AFLPA Sydney delegate Callum Sinclair documents his first week back at the club after the season shutdown period for aflplayers.com.au. The ruckman has noticed a few differences in how training is run to how it was before the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to the AFL season, but as he writes he’s prepared to make those adjustments.
Monday 18th May
We arrived at the club on Monday to a ton of media and cameras which took us all a bit by surprise. There were more cameras there than Grand Final week!
After we had made our way through the media pack, we had our first temperature test of the week to gain access to the club administered by the assigned ‘COVID officer’.
We were then split up into six different groups and sent off to two different locations. There was an 8.30am group, a 10.30am group and a 12.30pm group and we all remained with the same seven-player group throughout the week.
My group of seven consisted of Jake Lloyd, Lewis Melican, Dylan Stephens, George Hewett, Tom McCartin, Harry Reynolds and myself.
Under normal circumstances the boys would arrive a couple of hours before training is due to start and get prepared and strapped and do their ‘prehab’ stuff then. But the new protocols mean we can only go inside the club half an hour before our session starts. So to avoid any wasted time you’ve got to manage your preparation effectively and it was kind of like being back playing junior footy with the boys rocking up in their full playing kits.
We were able to see the kind of training of the boys in the other group were doing and there was certainly some anxiety there because the boys were working really hard. Jake Lloyd said at the time he was experiencing the nerves you get before a 2km time trial and he was absolutely right.
The first thing we saw when we turned up at the ground was the coaches cleaning the footies and we made our way to the north end of the ground while the other group made their way to the south end.
The two-hour session was bloody tough and we covered around 10kms so we all walked off pretty exhausted. There’s only so much training you can do when you’re in pairs, but we could do a lot more when we were in our groups of seven so the coaches made the most of it.
I felt a bit like Andrew McLeod running around out there (laughs) because there wasn’t the same type of pressure that you’re used to being under when the full squad is there during match simulation-type training.
After our session concluded we had a 30 minute wait while all the equipment in the gym was being cleaned before our weights session.
We certainly walked out of the club pretty exhausted after a long hard day.
Tuesday 19th May
We had our second round of COVID testing on Tuesday, which, let me tell you, isn’t the most enjoyable thing to have done to you! We’ve got four different testers and most of the boys are starting to get to know them all pretty well.
Tester No.3 is a bit more aggressive than the others and doesn’t worry about wiggling the swab around up there.
We’re convinced tester no.3 must be a Giants fan!
Walking into the footy club definitely has a different feel about it. There’s people with suits on and it looks like something out of a movie.
You have to line-up to get inside the club and they’re pretty strict about all the rules and protocols.
Tuesday was a lighter session than Monday, which the boys were thankful for, but we were back in the gym before calling it a day.
Wednesday 20th May
Wednesday’s morning session was pretty similar to Monday’s one, although it was a little lighter and more focussed on skills.
There has been some big changes that we’ve noticed during sessions, but Wednesday was the day where I realised it the most.
The players helped set up the goal posts and we had to bring out our own footies as we set up the drills on the patch of grass we hired inside Centennial Park.
We brought our own drink bottles with each individual’s drink bottle labelled and with our own name on it. It kind of felt like we’d gone back to Auskick, but the boys adapted to it really well and tried to help the staff out as best they could.
In the afternoon we all went back into the club for meetings with our groups of seven.
We had a team meeting on that afternoon and there was a meeting set up for every group so unfortunately the coaches had to repeat themselves a handful of times which I’m sure they didn’t enjoy.
We had (coach) John (Longmire) speak to us and every seat had to be two metres apart so it was very, very different. There was markings on the ground about where your seat is supposed to be so everyone was following those protocols.
We had a bit of a review of the time off and a few blokes shared about a few things they learned and a few things they struggled with.
Overall, based on the feedback that the coaching and fitness staff saw in training that week, they give us a pat on the back for the shape the group came back in. It was more of a review of the period about how everyone coped, how everyone was feeling and getting a gauge on where the group’s at.
We’re working in fortnight blocks, just because things could change so quickly, so we’re all looking forward to getting back and playing.
Thursday 21st May
Thursday was basically the same as Tuesday. There was a weights session and a really light skills session because we all knew what were in for at our main session on Friday.
Friday 22nd May
The biggest difference you notice watching an AFL club train now compared to prior to COVID-19 is the difference in the amount of people and the resources around the players.
Just something as simple as if you kick the footy over the fence, there’s usually someone there to get it. But if you kick it over the fence now, then you’re going to have to jump the fence and pick up your own footy.
There’s not as many guys getting treatment on the side of the ground as usual just because it’s important that we look after the safety of the staff.
Those main sessions have been really different because you usually look across at the sidelines and there’s a big hub of staff working in sports science, medicine, massage, trainers. That’s not there anymore so as players we’ve really need to step up.
It’s just different and a lot of those little things that as a player you probably just took for granted.
We were supposed to do extra running at the end of our session but we’d already met our targets so one of the coaches challenged Tom McCartin to slot a set shot to determine whether we’d need to do more.
Thankfully he made it so the boys were pretty happy with Tom.
Saturday 23rd May
Saturday was meant to be our day off, but we had to come in for another COVID test so that wasn’t ideal when we were all looking for a nice sleep in after our first week back, but we know it’s all part of it so we’ll have to put up with it.
Monday 25th May
Monday was the day we were able to begin some contact training with the full group. And didn’t the boys love it.
It was actually a little shock seeing so many people on the field but it was good to get stuck into some normal drills.
We were actually able to start coaching our game plan which was really good and rather than just doing drills in our groups of seven we were playing in our positions and getting introduced back into contact work.
At times, you’d get a little bit carried away and sling a few blokes to ground. It was good to get back with our lines and work on the stuff that we’d worked on all summer.
We can’t wait to get into it fully and restart the season with a bang.