loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

The future of High Performance programs in the AFL in Australia post COVID-19

Sad time in modern world history and I wish a discussion like this could be avoided. But reality is the AFL landscape and elite team sports will be forced to change. No one knows what impact this will have. Sporting teams have to start putting plans in place on how they are going to set up the team behind the team to get the product rolling again.

My AFL career started with Essendon Football Club in 1987 in a Strength and Conditioning Role. This was the first year of AFL but players still worked. I stayed at Essendon till 1993 and after the club won a premiership went to Collingwood for a year as High Performance Manager. I was deemed a guru! We featured in a famous game in Perth called Mission Impossible against West Coast Eagles in 1994. Almost won! Back to Essendon as High Performance Manager 1995 to 1998 then 8 years at Geelong Football Club in the same role. By 2006 when I left, the club had featured in 5 finals in 2004 & 2005 and this was the nucleus of the great team of 2007 and 2011. I also was a consultant at the Western Bulldogs in 2006 and 2007, delivering a report on their 2006 ACL injury plight and assisting with their speed and strength program and staff development in 2007. 

I have been lucky since to work in many sports and also at the development and sub elite level of AFL football. Now in China I am assisting teams with strength and conditioning at the Shanghai Institute of Sport. You can check my CV on  this blog and also my Linkedin profile.

One of the first job cuts we saw in this crazy period with Covid-19 was in elite sports. It was reported that 80% of High Performance staff were sadly and hopefully short term laid off. This hits home when compared to the explosion of Exercise Science courses and High Performance courses in Australia and the number of highly qualified, skilled  and competent people and graduates competing for these valued positions.



The best case scenario is that Australia can recover quickly economically and that most of these people can get back to doing what they love and do so well, even if with less financial reward. The worst case scenario may be a return to High Performance programs in the AFL, similar to those that evolved from 1993 to approximately 2002. The show will go on but the worst case will be that the team behind the team will change drastically for a while. 

Will the product on the field be drastically reduced? I believe we have to look at the law of diminishing returns to answer this. How much did each increase in Football Departments since the “arms race” started in earnest in the mid 2000’s impact performance on the field? 

So what did the AFL football department look like in 1993? At Essendon, Danny Corcoran was the administrative manager but at night swapped his suit for tracksuit and was on the track. I was doing all the strength and conditioning and rehabilitation part time and Oscar Kenda took speed. We had the odd dietician coming in and out. That was it. I am not going to describe the medical side but to be honest the evolution with medical, massage and specialists has been the same. So in 1993 what was the cost? If we leave Danny out (because he was Football manager) it was maybe $30,000 maximum $50,000 and in 1993 Essendon won the premiership. At that time in my part time role I did all the skinfolds, all the rehabilitation with return to play and all the S&C, plus any sports science we used at the time. At the same time I worked full time as a gym manager. 

In 1994 Collingwood undertook a rapid transition to become one of the first full time programs in AFL. Here I was the full time High Performance Manager and had a full time assistant (which was unheard of then) plus one part timer. The club had a consultant dietician and I think that was it. With on costs, staffing this program cost approximately. $100,000 to $130,000. I do not have exact budgets but the trend is apparent.

At Essendon in 1995 again I was the only full timer, this time with 2 part time assistants plus consultants, dieticians and psychologists who back then would not have been getting paid much. I really think that the costs to staff that program again came in under $100,000. Not 100% sure but not $200,000!.  This remained the same in 1996 and interestingly I employed Andrew Russell (who has won flags at Hawthorn and Port Adelaide as a High Performance Manager and now at Carlton) in 1996 as a part timer on $20 an hour. By then I had heart rate monitors, lactate analysers and other sports science gear and I was doing it all again with a few interns assisting me.

1997 saw a massive change at Essendon where with  CEO Peter Jackson, we organized a trip to the Australian Institute of Sport where we spent a week looking at evidence based best practice in all areas. On the trip we had fitness, sports medicine and coaching staff plus management in attendance. Essendon went full time and revamped its facilities but in the fitness and sports science area we still only had one full timer up until 1998. After that the landscape throughout the AFL changed rapidly and some clubs started spending more money. However the big revenue from TV rights had yet to kick in, facilities were still pretty basic and many clubs still did not have many full time roles. 

Working at Geelong from 1998 to 2003 I was at a club that was cash strapped due to debt uncovered in 1999. After that the High Performance department had a very tight budget. Not much more than $100,000 I reckon for fitness staff and equipment. I remember my brother in law Gus Puopolo, who is a Geelong supporter, made some power racks for the club and I luckily knew where to buy very cheap second hand gear due to my gym background. In 1999 and 2000 I only had 2 part time staff helping me. By 2001 I did have one  full timer but their pay was in the vicinity of $32,000 plus one or two part timers on casual rates. We did have a very small budget for sports science but again I was the Sports Scientist, S&C coach, rehabilitation for return to play and High Performance Manager all rolled into one. 

So that paints a picture of how teams were prepared in that era. It did vary. Some clubs like West Coast Eagles, Swans and Essendon were evolving quickly but the Arms race in fitness and sports science had not started yet.

The million dollar question is how much has the product on the field improved due to the massive High Performance programs now? Obviously it has improved a lot. But a lot in sport can be 3%. High Performance staff numbers and costs were skyrocketing until the AFL put in place a “soft cap” on spending in footy departments. Players now are leaner, more individually and specifically prepared. Budgets in High Performance programs have gone up a lot more than 10%. In some cases 10 times more now than the era I have described.! 

By the mid 2000’s we could afford GPS units and dieticians and rehabilitation staff plus some specialists like tackling coaches. It was obvious in the late 80’s and early 90’s some players were awesome athletes and comparable to now but others simply could play footy, squat and bench press 60kg, have high skinfolds and would not survive in today’s game unless they improved their conditioning. 

High performance programs in any elite sport worldwide are a very recent phenomenon in the world history of sport and it is difficult to not ask the question how much has the “Arms Race” in AFL Football Departments produced a better product. 5% or 20%? Probably can only subjectively answer that given the impact of assistant coaches, medical staff, video technology, facilities.

With everyone looking for the 1%ers the law of diminishing returns ensured that we were possibly reaching a ceiling. So in the worst case scenario will we see a return to less full time staff? Time will tell. One model I used at Geelong in 2005, when we were making the transition to having some cash to splash around, was to have 2 full time staff but have a large contingent of part timers who had specific roles from sports science to speed development to Strength  & Conditioning and Pilates for example. All up probably represented 75% of my Assistants full time salary. In the worst case scenario this is a model that would make things tight but can work to underpin the training needs of an AFL team, and I think the product would look much the same, plus keep current staff aligned to elite programs.

What the public wants to see when this crazy time in history ends, is their champion players playing at their best. The game on the ground is what matters most, the fans will return and they will want entertainment. So administrators need to carry the burden also.  

It will be difficult for current staff within the system to visualize or implement necessary changes given downsizing is always tough. And this is new ground for managers. Many have been seduced by the hype surrounding sports science and gurus.  I hope Australia bounces back economically ahead of the world and we can get the best case scenario occurring so that a lot of my mates are back doing what they do best. 

No one can predict the future at this stage let alone what will happen in the AFL High Performance system. It is not high on the agenda given the health and economic issues confronting the world. But given there are best case and worst case scenarios I am sure clubs in the AFL, and around the world are starting to plan for options on how to set up their departments in the future. I assume eyes will be on China where the CBA Basketball competition was supposed to start soon but has been put back as has football (soccer). They have commercial needs just like clubs in Australia and  some overseas staff have been asked to come back to China to prepare the team. Sure their progress will be interesting. 

GIven I spanned many eras in AFL High Performance settings I am more than happy to connect and share what I have learnt in football departments on how to deliver an efficient program with minimal resources. I just left the scene when the Arms Race was starting.  Let’s hope again this feedback and expertise is not needed. But the High Performance AFL landscape could be a bit different for a little while. The AFL product is strong though and the public love their footy. I do not like talking about the “new normal”. One constant in life is change and as the economy heals so will football departments.


April 2, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2 weeks above 80% compliancy with Social Distance is key. Evidence from China.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy gave a grim time frame for Australians regarding the importance of social distancing. “That’s why they have to be for the long haul. For several months,”

Confusing advice. Yes controls for months but I saw Social Distancing relaxed in Shanghai Wednesday. Controls, yes, as in my case where I flew across Provinces from Kunming to Shanghai so company rule was 2 weeks in a room.

I had a long chat with a guy in ADMIN at the Sports Institute in Chongming yesterday. I showed him pictures of my day in Shanghai where people were mingling and laws about Social Distancing and Masks were relaxed whilst temperature checks were everywhere and obviously people who had Covid19 or were wary did not dare go out coz well might be their last day! Reasonable deterrent. He said that once the virus lockdown occurred in late Jan they basically looked at 2 weeks as being the critical period. Obviously in this society above 80% compliancy (which is needed) was easily achieved. Schools are still shut but businesses like Dentists are re-opening. Sports planning to take off in a month. Context not sure. Business has taken a hammering.


So its tough when you see beach scenes in Melbourne yesterday and chatting to a friend in Italy (Lombardy) who said too many Italians simply do not want to comply still. >20%! The magic figure. He is an economist. He is so frustrated. The research and statistics tell you simply what to do! Its KISS. Keep it simple stupid. And his old dad is a retired doctor and back in hospitals helping so he is spooked. 2 weeks!

SO > 80% compliancy= some normalcy in 2 weeks. FARK ME! Now will this rebound in China? IMO no but obviously history will tell. Lack of herd immunity/release shackles? Who knows. But why not follow this advice and understand they locked it away in Hubei and nailed it in other cities ATM. I was skeptical at first but believe they have. No use blaming them ATM just follow their best practice.

PIC BELOW-This dude said this on March 20th-Not sure if Western countries listened!: “The head of a Chinese Red Cross delegation helping Italy respond to the coronavirus crisis says people aren’t sufficiently adhering to lockdown measures and warns the only way to stop the virus spread is by shutting down all economic activities.”


Armed with my APP saying I was deemed healthy I was allowed to travel an hour into Shanghai by bus/bus/metro/taxis plus go into offices and eat out. Then allowed to come back with my ID into Institute again and mingle with athletes! They must be pretty confident. The athletes will be allowed home again on weekends (as normal) from 2nd week April. They have been in lockdown (but excellent conditions here in Chongming) in Institute since Jan 23rd.

2 weeks of discipline (going for walks in neighbourhood by yourself OR with doggie- go fark yourself-thats not hardship) seems a great price to pay OZ to get a stunning result and show the western world Aussies are the best . Then repair the economy and get working again. And importantly have done some basic Maths and understand the word exponential.


March 28, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mindset, Lockdown and Quarantine in China.

I write this more to explain the stages of my emotions, how I perceived this situation and how I changed or evolved my coping strategies or even perceptions as it all evolved.

When the first information started coming out in China about Covd19 I remember being really rattled. I had a flight booked for early February for Holidays in Australia. It was mid January and the Coach at the Kunming Altitude Training Centre told me we had cancelled our move from there to Guanzhou due to the virus. We were at a large institute in Kunming at an altitude of 1900m finishing a phase of training. My emotions were at first to get the hell out of China asap. Things didn’t change too much for a week. When I was told the Institute would go into total lockdown on Monday 27th January I panicked because I knew then already I had to cancel my flight home in early February due to the massive uncertainty. I organized this with staff in Shanghai and never forget a message I got on Wechat. Still at that stage no-one had any idea what was about to unleash. So I rebooked my holidays to late February. I had contract negotiations coming up in March which meant I had to be in China. Was starting to get messy.


I asked our manager if I could get some supplies like coffee and soap and other needs at a supermarket the night before the Institute went into lockdown. Sunday night. Eerie. After what I had read about the virus and its ability to infect I was extremely worried about leaving the compound. Totally different to the ‘Bondi Beach” mentality of many Australians I think being in China and considering it the epicentre of the virus, already had me spooked and emotional. I did not have a “she’ll be right” mentality because I thought WTF am I doing here. But that night we ventured out into Kunming City. Ghost town already. Almost zero traffic. This is me outside the Supermarket. Cold night. No people. And I was spooked already scared of touching anything or being close to people.


I remember getting a trolley and realizing I had touched it then immediately grabbing my tracksuit and wrapping it around the handle. Inside the supermarket few people. Only supermarkets and pharmacies were open. Already that was it. Even at the counter I was so wary being close to anybody. Again this was because I perceived that I was in the “epicentre” of the virus. Little did I realize that Hubei was the epicentre plus that Kunming would get very low statistics later on due to measures in place. And due to what I saw that night. A ghost town.

The next morning we were given trays and told we had to eat in out rooms. Told to pick up our food with masks on. At first I was so angry to have to do this. And the food choices were reduced automatically. My emotions and reactions were interesting. I was fuming, feeling socially deprived. One of our liberties had been removed. I was so pissed about being in this position. Last thing I wanted to do was stay in China. And the thought of getting my temperature checked three times a day rattled me. Apart from the fear of being recorded high it just seemed such an imposition. I was so annoyed to be in this situation and wanted to go home.


I used to walk at about 10am after taking a session with athletes then at 11.15 would go and pick up my lunch. Because it was quite sunny by then I was sweating so I would stay in my room and wash my face with cold water and fan myself because I was spooked about recording a high temperature. Comical now, but at that point I thought WTF will happen if I am high? The steel tray even got me given how sterile it looked. Little did I know what awaits other countries still.


On Monday morning January 27th the Institute was put into total lockdown. It is a big place. Probably a 3km walk around. Very pretty. Lots of tracks and “nooks & crannies” But reality is I felt I was imprisoned. Little did I know what awaited me and the rest of the world. Being locked in really hit me. Sure I knew I was safer from the virus lurking outside but it was something I simply had not encountered before. And at that point it seemed dangerous simply being in China.


As the days rolled on in Kunming I did have to keep working. I was extremely happy to stay away from people because already we had been warned that Social Distancing and washing hands was critical and signs appeared everywhere. By early February I was washing my hands 10 times a day and simply avoiding humans. There were some odd situations with masks and hygiene though. Athletes and coaches always wore masks when walking around. But the gym was busy with athletes because it was crowded. No masks. Everyone touching everything. Spooked me. I washed my hands with soap multiple times a session. Of course all the athletes were being tested and all were behind “barbed wire” fences so the likelihood of transmission was less but I was so wary. My reference point was being in China. I still think in Australia for some they think they are 100% safe.


But as it became apparent that the team was not going to move for months I settled into a pattern with lifestyle and realized that I had to use the time to stay fit and healthy. Reality was that the Institute surroundings are so pretty so I simply started to walk more and pump iron more. I found a playground to do bodyweight sessions which became a refuge and kept hoping I could go home late February to Australia for 2 weeks holidays. Deep down I knew my hopes of going home were fading. So to be honest lots of February I simply walked twice a day around the venue and started some projects online whilst working with the 2 teams.

LORIS WORD.png2.jpg3 (2)3

I did become obsessed with looking at the Statistics online in the Chinese Database in February. What struck was me the low numbers of Virus in the province of Yunnan where the City of Kunming is in the South of China. The statistics for Kunming never got above 100. Versus the epicentre Hubei. More so I realized that I was safe. Safe behind closed gates, added to being in a city where the statistics were low. Yes a bit wary about the accuracy of the statistics but I still believe they reflect an accurate trend for the situation in China. Feeling safer was a massive relief and by then I had adapted to all the changes to lifestyle in the institute with temperatures and meals. In fact understood how thorough they were.

But the frustration remained with going home and again I had to change flights to late March in the scant hope things would improve. With the situation in Italy escalating in Codogno and South Korea and Iran it started being obvious that it was just a hope. Plus flying meant I had to do several flights and stopovers and be in quarantine when I came back to China. I was so frustrated because I simply wanted to see my family.

My next stress point came when I was told I had to fly to Shanghai in early March to sign my contract and get a new visa. I simply now did not want to fly domestically because I felt safe within the institute. It was weird. Plus I was told that if I flew provinces the rule was 2 weeks in quarantine in Shanghai in a room then 2 weeks in a room when I returned to Kunming! So strict here. The thought of 2 weeks in a room totally spooked me. I tried every avenue to avoid this. But before I knew it I was driving out the institute to the airport.

What struck me in Kunming when I drove to the airport was the amount of traffic. That night in late January when I went to the supermarket not a car in sight. The airport was busy. A guy coughed behind me at check in and I glared at him in my Loris tough face. I tried to not touch anything or go close to anyone. But so many people flying. Again a reflection that the tide had turned here. But it took ages to get through all the security checks and temperature checks and I had to download an APP on Wechat with a code to declare I was healthy.

The plane was packed. I had a family and young bay in seats next to me. Still thought I would get infected and was pissed at having to be exposed to this after months in lockdown. And halfway through the flight FML the baby started vomiting! Wow infection control. I had to stand up and wriggle in and out and thought WTF is going on.


When I got to Shanghai the protocol after landing was exhaustive. Multiple checks. APPS to be checked, things to be signed. And looking forward to 2 weeks in quarantine in a room. I was not happy. Added to fact I felt I had been exposed to multiple groups and risk factors which I had avoided in the Institute and by not flying home to Australia. I was dreading the quarantine.

But it is amazing. Withing the 2 weeks I have been in a room my reference points, emotions, perceptions and even opinions have shifted markedly. As the  2 weeks evolved inside the room my fear or even panic was for Australia, Italy and the fact that everyone was repeating the same mistakes China did early.  Norman Swan was the only credible voice in the media. I was appalled at the AFL for not reinforcing the need to Social Distance in Australian Society. Not about playing. I was perplexed at Italy.  I became obsessed with following the predictable political bullshit on the media.



In the first 2 days I was really angry at being stuck in a room also. Verging on panic. This reflected my attitude.



But within 2 days I again assessed my situation and altered my mindset. I shifted my goals to being active  doing 12,000 steps a day and doing an exercise circuit daily. I didn’t always get to 12,000 but that was aim.


Plus one lesson I did learn in Coaching was be yourself. Well because of that I decided to post what I think are funny but pertinent images of myself exercising in my room. Plus it became another task I had to complete daily. Plus responses on Social Media fueled my ego. Some people were worried about my sanity. HA. But I did this for my sanity!


And another lesson I learnt was to appreciate the little things a bit. I was lucky to have a balcony and in the afternoon the Spring sun shone through. Fresh air and a nice view were in my opinion  a game changer given my situation. So if you are housebound in Australia then seriously you have a garden!



So pretty worried when I see the stuff like Bondi Beach and just hope that in Australia we have been spared the worst given isolation. But my whole focus shifted to being concerned about the situation in Australia.

LORIS WORD.png2Swanbondi


The experience for me or impact for me is how quickly I shifted my radar or reference points and how quickly I had to adapt to circumstances. Lockdown in an Institute seemed crazy at first in January but now was like a holiday camp. Quarantine in a room seemed unbearable at first but really just required a change in mindset then putting some short term goals in place.

I sincerely hope Australia practices Social Distancing to the MAX in the next month. There is research evidence going back years that it works. Hope the skeptics understand this and the ignorant also.

So the summary is I am ok! Look after yourself Australia.


















March 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lumbo-Pelvic Control and Running Drills

I recently tweeted a video of Sally Pearson doing a “high knee” drill and suggested that this was a good model for team sports athletes to use as a general guide. Using Dan Pfaff’s term “bandwidth” I think there is a model that intermittent team sports should aim at. The tweet is below.



The explosion of drills emphasizing front-side mechanics means we often see videos of athletes doing contrived “front-side” drills. I also mentioned the lumbo-pelvic area. From what I understand this controls the extremities in a 3 D fashion . We know the pelvis has to move 3D when running but again using the term bandwidth it also has to be an anchor for huge forces to be transmitted through.  I could write a book about running drills and another on the lumbo-pelvic area so will keep this article short as possible.

On You Tube we can find lots of nice drills now emphasizing front-side or just run drills. First one is complex and is done well in video. But I assume this requires lots of strength and also skill. Question is will doing it develop strength or will a beginner just do it by flipping the pelvis around?

Barbell Quickstep Drill

Barbell QuickStep

The second video is an excellent progression of drills and again seems well done by athletes in video ( ie: control pelvis). But we have all seen athletes lean way back as complexity increases to facilitate hip flexion.

Progression of Sprint Drills to enhance frontside mechanics


How often have we seen high knees done like the video below in warm-ups. I remember a Volleyball Junior TID camp and they nearly all did this when I said high knees! I thought apart from raising body temperature what poor form for the in-close needs  of Volleyball.


High Knees ?



Where it can get really unspecific is when we move to a lot of the front-side drills that involve complex movements, boxes, bars and dumbells. Again pretty good in this video below but I would think this needs a pretty well conditioned athlete with good basic skills in run drills and movement in general. And if we go to an AFL club for example we will still find players who can do this but in reality just compensate again to allow the movements or facilitate hip flexion.

Single leg DB Snatch to Box with Knee Drive


The problem many coaches have in team sports is that they train large groups and do not have the luxury of individualizing. The issue is making the session interesting and the drills varied enough but also sticking to the basics or creating scenarios and constraints to help develop the basics. Dribbling over ankles and calves (modified high knees), mini hurdles, stairs whatever. Whilst speed ladder is not popular with many, some fast foot drills are of benefit with beginners if arms are coordinated and basic postures maintained. I think wall drills can be used with large groups but not for too many reps. This topic alone requires a lot of discussion.

When individualizing though it becomes critical to analyze how an athlete runs, then what their drills look like, how strong are they in general and what lumbo-pelvic issues and range of motion do they have. Also how do they look in a game and are they fit!

One  assessment that I believe is valuable is the double leg lowering test. Below are some  links. The test can also be done manually with a hand under the lower back and assessing when abs/back can no longer maintain pressure on hand and thus control pelvis.

VID: Double leg lowering abdominal test

Double leg lowering test: Article




The ability to control the pelvic or fancy word (lumbo-pelvic) can and should be assessed by many means. Sorensens test ( holding a back extension), side oblique holds, single leg hamstring holds and so on. The problem or weakness could be multifaceted. Stuart McGill has some excellent tests and data which in my opinion combined with the double leg lowering test will provide some ok indicators to drive what ‘core” work athletes need or to explain why things are breaking down in running drills relative to this article. But for runners I think wise to add the leg lowering test because the McGill tests do not seem to address the impact of leg levers on pelvic and lumbo_pelvic area.

McGills Torso Test



Personally I have found an inability to perform well on this test usually co-incides with an inability to hold postures in areas like sprint drills. (just like an inability to do single leg swiss ball hamstring curls!).

There are regressions and progressions to this assessment galore. Below are some excellent links


Dead Bug Progressions: Prehab Guys


So what do elite athletes do for lumbo pelvic stability. Hardcore S&C people will say squats and deadlifts and overhead lifts will stimulate the “core” and enough. Others do heaps of offset walks with dumbells and some pallof presses. Many elite athletics coaches keep it pretty basic and work all angles with all types of ab exercises, hanging knee raises, lower back work and medicine ball work. Here is Sally Pearson doing some good old fashioned med ball work.

Sally Pearson Medicine Ball Ab Training

But I am sure that if I tested her for double leg lowering strength she would get a good result. Experienced , successful and astute coaches know how to condition athletes in the lumbo pelvic area and intuitively know when the link from run to drill to conditioning is missing and how to fix issues. Many young “INSTAGRAM” coaches do random fancy shit.

But take home at individual level some assessments have to be done, and then tied in with what is seen on field in runs/drills/jumps etc and under fatigue.

This area is massive! The research on injury prevention in soft tissues (hamstrings) is exploding. We have moved from eccentric needs to now hearing the word running technique and “lumbo-pelvic” being spoken about. The moment you speak about anything in isolation though forget it.

Getting back to my video on twitter with Sally Pearson and running mechanics for team sports athletes. With big groups KISS method and stuff like short hills/hurdles/light sleds/walls etc can create constraints that develop OK technique and postures. ‘Core” routines for big groups should be aimed at the middle levels. “Do no harm” but get some stabilization going. At individual levels for coaches tease out what is the issue. But also do some assessments such as the double leg lowering test or sorensens tests and see what they can cope with.

Visually I use content such as in video below because it seems to reinforce good posture and basic skills.

Fast Leg or “dead leg” Run Drills

As I said this topic is one that needs a book or more research than has been done on the nordic exercise!









February 29, 2020 Posted by | AFL, Development, General, Rehabilitation, Strength and Conditioning, Track and Field, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Podcast 4: Physical Development in an Under 18 Australian Rules Football Club

Very informative Podcast with Calder Cannons High Performance Manager, Sean Potter on development in the Under 18 Australian Rules Football Club system.

Podcast Link: Physical Development in an Under 18 Australian Rules Football Club

We chat about topics such as maturation and peak height velocity and how it affects selection. I have added a link below to calculate a growth spurt or “Prediction of Age of Peak Height Velocity”

Link: Peak Height Velocity Calculation (or growth spurt!)

We discuss AFL draft age given players are in their final school year. Below is a 2017 Age Article on raising the AFL Draft Age. My opinion is it is too young given copied from the US system where nearly all players are drafted after college.

Link: Age article on raising AFL Draft Age

Sean provides advice for parents on how to develop their children if motivated to get into the TAC system and ultimately the AFL system given the pathway starts at Under 15. He emphasised the need to source good coaches for skills, run technique and S&C. Ranall Hobson has an excellent resource for parents and coaches online.

Link: Ranall Hobson: Excellent resource for parents for run technique.

We also chat about issues with private schools and public schools and how it impacts development. Age article below discussing this aspect.

Age Article “How private schools have taken over the AFL”

Sean also provides an overview of the Calder Cannons program. Most players are drafted from these clubs into the AFL or go to the VFL and other similar competitions so it is a critical stage of development and staff such as Sean have an enormous job to do with little financial reward. There is a lot of dicussion now about job prospects with S&C and Sports Science given explosion of graduates.

The future development pathway of strength and conditioning: a proposed model from the UKSCA

It is a fantastic environment to take the next step into strength and conditioning in the AFL. But given the responsibility the job has, plus the spotlight on the AFL draft every year, more resources should be directed at experts like Sean to make it a full time position and thus optimize development of players.

February 17, 2020 Posted by | AFL, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Episode 1: Fitness in Australian Rules Football. Weekly comments.

Thought I would chat about Bodyfat in the AFL and also issues with players getting injured in non AFL training activities. Short commentaries on fitness issues in Australian Rules Football.One good thing about Aussie Rules is that it involves skill, speed, endurance, strength plus uses sports science and fitness dogma so a good vehicle to chat about fitness and sport.These will be approx 10 minute chats versus normal podcasts I will do with guests.

Podcast. Episode 1. Weekly comments Australian Rules Football Fitness

Mitch McGovern and Charlie Curnow were in the media this week in the AFL, one for losing weight and getting fitter and the other with Kane Cornes criticising him for being irresponsible with off season non training related injuries. I discuss these topics.Bodyfat is calculated by a number of methods in the AFL. One is skinfolds and usually this is 7 pinches and then a sum. We see a range from 30mm total to 60mm in the AFL and the average is probably just under 50mm. Players are leaner in the modern era. The other method is a DEXA scan and this also provides information on muscle mass in different areas and a % bodyfat. Again quite a range in the AFL but anything to far above 12% is frowned upon. There is usually scope within an AFL program to individualize bodyfats and weights depending on individual player genetics and needs. The only issue with “FAT CLUBS” can sometimes be promoting eating disorders and mental health issues. I believe this is quite an issue because males put on a brave face but body image can cause lots of stress. Some players will resort to under eating and this can cause muscle loss and also issues with the immune system. I discuss the SETPOINT theory where there is some evidence for individuals tend to gravitate towards a certain bodyfat and bodyweight. Thus common sense and performance variables should also be factored in. Does the player run well, jump well at a certain bodyfat and eating pattern? So quite a complex issue and requires a team effort approach from dietician to fitness guru to player to get optimum results.

The other topic is how RISK AVERSE does an AFL club get? Obviously skiing in winter would be frowned upon! But Kane Cornes raps Charlie Curnow having a fun game of Basketball with mates and hurting knee? Tough one but reality is we cannot be around 24/7 with players in their social lives. And does a player not play some hoops with his little cousins in the backyard or backyard cricket or soccer on the sand at the beach? Where a player goes out socially, drinks too much and hurts themselves. Agree there should be consequences.But for example in the XMAS break. What does a player do? Run in a straight line? In fact gut feel playing basketball in the off-season could be the very thing some players need rather than clock junk miles. Common sense has to prevail. Obviously clubs will want to know the circumstances surrounding an injury incurred out of training, IE alcohol related or plain stupidity. But bad luck does occur and we are dealing with athletes who express themselves physically.


February 13, 2020 Posted by | AFL, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PODCAST 3: Fitness needs at a local Australian Rules Football Club with Paul Bacash

In this podcast  I am chatting with Paul Bacash who is the fitness adviser of the West Preston Lakeside Roosters AFL team in the NFL

PODCAST LINK: Fitness needs at a local Australian Rules Football Club

Paul is holding the cup on right hand side of 2nd pic.


Most of the debate is around elite teams in the AFL and AFLW. Yet the majority of Australian Rules Football is played below that level. VFL/NEAFL/QAFL/Under 18/Juniors/Schools etc. Yet most graduates come out of University only reading research about how elite teams train and do not grapple with how to input best practice and current research into a SUB ELITE scenario with big numbers. How do you manage a large group? Communicate? What are the “BIG ROCKS” that will give you major bang for buck in preparing at this level and also for long term development?

Important takeaways here regarding the realities of how to optimally prepare a team at semi pro level. This is where managing large groups, communication and coaching are skills just as important , if not more, than sports science skills. Paul is qualified both as a physical education teacher and masseur and has wide experience in Aussie Rules. This podcast is a must listen for budding exercise science graduates and even Masters graduates to listen to. This team has won the last 2 premierships and what Paul said simply resonated with me. He blends knowledge with passion, hard work and attention to detail rather than talk through a GPS unit. He knows the BIG ROCKS because of this experience and thus prioritises training needs.

Certainly they start training early in the prexmas block which surprised me. But that locks in with the whole chronic load theory. He also emphasised the need to take care of rehabilitation needs in this period so a very professional approach. From fitness testing perspective he simply uses a run around an adjacent lake running track and simply given the numbers he deals with does not burden himself withe too much data which may be incorrect as he explains. They have an athletics track next to them plus a track around Edwardes Lake is in Pic. So this is the test!

Edwardes Lake Runners 250x250

With sports science he would love to use GPS but again given numbers and logistics just uses some basic RPE data. Again he does not do complex assessments of RPE data rather takes a few players and works forward. Novel approach. He wants to know what is happening short term and predict the next few weeks.

He does incorporate lots of injury prevention work either in the warm up or after training. Weight training is set up vie online advice and as much as possible is specific to players needs.

Speed is a priority after Xmas given they start just before Australia Day in late Jan and then have a 6 week block before the first practice match. What was really interesting again is that he does not get too fancy with speed given numbers and needs. Some straight line maximal work weekly and the agility/change of direction work is obtained from the specific AFL drills. Again priorities versus getting too fancy without much bang for buck.

He uses Nordics and slowly doses them over the preseason.

Running is done before or after the Skills and is determined by what load and intensity the Skill drills were.

So this is really worth a listen given many budding High Performance Managers simply struggle to understand how to make the “BIG ROCKS” of training a priority and manage and communicate with a large group.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | AFL | Leave a comment

“Feed the Cats”, the AFL and Aerobic Development.

Interesting to see how the Feed that Cats philosophy with Tony Holler has spread on Social Media. Now he is 100% correct that when developing speed and acceleration the only way is to train at high (maximal) intensity with lots of rest. Plus it is a fundamental need that many in team sports coaches stuff up & thus trash quality athletes. But all you have to do is study some ‘science” and the dogma underpinning this “need for speed”. It is in the books. Read a bit about energy systems and things like neuromuscular and all or none etc. Guess not many do. So agree it is a critical message he vividly communicates so that coaches understand the key difference between speed and fitness.

Feed Cats

Before I wrote this blog article I read his interesting article  http://trackfootballconsortium.com/a-football-coachs-guide-to-feeding-the-cats/. I just wanted to get some tiny insight. He puts forward a little model for planning a week with American Football and does mention what he calls “alactic” intermittent or repeat effort training on the 2nd day. So pretty interesting and by emphasising recovery and quality he certainly rams home the message that many coaches just cram JUNK training in.

But think about the recent US Open final between Nadal and Medvedev. There is a bit more to all this. There is a BUT! I always am the BUT person HA. So many sports do put a lot of stress on the aerobic system to get that ATP “back in”. Added to this is fact that every athlete is different and has different needs. So in one team of say AFL we can have a range of slow twitch players to 50/50 twitch layers to fast twitch players. But they all have to perform over 120 minutes and need to maintain adequate intensity. And the small sided games versus seperate energy system development is always a “nice” debate. Most good fitness people know that SSG can lead to lopsided fitness development because talented players can cruise and lazy players can hide. Granted GPS allows staff to get insight into workrates but many usually supplement extra work.

FEED the CATS is a great way to push home the message to the many ‘dopes” who do burpees and suicides for speed. BUT. I struggle with the twitter fanatics who get off saying that “my athlete” will outrun “your athlete” at the end of the game because he or she is faster. What game? NFL? Basketball? Baseball? AFL? Volleyball? Soccer? Bocce? Chess? And so on. The BUT will be explained later. Yes speed and acceleration need to be developed as a major priority, in a recovered state and with correct work rest ratios. But how do we integrate the fitness needs in high aerobic demand sports that also require high accelerations?In AFL for example often 100 a game from 2 to 20m.

My sport started with AFL as a kid but then I became a Shot putter and Hammer thrower. I was lucky to train in Europe in the late 70’s when the boom for training occurred and simply was there when some of the greats spoke. From Bondarchuk to Tschiene. As a thrower I loved speed and ran so much speed I did 3.9 blocks for 30m hand timed. 160 power clean. 3 metre plus long. In fact when I asked Yuri Sedykh if he sprinted he said NO. Ha I was wasting my time but loved it! After my career and before my AFL S&C career I trained good sprinters and jumpers. Even after AFL I was connected to Australian 100m champions training programs. So why I have self-promoted! I was/am a power/speed lover. My daughter was an International level setter in Volleyball and was super-fast over 10m and change of direction. My dad coached international throwers.

One odd fact with me though was that when I wanted to get fit aerobically to lose weight (hated being fat!) I would get aerobically fit quickly but lose my top end power and speed. ASAP. Years later I did a genetic test and found I had as much slow twitch as fast twitch genetics. Made sense and when I was throwing ok I learnt to do zero aerobic. Ha. I picked the wrong sport. Should have played an intermittent fitness sport. I was dedicated so proved theory you can switch fibres around plus if you want it (in my case loved power) can get it. But I never excelled.

So without quoting research we should be aware of the studies that show some of the HAMS don’t kick in until we are 95/97.5% max speed. There is no argument here. So S&C/core/drills & general conditioning all critical to underpin speed development but the key area is need to reach near max speed (or at least acceleration) at least once weekly. So we agree with fact speed training sits as a very specific standalone need that must be prioritised for many reasons in nearly all sports. Tick.

And all these facts combined is why often athletes in team sports never improve the speed they had as teenagers yet get stronger, bigger and fitter over the years. So critical to at least do one dedicated speed development session a week all year round. Hands up who does that?

BUT and there is a but. I worked in AFL for 20 years plus have worked in Soccer, Tennis and Volleyball and really most sports. BUT the BUT now! The SCIENCE and ART in preparing players for sports like AFL and Soccer (Not NFL or even Basketball) is in developing underlying energy systems that allow speed repeatability without compromising the ability to generate (& improve) high levels of acceleration and speed. Now get that right and you are heading for the Holy Grail.

And that in reality has to be done individually. Factors such as genetics, biomechanics and unilateral force production impinge. Anyone who has done a repeat speed test in sports like the AFL will understand. Superfast players with low Max VO2 levels simply drop off alarmingly. I used to do a simple 6 * repetition speed repeat test going every 30 seconds. And recorded the drop off of players. So whilst having a higher end Max Speed and ability to accelerate did help it was crazy how some players dropped off by the 5th or 6th sprint. Some ok players with ok speed dropped off ever so slightly and some “slowish” players with massive engines had zero drop off and after 5 sprints were often faster than the speedsters. And if you rested 3 minutes and repeated the test, the drop off increased. In AFL rather than Soccer at least we can rest speedsters with rotations which allows them to shine throughout the game but with 80 rotations there still is a limit to that.

I have the evidence that I was able to consistently develop AFL players who could accelerate at quality levels. So please I am not promoting “turtle training”. In Australia at our draft camp we run a 20 metre test with players 30/50cm in front of gate. Poor use of technology but this is the comparison at this stage in the AFL. Needs to go to 30 metres at least and use of a JBMorin type force velocity profile needed. Plus given the compromised start only the FLY 10m can be compared to be honest. In 2005 I had 3 players above 3 seconds for 20 metres using this method and 36 who could break 3 seconds. I deemed a time of 2.92 as “fast” and < 2.85 as really fast. At Essendon in the 90s same. I have the times to back up fact I did speed work once a week with lots of rest! From Michael Long to Dustin Fletcher to Matthew Scarlett. Saverio Rocca was an NFL punter who I trained in Athletics with my dad and after in AFL. Super explosive. Again this is not to thump my chest but to underpin I made speed development a massive priority and it worked. Great players, great teams.

What I also did do from the late 80’s right through to now was test players for MAXVO2 in proper labs, do 3 and 2km runs, Beep tests, YO YO tests and repeat speed tests. Plus also looked at the stats of how players performed. Probably more important. Add GPS data now. GPS does prove key moments are high level acceleration ones but also demonstrates speed drop off very nicely. So yes speed did kill but there was a BUT. Of course many of the greats simply had blistering speed. Gavin Wanganeen is one that comes to mind. Ran the easiest 11 seconds 100m in flats I have seen and ran 2.65 for 20 metres and 1.58 for 10m. Fastest ever I tested. But a team of Wanganeen’s would have run out of steam. A Gareth Bale and a Gavin Wanganeen for sure in any team but not 11 or 18 of them on the field.

I once read a subjective piece about minimum aerobic capacities needed for different sports. Sort of a threshold. Made me really think. Did this exist in AFL? Could I create a norm which allowed me to discriminate? When I examined closely the data I had over years (from speed to fitness to game data) I found that players who had a max VO2 under 52ml/kg/min in very general terms struggled to repeat speed over 120 minutes of activity. The odd exception existed. Must be the ability to get that PC back in! But overall in sports like AFL, Soccer and even tennis ATP is regenerated during rest periods and requires some form of aerobic system. Thus when we had a player with super low genetics for aerobic the only way forward was to repeat speed and not spend too much time trying to work on aerobic system. It killed them agree. Teams can carry one or two of these players but not many in these high aerobic demand sports. And agree they can win you a game. Or play him or her as a bookend. Matthew Scarlett or Dustin Fletcher. Super accelerators. Matthew was a player who I trained for 8 years and simply had a better 5 metres than his 10 metres and a better 10 than his 20 and by 30 metres was so so. and aerobically wasn't the greatest. But at full back he is arguably the full back of century.


In the age of genetics testing we have seen the huge variety of fibre types and adaptability of athletes. So again the notion of making sure player’s energy systems were adequately developed to maintain the repeatability of speed they had was critical. We have people on twitter saying that athletes with greater speed mx and even speed reserve will be faster at end with no aerobic work. Good luck in AFL or Soccer or Field Hockey for example. Currently I am in China working with province teams in Handball, Baseball and Softball. I am trying to get the handball players fitter. Their overall running ability from speed to endurance needs to improve. But I am trying to convince the baseball and softball teams to drop aerobic work and interval work. HA. IE Sports specific that ugly word. When I trained my daughter for Volleyball she worked on speed and power. If she played AFLW she would have to get a heap fitter. Her YO YO 1 score was 15 max but that would have to be 17 for AFLW. If you want to argue with that maybe get a job in AFL and see how you go! This is a pic of Lauren.

And even testing needs to be assessed carefully. The QUEEN MARY effect is where a player has great or ok aerobic but cannot turn so does a crap beep or YO YO test! Jimmy Bartel was such a player. Poor power but ok runner so we improved unilateral legs and power and BEEP / YO YO went up and he didn’t fatigue in games (Plus change direction better). But conversely powerful players can hide a low aerobic system by changing direction really well and thus providing false insight into their ability to last a match. So the whole thing is individual needs!

I remember Cameron Ling after a game in Perth tagging Ben Cousins saying he felt he had done 20 repeat 150’s. Cynically we may think cousins was “er fired” up but this is what it can be like in these sports. This is a pic of Ling and Cousins. Ling was 90+ kgs and had a MaxVO2 of 70ml/kg/min/ I always made sure he maintained his gift of high level aerobic ability but got his speed to adequate levels. But if I had spent all my time developing his speed and shut off his aerobic I would ruin his gift. Very subtle. We worked on improving stride length, range of motion and power but i let him do extra running.


The defining moments are of course moments of high acceleration and explosive ability. But have seen too many players who had those traits not able to display their genetic or trained power and speed abilities because they were spent at key moments. Or super fit players who ran their “taggers” off their legs and still had a burst of acceleration to win a game. Steve Johnson had a MaxVO2 of 65 plus as a kid. Ok acceleration. Just. Good ability with reactive agility. In his prime he would run people off their legs then turn the magic on late in games to win games. First 3km run he did at Geelong college after being drafted he was number 2 behind David Spriggs an ex 1500m runner!


So bottom line enough said. Could talk for days! So 100% dedicate a minimum of one session a week to pure speed and acceleration (even more in off season). The goal is to not ruin a player’s gift of speed or blunt their speed and acceleration development, but still make sure they are simply fit enough to last 90 to 120 minutes of an intermittent sport. That’s the Holy Grail.

How I trained Saverio Rocca for Shot Put in his youth with dad, then in the AFL and  then later years in off season for NFL punting was not the same. Get it! So all you speed freaks out there whose twitchy fingers are ready on twitter to slam me just remember I am a speed freak.

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Late end stage Return to Play. Hamstring Rehabilitation.

I listened to Jack Hickey’s excellent podcast today on the Pacey Performance Podcast. I thought I would add some experiences I have had in elite sport and as an exercise physiologist to describe issues at the end of Return to Play of soft tissue injury, in this case hamstring. This podcast nicely outlined early stage rehabilitation. By keeping within a pain threshold of 4 (rather than pain free) and pushing players a bit more. This allows for a more individualized approach to prescribing and progressing exercises to injured athletes. Thus the athlete better is more conditioned once return to play is achieved rather than accelerating rehabilitation. Jack described how to progress exercises within that framework and systems to progress running from slow jog to maximal running. He added that this stage was one that could take longer when moving towards maximal speeds, change of direction and game based rehab. Really informative podcast and look forward to reading the research.

I coached sprinters for many years then 20 years in the AFL and then have worked privately with athletes and now overseas. In sports that get close to get maximal speed there is little room for error at end stage of rehabilitation of muscles. Of course things will blow up in your face sometimes but minimizing error at end stage rehab is critical. The implications when working in elite sport or with paying customers who want results are very stressful for the athlete and the rehab person.

Dr Bruce Reid introduced me to a running protocol that had been used in the early 90’s in Hockey. Using variations of flying 10’s and 20’s from 40 walk to jog/10 hold/40 jog to walk to shorter and faster acceleration and deceleration zones. It was comprehensive and spin offs proliferate now. I went for the flying 20m as a mainstay and did 20/20/20 tests with players in the off-season of 1994. I am sure most elite clubs have data on player’s maximal velocity (Most have GPS on this). I used parallax measuring 20m out and 10m in middle.


Timed 2 repetitions at 100% with boots on grass and recorded the data. With track and field athletes and spikes this data is much quicker. Research suggests most athletes reach 90% maxV by 20 and by 40 one can assume 100% maxV. I had bought SWIFT speed gates that year and so also timed 5m/10m/20m indoors. Poor man’s force velocity curve. I also had data on 20 metres timed with a stopwatch off footstrike. Added to this was the NFL shuttle test to allow quantification of change of direction and progressions thereof and integrating change of direction and deceleration into the rehab. Thus I had lots of objective data that allowed me to dump into excel and work out what individual % of each speed for each test was. Of course this is common practice now in elite settings.

Thus I knew what a player’s 90% flying 20 was for example and 95% and 97.5%. Individual thresholds at true 100%. If you do not have data on an individual you should be able to access a past speed test and make a very accurate gueestimate. I categorized male players into slow/medium and fast and there was enough bandwidth there to allow again objectivity in rehab protocols at end stage rehab. Even knowing their 100m time allowed me to put them into a category. Below is a table from an E Book I wrote on Hamstring Rehab in 2007.


I want to add that I wanted players to reach maximal speeds just before entering full impact training with skills. The interplay of GPS with objective timing really helps link return to play protocols with Skills training but I would never trust GPS data as a standalone. If the athlete is by themselves then GPS is better than nothing.

Given it is a blog article I will not reference most of my opinions but most are/were based on a mix of research and experience. But reading research like outlined in image below reinforced what experience had shown me. There is a lot more research now in this area.


So some stories! A guy called Sean Wellman at Essendon Football Club had a very serious hamstring injury in 1996. His electronic 20m (as in AFL draft camp) was 2.83. An explosive player. I had his flying 20m on grass as 2.18. So 90% is 2.4. Still pretty quick in boots on grass. The debate raged about how good he looked at day 20 running a flying 20 at 2.4. I was timing and nervous. His rehab had been solid given we did eccentric work and he was diligent. But at 2.4 I knew it was 90%. So has BicepsF kicked in yet? Probably not. But he looked good. He said “I feel nothing”! He wanted to play as most athletes do. I was emphatic that he should not play on the weekend. Luckily the decision was made not to run. He had significant DOMS the next day and then admitted he did not want to go 100% in test. So many examples abound before and after but I will flip to another club I worked at. No names here HA! Exactly the same scenario. Quality player has a hamstring injury. We are closing in on finals. His rehab has been ok but a bit short. Day 18 now. He is explosive and strong. Doing 20/20/20’s gets to 85% of maximal time. Player says he is ok and everyone there except me says he is ok. Obviously pain free at 85% but now the PAIN FREE scenario needs to change when nearing MaxV. I say no way. Too risky. Too early. Rehab ok but not rubber stamped eccentrically plus the next 15% could be a disaster. In my experience at 80% and above if you pull up sore in or after the run you have most likely had a recurrence. Thus more eccentric conditioning is lost, and weeks are added to rehab. So no mistakes allowed here. Anyway decision was by others that he looks great so majority plus player said go 100%. “Let’s have a look!” they say. I say fine but if “look” backfires he tears. He tore. So we were at the Casino. Roll the dice and see what happens. Couldn’t make it back for finals. My opinion is that if we had followed strict objective criteria at this stage of the return to play process then added three more progressions over a week with a day’s rest between runs (85%/90%/95%) and then trained for  a week at high intensity with skills he would have been fine.

Now I want to emphasise that the reason I felt confident was that in the past when training sprinters and early days of AFL I had made mistakes and learnt off the mistakes. Plus I had done heaps of research and accessed lots of quality people in the field before coming up with some systems.

So getting back to Jack Hickey’s podcast I think creating criteria with pain tolerance and exercise progressions based individually will build a more robust athlete in rehab but my take home message is at other end lock into objective criteria that is time based and simply progress 5% for example a time with possibly 48/72 hours to dose to allow adaptation once 80% maximal speeds are reached in the rehab process.

Remember if you run 95% and above too close to a game then that player might be in an adaptive stage in game i.e. prone to re-injury. So allow time working back from a game for adaptive processes to kick in. Otherwise back at the Casino.

So the laws of physiology and objective measures are critical. The medical and S&C team has to be on the same page. In 2019 we have many more practitioners from medical to S&C that are well versed in all areas.

Also do not be be lazy and sit there and tell a player to go out and run 85% by themselves for 20/20/20. Within the AFL system I think we should look at JB Morins research and at the draft camp test 5/10/15/20/25/30 and create force velocity data then. Thus 30m is closer to MaxV and a much better method allowing profiling and measuring that first step also. He also has outlined how to use this data to show that players are not ready to play given after injury they may get almost the same time but accelerate at different rates. As a sideline I was really disappointed that at the AFL Draft camp they still use the old speed lights and have players stand up with arm up so they can get close to light. So bad. They could also have a more definitive change of direction test (not call it agility!) to assess physical qualities and thus be relevant to rehab needs. Given the closed shop nature of AFL these new innovations in force velocity profiling seem obvious to me. With Dr Daryl Marchant in the early 90’s I helped to set up some AFL Draft Camp tests and initiated the 5/10/20 with lights because we could use indoor areas at VFL park and get reliable data. Time to change and link with rehabilitation processes.

I wrote this blog article to emphasise the importance of objective data being used late in the Return to Play process with muscle injury because of the implications mistakes and recurrences bring. At this point way more science, raw hard data and teamwork and less art. All care and total responsibility.

June 7, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Round 1 AFL 2019, fitness and the media!

Now I am an expatriate in China working in S&C I still will watch AFL and in Shanghai there is a game for points every year! It has been since 2007 that I worked in the AFL but I have worked in elite sport since and also dealt with AFL players/VFL/TAC and local teams plus simply watch it so love an opinion.

The intriguing part of Round 1 is that it coughs up odd results and sends tremors through supporters and staff and provides the media with instant fodder. Articles and media  like the link below were everywhere.

   Nick Riewoldt blasts Essendon Football in the Media after Round 1 Loss to GWS

There are so many media people that cynically it seems best to be a bit brutal ASAP given the adoring public just lap it up. This is rather than simply say things like “ok that was a bad game and lets hope their JLT form doesn’t go into the season but blah blah lets wait and see in 6 weeks.” Boring media! Ha.

So without too much sports science or delving too much into nebulous terms like ‘culture” I will write down a few things that may cause what seems odd Round 1 and even Round 2 results.

  • I found it took 2 full practice matches plus maybe another half of full contact AFL on the back of a solid preseason to make sure a player was ready for Round 1. So some analysis needs to be done on the list to check who did a full preseason after Xmas and played 2*100 minutes plus games.
  • How many players had ops and were in rehab. They might be ready to play sport but not hardened and fit anaerobically for repeat efforts and for collisions and impacts. Melbourne? Again players who are fit aerobically and ok to play after rehab pre-xmas need 2 to 3 games and some adaptive period and then usually they are ready to rock and roll.
  • Does the team usually start slow and finish with a bang. Swans? I wont check the data but they seem to start slowly more often than not. Is that a plan? Are they happy with 3 wins and 3 losses at round 6, but on the back of managing their list in preseason cognizant of the fact it is a massive season.
  • Did the Match Committee simply get it wrong in Round 1 and maybe Round 2 and played an unbalanced list. Simply changing a few players means a different team in the same jumper is on the ground. From a fitness perspective this was massive for me because 2 running players could change the dynamic of how a team plays and  fatigues in early rounds given warmer temperatures.
  • Rounds 1 to 6 depend on fitness slightly more in my opinion. Then it becomes a slug-fest till finals and survival of toughest and smartest. So if you are not 99% ready on Round 1 you can cop a hiding.
  • One big issue in my opinion is getting the week off right. In season a week off is different because players are hammered but in round 1 there are so many issues. Central Nervous Systems being asleep, misjudging speed dosages at the end of week 1 of the bye and 5 to 6 days before Round 1. Often teams carry the same loads they did in the preseason games and don’t alter enough in season.
  • But the big one IMO is dosage of high intensity maximal efforts late in Week 1 of the bye and early in Week 2 of bye before Round 1. Added to this is the need to do something anaerobically at high intensity with repeat efforts. Getting the bye right is part science and part art.
  • The draw! Bad luck! GWS is on fire so the Bombers hit a gun team at home.
  • Not my area of expertise but did they try something different radically in tactics? Do they need to tweak or simply change. Sometimes I found coaching staff were guilty of analysis by paralysis in early rounds and then after 2 to 3 losses and 360 degree meetings the mantra was get the friggin ball and collide.

I could go on about reasons why form in Round 1 and Round 2 are not excellent form guides whilst it seems ( zero data here) that by round 6 or 7 some judgments can be made.

But all we get is a massive emphasis on the Coach and the Culture and subjective words and ex players blasting their old teams. Lets face it the people in the media need to preserve their jobs so they need to say something. Tough gig being in the media.


April 13, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment