loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

Physical Development Geelong Football Club 1999 to 2006

A lot has been written in past week about the inability of Essendon Football Club to tolerate the loads imposed by a high intensity weights program similar to what Geelong was exposed to from preseason 2006/2007. But the problem is that little is understood on what underpins the base required to underpin an aggressive approach as has been reported. I am not privy to what was done at Essendon. Who knows except the inner sanctum. It may simply have been too much too soon of everything, not just weights. So Essendon is not my focus . But the concept that players have to be taken past limits ( as reported)  is incorrect.

AFL players have to run repetitively at high intensity and that was the number one focus I had in the development of the Geelong list, built  on a base of core stability, core strength, proper biomechanics and individual needs.

I was gone in April 2006. Terminated but not for fitness reasons. After Round 2 we flag favourite. I was gone after round  3! Prior to that we won the NAB Cup in Adelaide. Lost a close semi final in Sydney in 2005 with a young team. Lost a close Preliminary Final in 2004 again with a developing team. Physically the job was almost done by 2006. The team was ready to compete. Not the finished product because some of the players were still developing and also some needed time to mature IE Ablett. But a process had been in place with very few resources from preseaon 1999. My funds were obliterated in 1999 so till 2004 I operated on very little. I even had equipment donated by my brother in law Gus Puopolo! We made our own Pilates Reformer!

1999/2000 PreSeason

Many of the crop of players came to Geelong in this draft. We started a careful core strength/core stability program with these kids and a resolve to make sure they coped with pre season demands. The plan was approximately 30% of weights intensity & volume/ 50 to 75% running & 90% Skills and Games. But continuity was the focus IE of Skills Sessions, Games  and then training. Also with Jarrod Egan I made sure every player was fully skilled in running drills and an array of gym techniques. We used Mark Sayers as a biomechanics consultant and screened every player running. My focus was education, creating a base and continuity of training. Very little power training was done given the mix of kids and oldies and we simple made sure every kid got a good base of specific core and skills work

2000/2001 Pre Season

Other players were drafted this preseason. We started progressing 99 drafts individually. IE Enright moved quicker than Corey for example. But the process was still about making sure that all players had developed a proper base of core strength and worked on individual needs. In the gym we moved with players like Scarlett given he was in his 3rd year but in general we stayed more with circuits, hypertrophy and specific needs. But the main focus became the ability to run at high intensity and also repeat it. Added to this I did a lot of Hill Intervals. We worked a lot on run technique, speed work at Landy Field and Repeat Hills at Eastern Park. This was a bigger focus for 2000/2001 & 2001/2002 preseasons. IE Developing efficient runners.


I started to move towards a performance enhancement model in this block but totally individualized. Players like Cameron Mooney were still in phases of rehabilitation after coming from Kangas with severe OP. The “kids” were still “kids” so it was in reality more of the same. The emphasis turned again to technical excellence in the gym, individual programs and also introducing agility and plyometrics. I got a 50m indoor track upstairs and did lots and lots of speed work there every week. This emphasis on max speed work, in close accelaration and agility was a focus. I employed Tahi Reihana to enhance contact skills and evasive work. Lots of core circuits, general training such as rowing and gymnastics work and ongoing development in the gym


With funds starting to loosen I had every player screened for core stability by Michael Dermansky, a physio. We had every player tested by ERA for Max VO 2. We employed John Minns ( shot putter) and more so Mark Spivey ( ex Decathlon) to our program. He went on to underpin the English Ashes wins! Also we employed Chris Dennis as a junior assistant. This is when I really sparked up the strength program. Every Saturday was Squat day and plyo day. We added explosive SLED training and contrast speed work. Lots of bounding. This was all done on a base of individualized programming given some players were still at STAGE 1 IE Core Stability etc. Also I started to do a lot more high intensity interval training sessions wit sessions such as 400/500/600/500/400 etc. But still the focus was continuity and injury prevention whilst pushing the DOMS envelope every week to create enough stress for adpatation. Very few young players were injured. We had a remarkably low soft tissue rate.


Simply a carbon copy of 2002/2004. Pre Xmas saw Spriggs, Ling, Steve Johnson pumping out some great interval work. Players like Scarlett were squatting big and running fast. I had started using GPS units in 2003 and with RPE loadings tried to make sure we were doing the right loads inseason. Once we got this right inseason we made the Prelims. Many of the players were starting to mature physically , but still young and needing games and experience. But we were able to compete physically with the Lions. Just not good enough.


Here we entered a more classical model where we had made the prelim, had some mature players, some young players and varied rehabilitation needs. Thus the focus was simply ongoing development and a commitment to producing players that could repeat effort, love contact and be explosive all day. Inseason was difficult. We started well. Had a high injury list midyear plus a young bunch who needed direction. I started PROJECT POWER midyear and focussed on lowering body fat, increasing leg power, upper body strength and rehabiliation. I had used Donna Rae Sazlinzki since 2002 with ergos and bought her in to get players fit by finals. We pulled out of  a nosedive  mid 2005 and nearly beat the eventual premiers in Sydney. This was  a huge job for me and Chris Dennis but very satisfying.


The coaches decided to train less this preseason. Not the fitness staff ( Myself, Cameron Falloon and Luke Meehan) . This was a poor plan but I had to manage the program in a once a day format and 4 days a week plus Saturday AM. We had to mix Skills/Running and Weights in one session! We did our very best. Given we had better facilities and more staff for rehab and fitness we did do a lot of specific rehab work with players like Ottens and many others which was a huge plus this preseason. This very specific work underpinned the next few years in a few players that had been in rehab in 2005. Simply put the pre season was frustrating because we had less time to train players but we simply did the best we could in the sessions we had and many individual players still made gains in power, strength, fitness and speed. From a team perspective there was not enough time allocated. My gut feeling is that we could still have made finals in 2006 if the political situation had been more stable. But that is an opinion only.


By 2006 ( from 2001) we had half the AFL hamstring rate. Well below quads, on average for OP and slightly higher for calves. IE Our developing players had generally achieved continuity of games, skills sessions, running sessions and weights sessions in that order and priority. This is RAW HARD DATA. The emphasis had been on developing a team that could run repetitively and efficiently at high intensity. Then the next priority was contact specific Strength and Power Development. But all the time we made sure that all core stability issues and individual rehabilitation needs and recovery needs were always the NO 1 priority. The biggest predictor of getting an injury is having had an injury before, so avoiding injury is critical. DOMS is different. We always chased high eccentric loads in preseason to make sure players were immune to high intensity demands. Anyway blah blah. The Geelong team of 2006 that presented for preseason 2006/2007 had a massive base. And 5 finals with 3 finals wins and 2 NAB cup finals. Pretty good base! And the staff from then onwards did an awesome job!

August 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment