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Edwin’s Wi-Fi is terrible at the moment so bear with me for having this in rather late… Keen readers will have noticed that I was nervously awaiting the AFL Victoria announcement for the Community Media Awards last training report. It didn’t happen on Friday owing to an enormous amount of numbers, so I had to wait until Wednesday. But did I get one? Hell yeah I did. One of only two across the Northern Football League. Get around me. But as it is I only devote a little bit of time to myself and more so on the players who are actually training, and this is the first time I get to see the senior players in action after having to miss Monday’s session. At least, I hope that’s the case. A delay at Reservoir station means I’m not sure as I type when the hell I’m actually going to get there. 13 (!!!) minutes later, we’re off and going again, the train driver seemingly as sure as Mark Neeld’s assessment of training standards regarding what the hell was going on exactly. Anyway, regardless of whatever situation was the case, I’m there on time and just get there to see a whole heap of the boys applauding. Not sure why – maybe it was my presence. I wish. Regardless the boys head off for a quarter lap before doing some stretches. What I do notice is that rehab has increased markedly since last Friday, what with all the senior boys back. Jones is moving around really bloody well which is a positive coming off neck surgery, Terlich is in the rehab group, the big Spence train as well. At the moment I cbf’ed making my way over to see who else is in the rehab group, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to sit in the shade on a quaint Melbourne November morning. Gus Brayshaw leaves early again after reporting early on. The warm-up, in the meantime, takes the boys to some weird and wonderful places. The boys run from the goalsquare to the wing… maybe perhaps a bit closer to the half-forward flank, with Dawes leading the way. Obviously he’s had the rocket up the ass from the drafting of Hulett and the other tall blokes (notice how they were going on about Hulett’s strong hands and his ability to play as a third tall?) and needs a big season. Viney is also up the front as he almost always is. Tyson and Garlett walk along the ground, not sure if there’s a serious intention for either of them to train, Tyson’s walking lap and Garlett sneaks off into the tent not to be seen again. Warm-ups carry on regardless, and I have absolutely NFI what the boys are doing. A sprint, sudden stop, turn back, jumping blind turn? Huh? Some blokes look graceful doing it (i.e the mids) and some blokes look atrociously clumsy (i.e Maxy). Next… after that the boys split into a couple of small groups. Nearest to me there’s a group with a two on one situation, where the two have to work out a way past the one which is defending and wearing a vest. The boys are getting through without too much difficulty but talk is non-existent. Mind you, whenever there’s the slightest sign of a feigned handball, the boys are up and about almost as if Steph Curry crossed over another bloke. Surest sign is when Jack Watts sells Goodwin some candy. Right, so the whistle goes and the boys rotate. Jack Viney gives a bit of candy out, and the bloke in the vest (can’t recognise who it is) is like “oh I didn’t want to hurt ya!” Righto… his ego takes a further blow when he is again sold candy not 20 seconds later. It’s also here that I get my first assessment of Jake Melksham. Skinny-looking bloke but by the looks of things good upper-body strength. Just think if he gets his disposal sorted he’ll be a handy pickup. The boys stop (for now) and it’s another chance to have a geeze and who’s doing what, especially in the rehab group. Bernie is taking (Max) King for a run, Spencer and Tyson bugger off early, Nate Jones is moving super well, he really is, and Terlich and Frost are running laps. Meantime Tom McDonald goes off to get his shoulder strapped, not sure what the prognosis is and whether he got a knock during the drill or it’s just your stock standard precaution, either way there’s a serious amount of tape on that left shoulder of his. The next drill is a handballing drill right in front of me, with a group of defenders trying to steal the footy off the team with possession. There is success in the second group where Salem reads the play beautifully and pinches it off White. In fact, White is pretty sloppy in this drill. Two handballs are intercepted, there’s a fumble when picking the ball up and his other handball misses the target. I’m backing the bloke to rebound as soon as he gets the chance. Interesting to note that the coaches are promoting “width” and “run and carry”. No doubt I don’t think anyone in the coaching staff want the panic handballs to set in like they always do. Anyway these quotes are mentioned about three or four times during this drill. On to the blokes who look in pretty good form at the moment. Grimes is having a good patch – thought he ended 2015 on a bright note which he can take into 2016 and he’s training accordingly at the moment. Came second in the time trial on Wednesday and has really settled in nicely and moving well. I still have a bit of a question mark on his decision-making but if he has a good season the Dees will be better for it. The boys have a break again, this time again I get a look at who’s doing what – BK’s running around, Bernie has seemingly not stopped running since training started and Hogan has been taking set shots into the wind. Dawes is doing some marking drills with Jade Rawlings – he still doesn’t look overly confident above his head, preferring the chest mark wherever he can. Again the boys split in two, up the far end it’s a tackling/strength drill of sorts, while the drill nearest to where I am being a pressure drill of kind. Watts is one of the defenders and he’s always the threat in these drills and accordingly he pinches one of the balls. I wish he was given the natural progression to AFL instead of being thrown in, killing his confidence. In the meantime, as I watch, it’s good to see Sam Weideman and Liam Hulett show up and have a look around – shades of Super Pav in not only Weed’s looks but his ultimate swaggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa as well. I can’t wait for opposition defences to be sorted just before a game starts, then they see Hogan and Weideman swagger along like the Beastie Boys did in the Sabotage music video. A fun fact about Hulett – I covered the Young Guns game for AFL Vic and didn’t mention his name, nor did I mention Brayden Sier who also played. I dun goofed with that one. I do remember, though, that Hulett was playing in the backline for the victorious green team and didn’t get much of a look in due to their domination after quarter time. Next drill – basically it starts around the middle with a couple of defenders with a kick coming in to a forward before kicking a goal. This happens at both ends. Nothing special’s really going on to be honest. Hogan has an uncharacteristic miss – in fact he’s having a bad day in front of the sticks – and then as I get the idea of typing that he nonchalantly goes off one step and puts in right through the middle. Okay then. Next drill is a whole lot of randomness again – on one side, the near side, you have two blokes going up for a marking contest; in the middle, you have a contest where two blokes are going after a rolling footy, and up the far side it’s more like a kick to five blokes see who gets it kind of drill. Petracca walks by and (I think) gives the new draftees the thumbs up. I’m looking forward to seeing Trac talking to Weideman for the first time. I reckon you could almost SEE the swag. As I type this actually happens. Petracca comes up and gives Weideman the swaggiest greeting you’ll ever see - quite the serious handshake it was, almost like they from da hood, and almost as if they’ve known each other for a decade. I already like this setup. Now to see Hogan meet and greet Weed for the first time and my day would be complete. After what felt like about 20 minutes of approximately nothing to report the boys get back into it for a bit of a run. And it’s a running drill out of the box here. The boys – in two groups of vests, white and green, go runabouts in what is like a game of tag, where the blokes have to run about to a pole before the other bloke. Maxy Gawn’s having a bit of a laugh as he’s running – he is the banter king that’s for sure. Anyway, after that brief exercise the boys run three quarters of the oval in twos, for what scientific purpose instead of running the entire lap only Misso knows. After that the space-time continuum is broken again as only Misso manages to do with his concoction of which groups should be what when doing the running drills, with the boys splitting up between white and green and running in two groups. It’s good to see Dawes running up the front with regularity, with Tom McDonald sandwiched in the middle much like a Melbourne Cup favourite around the 1200m mark. Some more continuous running then, and Petracca starts the second “groups of two” run by completely ghosting Dawes along with Grimes, passing Dawes and then evidently using all his fast-twitch stocks to run out of gas towards the end of the three quarter lap. Mind you his acceleration of the blocks is pretty damn impressive. It’s also pretty interesting to see the difference between a stock standard AFL player and an athlete. While most are absolutely puffed out by their final group run, Tom McDonald is still roughly as silent as a Charlie Chaplin film. The boys then finish up. I hang around just to see Hulk and Weed meet for the first time and begin the highest profile pairing since Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams fo-shizzled their way through Drop It Like It’s Hot. Roosy, interestingly, brings together Bugg, Harmes, Kent, Hunt and Salem together for a chat, for what I don’t know because I’m not a good lip-reader. As I start to embark on the route to Edwin’s Petracca, Watts and Hogan all come up to a young lad, wheelchair bound, and sign his cast, hat and promise a tour around the club during their weights session. It’s a timely reminder of how good this club is to the young blokes and what a fantastic gesture. I also wish the young lad well for the future. A further note – it appears that the first part of training will be finishing up on the 18th of December and restarts (at this stage) on the 8th of January, by the looks of things it’ll be a week of training at Gosch’s before buggering off during the Aussie Open.
Friday, November 20, 0945 hours Pretty big day for this individual. First of all, my one and only exam was completed yesterday, and secondly, today I find out whether I’ve been nominated for AFL Victoria’s Community Media Awards for the second year in succession, which at the age of 22 I see as a massive achievement. Anyway, I get here missing part of the warmups, as is almost customary for me nowadays, I couldn’t explain properly why that is the case. Anyway as I get here the boys are doing the same drill that they normally do when they start off with their drills for the morning, the handball drill where there’s a defender putting pressure on. In the middle there’s a different drill, where the boys are asked to kick to players in the same team until called to kick to the other team. I’ll probably try to better explain – there’s two teams of about four or five players, one wearing vests and one not wearing vests, plus a couple of players wearing orange for that matter as well, and the coach calls out which colour kicks to whom. If that makes sense. In the meantime, as I walk through to Gosch’s, Terlich finishes up early and walks by me; Smith and ANB are doing some running and I can’t really explain why, and Trengove makes a very welcome appearance. Not entirely sure what he is doing at this point. Vandenberg is having a run around the joint as well. Meantime checking out the personalities around the place Mahoney is hearing watching, as well as King Jackson who’s made himself a dead set legend yesterday by signing on for a couple more years. Top bloke. Next drill is a full grounder drill, two full teams, boys are going hard at it. Brayshaw is crashing into blokes and in one case manages to bring down Maxy Gawn. It’s not quite the full monty yet until everybody else joins the party anyway. In the meantime Kenty is still moving very well considering he hasn’t played for a few months, and Tommy Mc is still showing his versatility whenever the ball goes nearby. Having said that there’s quite a few slip and sliding around due to the wet conditions experienced after last night’s awesome storm. Speaking of storms, an early look at a possible game plan sees the boys storming forward whenever they get the chance to do that. The ball movement at this early stage is noticeably faster and there’s more of an emphasis on players moving positively whenever the chance is there to do so. There is still a bit of an emphasis on switching play – as most coaches probably would. Having said that despite all the positivity, there are still a few disappointing errors by foot. Some of these errors come about as a result of risky kicks, but there are also errors which come about due to poor kicks. Another bloke who’s moving around really well is Dom Tyson. This bloke’s going to be an interesting case in 2016. I think all Melbourne supporters agree that 2015 was disappointing for him but I think we also all agree that we knew he was somewhat affected by injury. Anyway, on the track at the moment, he’s moving around like he’s finding the 2014 silky-smooth movement again, even though that there is still a bit of tape around his knee, which is really good to see. I’m therefore looking forward to seeing what he does when he’s fully fit. More on the drill – the skills have improved markedly since I commented that they left a lot to be desired. Also it seems that there is a lot more confidence about with many players. Probably none more so than Jayden Hunt. He seems to be backing his speed a lot more and he’s also getting the chance to find a lot more space, which is really encouraging. I think 2016 is the year we’ll finally see him get games, and we’ll finally get to see the great #29 grace the field for the first time since the great days of Michael “Juice” Newton. Drill stops and the move to the other side of the ground to do some form of a defensive drill. On the near side of the ground where I am it’s good to see Dunny here a bit early like he normally is, having a bit of fun and having set shots… hold on, he’s a defender isn’t he? On the other side of the ground, it’s really good to see JKH all over this defensive drill, and intercepting a couple of kicks, which is exactly what I want to see. Just hoping that this year was just the classic case of second year blues. The drill stops for a period before the roles are reversed – the team with the vests are attacking and the team without them are defending… but that’s a loose term. Good moment comes when a kick opens up big Maxy 15 metres in the clear, Maxy gets there… but only just. One quintessentially classic panic handball later, the vest team are able to kick a goal having broken open the defensive structure that the plain team tried to implement too easily in the end. This is the same deal when the defensive structure is tried again, with a kick down the corridor breaking open the play way too easily, which is either good or bad depending on which team you want to focus on. After a short micro-break the boys go at it again… and again it’s basically the same deal without the result this time around. I’m looking around trying to work out whether it’s just that the team with the vests have more numbers or that there is a weak link which is hurting the plain structure. At the moment, it appears to be a case of the former. On closer inspection, there’s the same amount of numbers on both sides. Bit of a break, Frost is running laps around the oval, Hogan has seemingly appeared out of nowhere given I hadn’t seen him during the drills (not sure if I haven’t paid enough attention for that one TBH) and is having a few sprints just over a patch of the oval with Viney. There’s clearly a bit of friendly rivalry when they run around – think it’s almost like they have to start line astern with an alternate leader and then they have to make sure that they stay in front. Bit of a similar drill to what’s been going on basically all morning after a short break which is another pressure-based drill with game simulation. Again JKH is performing well when applying pressure, laying another couple of tackles. Really been impressed with his application this morning. As they have another chat all you can hear is the solid BEEP BEEP BEEP noise that the Storm are doing. It’s not entirely a beep test, but (BEEP) it’s (BEEP)in annoying. Thankfully the boys get back into it, coupled with the beeping noise stopping, so that I can focus entirely on the drill at hand and see who’s doing what. With Hogan, Viney and a few others sitting out of main group training for the time being it’s two groups of nine on nine… ahem, AFL 9s. The drill restarts and immediately there is an orgy of players all over the footy. Again, JKH doesn’t give an inch whenever anyone gets the footy, laying yet another tackle, this time on Harmes. Mind you there was about 15 or 16 players within two metres of the footy this time round so laying a tackle was straightforward. There was a bit of solid banter during the drill when Tom McDonald gets the footy and tries kicking it to King… only to have his brother intercept it! During the same passage of play, Hogan (who’s running on the oval) cracks the shits when he has players interrupt his run (as I said before, it’s a friendly rivalry with Viney that he has and he’s trying to better Jack’s efforts). The next time they go about it Harmes gathers from half back and goes for an electrifying run that last until about 20m from goal before he gives out a Joe the Goose to a teammate. I am a bit disappointed he didn’t take the initiative and kick the goal himself because that was every bit as good a run as Phil Manassa’s (albeit this is in training and not in a Grand Final with the game on the line). After that there’s more of a handball drill this time around. It’s similar to the kicking drill except it covers a much smaller patch of ground than the kicking drill which was basically a full grounder. It’s more of a five on five drill than the nine on nine we’ve become accustomed to, with all players basically starting side on. The boys then stop for a bit, have a casual kick to kick and then change into their running shoes. As ever they come with instructions – Press B to run like the wind! (points if you get the reference). Okey-dokes. The running. There’s two groups and one quasi-group which I’m not sure just starts slowly or is part of the other group, I don’t have a clue. First bit of running sees the boys go from the back pocket to the goal posts. Either side. Pleasingly for those who likes seeing epic running battles, Tom and Oscar McDonald are in the same group, which will make for good viewing when everybody else invariably slows down. Pleasingly, for the time being, Dom is up the front. Kennedy, by the looks of things, is up the front of the other group. Mind you, that group has Gawn, Frost, Kent and King in it, so it’s the same running group as when I was last here last Friday. For the time being though I’m really pleased that Dom looks back to his injury-free best, staying up the front the whole time. After a leisurely walk around the oval the boys head off for a spot of lunch, which is what I also do.
Alrighty, first off as I type this I'm going to be a little late. Not that it honestly bothers me too much, I had to do a bit of running around this morning, but I wont be missing too much more than the warmup should the boys actually start on time. Perhaps they might be a little bit later than that. Okay, so I get here at 10:00, a tad late with the almost as fashionable entrance that Russell Westbrook assumes in the NBA, laptop bag strapped over my shoulder and all - but Im told I didnt miss much all I missed really is the warmups and one of those six minute runs that the boys do. When I get here the boys are walking around the oval, and then slowly gets to a bit of a jog. In the rehab group on the other side of the oval are Hoges (I was wrong about Monday by the way, it wasnt management, hes got a bit of a finger issue at the moment) and Petracca of course. What it looks like they are doing is that both are running and doing a bit of weaving before marking the footy, and theres also a bit of work to do with some hurdles as well by the looks of things. As we were then with the main leaders leading the way around the oval. McDonald and Viney are up the front, and the boys look like they are changing into their footy boots so that they can start using the ball in vastly different conditions to when I was here Monday the thorough Monday afternoon heat and gust replaced by Friday the 13th cold, wet and breeze. Its not a pretty day by any means but this provides an early season indicator given this will be the conditions the boys will be facing come the 2016 season. The boys go for this weird kind of run around part of the oval. I couldnt properly explain it except for its pretty brief. Afterwards theres a short kick of the footy. Its a good chance to see whos up here and training. Max Gawn is here and hes having a run around in his quest to make Todd Goldstein look like Paul Johnson an ultimately difficult task. Ive already mentioned McDonald being here, dont think Garland is here, while Brayshaw after missing Monday is here too training. The whistle goes the kick of the footy is all too brief. I hear loud noises, including a couple of mentions of over the shoulder as the boys assume positions for the next drill, with a whole heap of cones. This is an interesting drill. Theres groups of four in this drill, with a couple of players weaving around cones, one with the footy and one without, whereas another player comes in to try and tackle said player weaving with the footy. At the moment no one is really missing the mark, thats because the player with the ball seemingly runs straight into the man whos going after him. Again its all too brief and they move around again, this time to the edge of the square. Again this is another kind of pressure drill Theres about three players in vests and another three who go out and run to get the footy in kind of a simulation drill. There isnt a whole lot of pressure from those wearing vests, which is either disappointing or what is expected of them from the fitness coaches, I couldnt tell you which is which. From the ball users perspective there are a couple of handballs which miss the target and their trajectory is poor. Again (and this seems to be the theme of the day) the drill is very brief. Meantime over at the near end of the ground, Jesse up for a kick at the park tomorrow? Hogan and CP5 are having set shots. Hogans run up is even more painfully slower and more edgy than what it was last year with the stutter even more obvious you could make a verse about it in Stutter Rap. Meantime Petracca misses a sitter from about 35 out on a slight angle and hes pretty [censored] about it he knows he should do better. You can notice the higher standards though, maybe in another year, specifically 2013, the boys would have a laugh about it, but you can see the want to succeed now. Anyway, with less jibberish, the boys begin their next drill. The first group nearest is stopped and the coach over there (cant work out who it is from a distance) mentions that it shouldnt be too much of a handball game. There are a couple of average kicks I wont lie about that, especially one from I think Smith who just skids it along the ground, its a true shank. On the far end of the ground the drill is still going and theres a few kicks which are just hitting the mark with authority. There was one such instance where Harmes lead excellently to the ball and it hits him on the chest as he jumps, didnt catch who actually kicked it to him but thats always a good sign looking ahead. Theres a clear difference between the two groups the group nearest to where Im positioned are moving it slowly and with a bit of hesitation, but the group on the opposite side of the ground are taking it on big time. Its a massive difference and the group nearest to us are out to rectify that when they begin again. Rehab Hulk and CP5 are running laps now. CPs endurance has massively improved since this stage last year and hes running with Crossy, whos going to be massive for his ultimate development in being able to run all day. The conditions change again as the boys head into the next drill suns out guns out not quite. Not for me anyway. The drill here is that the boys start off in a circle, then the boys spread out around the ground and become targets. Matt Jones scuffs the first kick, one which is wide of the mark to Terlich, which sees the vest team get possession of the footy. In fact the first two times the groups go out, it is characterised by missed handballs and a couple of scuffed kicks here and there. Its a little disappointing but then again the team with the vests are putting on good pressure much the same. The teams change and immediately theres a shift. Where the first team tried to move the ball too quickly, theres more a sense of surety with this team as the boys take a bit more time moving the ball, but not too slowly. The boys assess their options a lot more carefully and as a result, are able to transfer the footy from one end of the ground to the other. The second movement is even more impressive the team with the footy catch out the team with the vests through straight and direct ball movement, which goes nothing short of perfect until the final kick which drifts away late and hits the post. It was delightful to watch and hopefully theres more of that throughout the season as the boys cut through teams like a hot knife through butter. Now thatd be something. The boys, in the meantime, continue their drill, and while the early stages look reminiscent of the boys at their worst (what I mean is that when they handball backwards and they panic mercilessly) whats impressive is that they are beginning to realise that handballing to a bloke under pressure just doesnt work. Ever. Its Terls who sets this one up, sidestepping a couple of blokes and then delivering a good ball. In the meantime, CP5 leaves early. Im assuming therefore that OKC and his beloved Russell Westbrook are playing then. The boys start again. Salem gets the ball and somehow manages to break a Viney tackle. Not too often you get to say that but thats a representation of the standing of the bloke. In fact, every time Salem is getting it, he is using it extremely well and its so good to watch. Just nails almost every kick basically, no matter whether its a long kick or a short one. The boys then stop for a short break, be it either for drinks, to have a chat, or to watch Jesse Hogan walk off. Either one of the three. The boys then split up into groups of three, one with green vests, orange vests and one group without vests. Its two teams at the moment one sits out. Its the team without vests sitting out at the moment, leading to the ultimate See My Vest Cup (Byrnes coaching, anyone? Would be appropriate) which ends briefly after a miscued kick which just skids along the ground. Im assuming that the two just go at it until theres a mistake one which comes in the second game between orange and plain when a kick is spoiled well (to applause and cheers) by Gussy, the ultimate hard working kid. All three teams cycle through and we go again. Green team is unable to penetrate orange teams defensive structure. This time a loose kick is intercepted by (by the looks of it) King. The defensive structure of the two other teams is interesting. Plains defending is manic and high-energy, however some loose defending from Harmes brings their strategy undone, while Green seem to be loose, an ambitious kick into the corridor to Salem is quickly intercepted by two Green defenders. The drill then ends for either a pause or a switch to another drill. As it turns out, its a pause. After a brief restarting of the drill the boys start off again they stop almost as quickly, and then have a lengthy chat. They move down the ground and have another chat? Im assuming theres a bit of set shot work here because of the way this drill seems to be set up. This isnt the case. Instead theres only like four blokes actually having set shots, a big group having snaps and another small group crumbing and running in to goal from about 25-30 out. Meantime nothing has changed with Brayshaw in his training habits, always the prankster and always talking [censored] whenever someone goes past and has a set shot. On this occasion Stretch is copping an earful. Meantime theres a group with Crossy running around King, Frost, Kent and Kennedy. Dunno why they arent with the main group. As to be expected, Kent and Kennedy lead the way with Frost trailing and King a little bit further back in these running drills. This has been the way of the world for about 15 minutes so I have a geeze around and look at the world. While the training gear is somewhat up to scratch for a number of people its not quite up to scratch in other areas. For example, the cloth which covers the pavilion. Im not sure about you but you would THINK for a club which has worked hard to develop its logo that by now theyd have developed a cloth with the new logo on it in preparation for the release. Thats not the case. Old Schwabbolly-dobbolly-wobbollys logo is still taking pride of place. In the middle a beep test being sorted? It doesnt seem to be the case because after a short while with measuring et al, the cones are being taken away. Maybe they are otherwise preparing for it to be done in a future session (Monday?) Regardless theres a few at the moment who are on their way out. Its also my cue to bugger off myself as I look for a spot of lunch and either perhaps get to enjoy some old reruns of the footy or perhaps the cricket coming up as well (although thats not until later).