loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

Will Geelong win the AFL Grand Final?

All the indicators say yes for sure.
Not just the fact they are an amazing 4 games clear.

But their age spread is awesome. Warriors and good players centred around 25. Their experience is spot on. And more importantly they have finals experience.

VFL Grand Final 2002
Just missed finals 2003
NAB Cup Grand Final Loss 2004
3 Finals in 2004 and a narrow loss to Brisbane in Prelim
1 point loss to Sydney in Sydney after 3 games in 18 days!
NAB Cup Grand Final Win in Adelaide 2006.

Many of the boys have had 6 to 8 pre-seasons.
They finished 2006 with most players ready to do a big pre-season and off they went.

All points to the right recipe for a win.
Also teams like Sydney and West Coast have been through a few finals campaigns now and in my opinion that may have taken its toll with late operations and interrupted pre-seasons.

Port are difficult to assess. Hawthorn simply seem inexperienced on paper in finals.
And as we know anyone can pop up.

But Geelong now ticks all the boxes. Mature and ready.

On Grand Final Day they will be 25.5 years of age and 100 games plus experience if this “pretend team played”

Now that seems to be the perfect formula and most of the boys are 22 and above with very few oldies…..

AblettG 14-May-84 23.4 FINALS
AblettN 13-Dec-84 22.8
Bartel 4-Dec-83 23.8 FINALS
Byrnes 7-Apr-84 23.5
Chapman 05-Nov-81 25.9 FINALS
Corey 17-Feb-82 25.6 FINALS
Egan 10-Jul-83 24.2 FINALS
Enright 14-Sep-81 26.1 FINALS
Harley 18-Jul-78 29.2 FINALS
JohnsonD 28-Oct-81 25.9 FINALS
JohnsonS 4-Jun-83 24.3 FINALS
Kelly 29-Dec-83 23.8 FINALS
King 22-Nov-78 28.9 FINALS
Ling 27-Feb-81 26.6 FINALS
Mackie 7-Aug-84 23.2 FINALS
Milburn 15-Apr-77 30.5 FINALS
Mooney 15-Jun-79 28.3 FINALS
Ottens 25-Jan-80 27.7 FINALS
Scarlett 5-Jun-79 28.3 FINALS
Selwood 26-May-88 19.4
Stokes 22-Nov-84 22.9
Wojcinski 18-Sep-80 27.0 FINALS

August 12, 2007 Posted by | AFL | Leave a comment

Hamstring Injuries in the AFL. Perception becomes Reality

If you check my CV, you can see I was co-ordinating strength and conditioning programs at Essendon from 1994 and Geelong from 1998.

Hamstrings are the biggest cause of injury in the AFL. The game goes for 120 mins and has 4 breaks. They will start warming up at 1.20 for a 2.10 game and then rest before running out. Then 1/4 time/1/2 time and 3/4 time. Game finishes at almost 5pm! They kick on the run and also bend over at speed. Just a recipe for injury. Also they have to carry some bulk for contact needs, but still run and run. Thus more hamstrings than soccer and rugby for instance.

In 1997 a group of Essendon coaches, fitness, medical and management people went to the AIS to examine training methods.

With respect to injury management it was an important trip for me. I changed my training methods a lot then.

Proprioception circuit before weights. Screening of biomechanics of players. Core stability screening. Core stability and core strength circuits. Specific unilateral training for the lower extremity. Specific attention to gluteal and hamstring strength work. Lots of running drills and faster running. More individualized training. Full time massage therapists. Full time physiotherapists, Full time training. Databases of loads and education of coaches to manage training loads and kicking loads inseason a bit better. Pre- training meetings to plan training with medical staff.

What I saw in the 1998 was a big drop in soft tissue injury after those initiatives, especially hamstrings.

I had done comprehensive isokinetic testing a few times in the 90;s but this multifactorial approach seemed to work better.

I went to Geelong in 1998 with a brief to reduce injury. I implemented the same initiatives. I used Mark Sayers the biomechanist to screen every player. Employed more masseurs. They did lots of core stability and core strength work. They trained faster. And so on. It really seemed to work. We had a huge drop in soft tissue and hamstring injury rates. There seemed to be some consistent line to all this.

I remember one year getting to round 18 and not having lost a player to hamstring injury, Then fatigue hit with a player and we lost a few games to hamstrings but not many. So all these initiatives as a whole seemed to work. Which one helped most? Now that is a tough question. Massage or core stability or running faster? Difficult! I always lean to fast running in the preparation block as a key.

I was operating at about half the incidence of games lost for hamstring injury relative to the AFL.

But perceptions can become reality in elite sport.

Unsubstantiated media reports of huge soft tissue injury rates and hamstring injury in particular often abound.

Now every club gets hamstrings. One must look at trends and overall rates over years with the same staff in a club.

One well informed scribe said I had been sacked from Essendon for too many hamstrings! Just weird . I left. Simple. This type of ‘waffle” often becomes the norm in the media. On TV and radio. Raw hard data was never accessed. Then “JO BLOGGS” starts saying the same thing. Oh well!

The crazy part of all this was that a representative from a Monash University Hamstring Injury Research group had spoken to me about how they had noticed I had a consistent low rate in Hamstring Injuries and how interesting that was. Oh well. All history now!

More importantly the take home message is to use a multifactorial approach to hamstring injury prevention and rehabilitation. Make sure you have ticked most boxes. I will soon be putting some information out on a strength and conditioning program for hamstring injury.


1. Core Stability. Is the inner core functioning properly?

2. Core Strength: Has the athlete got sufficient strength to cope with the forces required in fast sports.

4. Pelvic Stability: Is the athlete unbalanced or does the athlete have a weakness in gluteus medius for example.

5. Overstriding: Is the athletes running technique a disaster? Combined with lack of pelvic stability do they over-stride and tire the hammies out.

6. Hamstring and Gluteal Strength: Does the athlete lack the abilty to switch the glutes on or have little strength both concentrically or eccentrically or the whole lot?

7. Lower back problems; Do they exist? Gluteal referred problems?

8. Previous history of injury.

9. Has the athlete prepared themselves for fast running and adapted to high eccentric loads in pre-season.

10. Is the athlete fit enough? Can they last?

11. Is the athlete too tired from training?

12. Has the athlete trained hard the day before and is doing fast running today and thus will be more prone to injury?

13. Are you too old?


That is why there is no cookbook recipe to preventing hamstrings.

Just need to keep ticking those boxes

August 10, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Rehabilitation, Strength and Conditioning | Leave a comment

Lauren Bertolacci comments on Womens Volleyball in Australia

August 09



I’ve arrived, I’ve settled in and I’ve trained. And I love it. The environment and atmosphere among the girls is one of hard work and with a central goal in mind. Everyone us positive and pushes each other at training. The group a a general rule is quite young, and big. Our middles are fast, and both us setters play a similar game. I’m really looking forward to this season and I think I will take a lot from it. The level isn’t as big a drop from France Pro A as i expected, and I think a lot of that is due to the attitude of the girls here, its still a very fast, powerful and skilled game.

Just to clear a few things up, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of negative things about the new Australian womens program, or lack of it. OK, so the program isn’t the AIS, there is no full time training just yet, the group of girls selected is a totally fresh and unexperienced group, and the AVL was on occasions a little bit scrappy. But lets put this into perspective hey. The program broke down at the end of 2005, there was no full time training anymore, and the girls that were there, only three were playing overseas getting that training somewhere else. A camps based program was put together, and a team selected for world champ qualifiers. A massive effort and with a few things against us, we lost to Taipei in a very close match and didn’t progress. 2006, there was no FIVB tournaments, and thus pretty much no program. We are in a phase of rebuilding now, it happens, you can’t be at the top of your game forever, players retired, moved to beach, and it leaves holes in a team. To say that we are not heading in the right direction now is totally wrong and unfair. We are not as strong a the team of 5 years ago, I don’t dispute that. But this group, including the new head coach, is trying to build a new culture in womens volleyball, and you have to start somewhere. That is now, the AVL was a success, especially considering it was in its first year and every team was a new group thrown together who hadn’t played together before, and in my opinion, put on a decent show. We are heading in the only direction we can, and that is forward. Right now this group needs positive people behind it, its young, inexperienced, but has a passion for the game and to build a new and successful program. You can’t ask for anything else at this stage, and we will prove we can do it. The program will build from here, hopefully into a fulltime one, and womens volleyball in Australia will follow and progress into a much bigger force, that younger players will aspire to be involved in, and we will grow from there. I don’t argue that we have gone backwards in previous years, but from here, the only way is up.

August 10, 2007 Posted by | General, Volleyball Strength and Conditioning | Leave a comment

I bulked up Matthew Lloyd. HA. ( Psss Joke!)

I have to take the blame for this. I was at Essendon in 1994 when he was drafted. He was so skinny then that they used him for the wind-sock.

I spoke to my consultant dieticians at the time. Nonna Tina ( my grandmother) and Mama Rosa ( my momma). Nonna had worked in Genoa in the 20’s as a cook and was famous for her cuisine and getting everyone except herself fat. Mama Rosa learn’t from Nonna and ate too much of Nonnas cooking.

Now they told me to give Matthew a high fat, high carbohydrate diet. I also consulted my cousins, the Angele Family ( Brunettis), and they gave me large supplies of cakes and biscuits.

I spoke to my dad George. He at the time had lost weight but was still 128 kgs ( from 155kgs) . He used to place bets on the Phone TAB at home whilst eating italian bread with butter and mortadella. About 13,000 calories a sitting.

Armed with all this advice I spoke to Matthew.

Not sure what he weighed then. I have the statisitics but geez this is IP maybe and so sorry. Can’t divulge!

We decided to pump weights day in and day out. Nonna and Mama cooked non stop. Dad kept eating mortadella samdwiches.

As Matthew was doing bench press I would pop a ravioli in ( or a ravilo?) . Now Ravioli are the ultimate protein/carbo pill. One Raviolo can be digested whilst exercising easily. So a bench press set doing 10 reps might take 40 seconds. One Raviolo every 10 seconds can be eaten. Thus this is 4 Ravioli. Simple. Now if you have extra cheese in your ravioli this is even better. So if you do 5 sets of 10 that is 20 Ravioli. Thats what I did with Matthew.

Straight after a set I would make him eat 4 of my nonnas rissoles. Again carbs and protein. ( Polpette in Italy). Thus after 5 sets he would have 20 Ravioli and 20 Polpette. Polpette can be thrown down and really might be the answer to Gels.

Because he was young I had to not allow vino. So we used CHINOTTO for hydration. Next was squats. Thus here I had to change to Chinotto and also biscotti to allow easier digestion because of the involvement of the core in squats. The biscotti had lots of milk an cream so lots of protein.

To vary the protein source I gave him 4 slices of Pizza Aussie style after squats. I couldnt totally take him away from his Aussie eating habits.

I stayed under ASADA guidelines but gave him 2 short blacks with 2 sugars in each for the last exercise , to get him going.

This was dumbell curls.

After each set I forced him to eat a mortadella sandwich. Now this is hard to digest but these curls were done sitting down, so he could digest inbetween sets.

So I really can’t say much more because I want to produce an E Book with my secrets that I experimented on Matty with.

I never used these methods again because they were not mainstream.

I think from now on young fella it is laps of the tan and diet coke for you.

Ciao and arriverderci.

PSSSSSS ( All a joke eh! From what I know Matthew was just as heavy in the late 90’s and 2000 if not heavier than now so I dont know what all the fuss is about)

Ciao Matteo!

August 8, 2007 Posted by | AFL | Leave a comment

Essendon Fitness and Peter Power

Dons ‘are not fit’ – Herald Sun

FORMER Essendon fitness guru Peter Power yesterday delivered a damning assessment of the Bombers’ conditioning department and claimed a one-dimensional…….. .

I listened with interest to Peter Powers on SEN talk about fitness and Essendon Football Club


Pete was the fitness guy in 84/85 and also 88/89/1990. He went to Collingwood for two years between.

But of course 84/85 was the VFL and there was no draft and the game was slower and the grounds were muddy and small and so on and so on. I was the strength and conditioning person at Essendon from 1987 to 1993. I went to Collingwood in 1994 and then back to Essendon till 1998.

I was there in 1988 when Peter Powers came back from Collingwood. Ann Quinn ( British Sports Science Tennis now) also was there. I also was there in 1991 when he left and Danny Corcoran ( CEO Atheltics) and my mate Oscar Kenda ( Parade Schoolteacher) teamed up with me to do fitness.

I also did a session he claimed was brutal myself given I could run Ok for an ex- hammer thrower in my early 30’s. 10*200 and 10*300 was the session and it was hard but could be done. I used to train with Franz Stampfle and even as a thrower we ran 5km before training and heaps of other running. After all Franz was the lunatic who started 100*100m in the 70’s.

I even remember sitting in Franz Stampfls hut at Melbourne University when he helped Fitzroy for fitness. Players would come in on a hot day and ask him what to do. He would take a sip and say….”100*100 metres”. HA. Out they would go and we wouldnt see them. He would say “bloody footballers” HA. And that is where the famous 100*100’s started.

What was done hard in the 80’s was the length of training ( Skills to running to weights all in one session after work in the dark). It just got slower and slower and more aerobic. I did some heart rate analysis in the early 90’s and much of this long work just became aerobic.

Things like training without drinking and huge long sessions that drained players so they were dragging themsleves around. But were they fitter? Were they mentally tougher.At the end of the day I find all this crap about the “good old days” crap. One could say that training with the Gladiators and the Spartans 1000’s of years ago was tough. You didnt get delisted. You got killed. Older coaches should just learn from history and inspire young athletes. Not bore them with how they were tougher in the good old days.

Lists were huge in the 80’s so players dropped off like flies and also there was an under 19 system which fed players in. All different to now where the system is tight and heaviloy scrutinized.

Osteitis was groin pain and players just slowed down and wore bike pants and had an operation at the end of the season. These players would get exposed now.No comparisons.

When I arrived at Essendon in February1987 I was “somewhat” unimpressed with the general levels of fitness and conditioning given I had come from athletics. In 1988 we fitness tested players in the laboratory and there was nothing outstanding. If they were so fit then why didn’t they test amazingly in maximal tests?

Things have improved. I have tested players in maximal VO2 tests at many universities, and Beeper tests and TAN Runs and Princes Park Runs and Phosphate recovery tests and 100m sprints over the last 20 years, and I hate to tell Peter that there has been huge improvements since the late 80’s.

Also old players always tell “fibs” when you ask then whatthey ran for a TAN Run. I know because I have statistics going back to they 80’s!. Raw hard data boys!

Also players ( apart from a few) were weak in the gym. Very weak . Very very much weaker than now. Players could play with 80kg bench presses in the late 80’s and get away with it due to “pointy elbows and violent knees”. Again there were exceptions.

But some players were verging on being “woosy” in strength and conditioning. Power was for the genetically gifted. Sure they might be tough and cork you and there were hard nosed country boys one would be very scared of in the mud at Windy Hill. Different game now. But bones break the same now!

But make them jump up stairs or squat with 100kgs to parallel and many would collapse under the strain. Simply many had little core strength or range of motion and just couldn’t cut the mustard.

In the preseasons of 1991/92/93 Danny Corcoran and Oscar Kenda and myself did the pre-season. Danny did fartlek and general running and Oscar did hard nosed speed endurance work and I took all the specific needs and strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. T

This was tough. IE Lactate levels through the roof doing hard and fast running…..Repeating speed at high intensity was th key on the back of some obvious base work….Jumping and bounding and power plus work. The lists of the mid 90’s with player slike Lucas and Lloyd and Hird had to do a lot of heavy fast Olypmpic Lifitng giving them a strong base. It you couldnt power clean 100kgs and run 14 beeper and break 3 secs for 20m in 1996 you were a little bit against it. Now players are leaner and better at repeating speed due to the Skills drills they do and the cross training many do.

Everyone is doing drills at breakneck speed and with short rests and with smaller number than the good old days. AAAAgghhhhhh. And so on!

So on and on we go.

Obviously pre season is critical. Geelong had a great pre season this year. Started early with all the players available and worked hard. Lots of running and lots of skills and trained 24/7.

Kangaroos did the same. Lots of repeat speed This is critical.

It is harder when you reach finals because there is usually a long injury list and operations and players have a long rest before starting again due to the CBA rules. And so on.

I would back Cameron Ling and Ryan O’Keefe and all these boys any day against the 80’s boys. I saw Steven King run low 10 min 3km in his prime. Hird would sprint and run distance and lift weights that some of the old boys would cringe at.

I think if we transplanted boys from now into the 80’s in a time capsule they would be be 100% ok and even better. But thirsty!

Matthew Lloyd has kicked heaps of goals. But he ruptured his hammy last year. It takes dancers 50 weeks to repair hams that are not ruptured and sprinters can take 16 weeks to get little hammies back to normal. He was bulked up years ago. He was that skinny in 1994 when drafted and simply bulked up non stop over a decade. Had to. Scarlett is a huge squatter in the gym. Unsubstantiated comments with no knowledge.

Players go on the KOKODA TRAIL now and have commandos take them on week long camps with little food or sleep. Their skinfolds have to be very low.

So was it tougher in the old days? Playing at Moorabin in the mud with cold showers!

Sessions were longer and less intense and weights were lifted in mediocre fashion at 9pm with players wanting to go home. So who knows.

But remember data is the key. not opinions. They are like arseholes. Everyone has one.

Peter Power did a great job in 84/85 and 1990 and is a very nice bloke.

August 8, 2007 Posted by | AFL | 2 Comments

Development and the AFL Draft

This is an old powerpoint that I also presented many years ago at a few lectures and conferences. Very general and a few errors but I really wanted to understand the reality of elite sport and development.


So instead of using dogma from maturation and so on I simply went to ranking lists and winning teams. ( and losing!).

August 5, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Development | Leave a comment

Baby Bombers, Grand Finals , Optimal Age and Experience.

Below is an approximate look at Grand Final Winning Teams from 92 to 2001 that I compiled at a few years ago to see how long it might take to develop a team. ( Yes me HA!) Not much has changed.


Thus the 25.5 and 100 games average comes from this and GF’s since then have not changed that general trend. Also there seems to be a need to have about an average of 6 to 9 finals games and teams generally carry 70% of players between 22 and 29. Those below 22 either have 30 to 50 games or are really good players. IE Essendon 1993.( Hird / Mercuri / Misiti / Fletcher / Wanganeen etc ) And the average was pushed downwards with a core of players that were very experienced and successful in that game ( Harvey / Thompson / Salmon / Watson etc).

August 5, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Speed, Agility and Womens Volleyball

I watched 2 days of Volleyball at the AVF womens finals in Sydney, following the fortunes of the UNI BLUES team. I closely watched warm ups and running techniques on court.

I read the study below by Katic and not being a Volleyball Coach or having played I was interested in the emphasis on agility. As explained before , change of direction is a physical ability whilst agility involves the ability to read the game coupled with the ability to change direction. ( strength/power/technique etc)

But having read the study and then observing a few games, I would do heaps of running technique, small sprints and change of direction training with female players, so they can cover the court more efficiently.

Women are not as tall, can’t jump as high , so the ability to cover the court may be a bit more important.

Often underpinning the ability to change direction and take off is the balanced strength and power of each leg. Unilateral strength.

Also running drills to get the feet under the centre of gravity and to get in a low ( pre-stretched) position are important. One criticism I had was watching some warm ups and girls did heaps of things like high knees sitting back on their butts. Ok to warm up but the last thing one would want to ingrain into techniques. They should always have their body over their centre of gravity and work through the hips.

Below is the conclusion from this study and one sees the emphasis on agility ( and skill!).

Motor Structures in Female Volleyball Players Aged 14–17 According to Technique Quality and Performance. Ratko Katic Coll. Antropol. 30 (2006) 1: 103–112


*at age 9, selection should be based on psychomotor speed and coordination on solving complex motor problems. These motor abilities will ultimately limit
elite game performance: psychomotor speed by facilitating technique performance, and coordination and/or motor intelligence through faster motor learning and efficient solution of game situations;
*at age 11, selection should be based on coordination in terms of agility and explosive strength facilitating performance of basic technique elements, e.g., service and serve receipt;
*at age 13, selection should be based on explosive strength and agility that facilitate performance of techniques, e.g., block and spike;
*at age 15, selection should be based on specific motor abilities that are primarily related to body height, strength and spike precision, i.e. specific explosive strength and specific agility-mobility; and
*at age 17, selection should be done by evaluation of all specific motor abilities, especially specific speed and specific agility-mobility, enabling elite female volleyballers to efficiently manage all possible game situations and facilitate their technique performance, especially those in field defens

August 4, 2007 Posted by | Strength and Conditioning, Volleyball Strength and Conditioning | 5 Comments


This word doc below has a profile of the RD 18 Lions team.


The Lions beat the Kangas and have won 5 in a row. That is a real form line. As I said in another article, last year they had a “boob” distribution with young players of 19 to 22 and older players of 27 and above and not many in between. And remember that I have found a trend towards a “Bell Curve” for champion teams skewed slightly to the left. IE More young coming in but balanced around 25.

So when I did the Lions age and experience for RD 18 2007 , they were young. 23.8. But a redeeming feature was that there is some form of bulk in the 21 to 23 age group and the older players are up and running. Also there is a semblance of a proper curve where one can see that the bulk will be in the middle with the only problem being how long can Lappin and Black keep producing. ( if they have to?).

Obviously they have Bradshaw coming back so that next year their curve would look OK and their age and experience would be OK.

If they get in the finals and do well with this distribution curve then that is a real pat on the back for their development programs especially when they lacked draft power.

They have hit their peak now so the cynical ones may suggest that a few “youngies” will drop off soon OR a few oldies might lose form and expose the “youngies ?

All subjective assessments based on some data but worth an analysis.

August 4, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Development | Leave a comment


It is often surprising to look at teams and do profiles on their age and experience. I did this in 2002 as a backdrop to studying development in sport and teams. As expected there was a real trend with teams and different sports and I have added a lecture I did on this blog that explains the trends. It is in the section “Lecture Development AFL Grand Final Conference Optimal Age” on this blog. Here it is also below.


I copied the Kangaroos team that beat the Hawks and same again…..25.7 years of age and 97 games as of RD 17. This is a distribution curve of the Kangas on word doc.


Obviously there are some teams that sit a little bit outside the trend ( EFC 93 and Carlton 95) but the trend exists and both were not far out. Takes years to develop a team.

How many teenagers in the Kangas team? But they seem to have a good group coming through at 23 to 24.

Geelong has 2 or 3 teenagers playing at times but their team you will find is very experienced and balanced around the 25 to 26 age group. Almost perfect really.

By the time Brisbanes reign was over their distribution looked like a boob. Heaps of young kids and heaps of oldies and nothing in the middle.

Also the draft system has made things equal and as we know one cannot buy a team anymore like in soccer in the UK.

So as I said this is only a trend but when teams play heaps of first years………….. OUCH!

August 2, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment