couple of steps to open up the angle. I would expect to see Zach adding increased goal kicking capability to his repertoire feeding off the talls and being rotated through the forward line.
Cale Hooker was the final player to come out and practice goal kicking as an indication that he will probably spend quite of bit of time on the forward line this year. His kicking style is not classic but more accurate than Joe’s from what I saw today.
In my previous report I discussed the return of wheelie bin in yellow colours but today he was retired, possibly for good, by a net like construction on wheels, a bit like a baby’s cot, which holds more balls and is much easier to lob balls into. The green wheelie bin with the vivid red sash outside the Sheedy Cafe looked on in silence.