Our first trial of 2019 was last night against West Adelaide, I personally could not wait to see our guys play against a genuine opposition for the first time as Coach.
Having only the one chance at a first impression, I know our players approached the game as more than just an opportunity to gain match fitness. There is an expectation that all players understand and play to our structures and attempt to implement our new style of play as much as possible.
Like all pre-seasons, it goes from feeling like time is at a standstill for weeks, then you blink and suddenly, the season is upon us.
Our pre-season was structured into three blocks. The pre-Christmas stage was designed to build a higher fitness base as individuals and a collective with more volume of running than previous years. I was extremely impressed with how the guys handled the load increase and the program Lawson and Hayden implemented as Strength and Conditioning coaches was first class. With an increase in load comes the increase in risk of injury, however we felt it was the right time to push the guys a bit harder with it being my first year as coach and everyone looking to impress and put their best foot forward. Thankfully most of our squad competed this whole block which was reflected with numerous personal best times in our testing. We also wanted to train using a high volume of skill fundamentals and the ‘basics’ that are often neglected by players with a focus so much on game plan related training.
Post-Christmas and up until February 16th was the second block of training. In this period, we aimed to consolidate our good work from pre-Christmas. We continued the same volume of running and skills on Monday and Friday, with Wednesday becoming a night dedicated to Match specific training and structures, both with 18 v 18 and reduced number match specific drills.
This was a great chance to start seeing guys in match environment implementing changes in our game and building match fitness. We set the 16th as an end point to pre-season as this was the date, we had our camp in Kersbrook. We had our biggest session of pre-season with 16-17km of running volume, followed by team meetings, a BBQ and some team bonding.
Our 3rd block which ends now has been purely match preparation. Every session has involved some form of scenario-based training in a match setting. This type of training is a great way to dial in on structures and methods, especially for younger players as they start to understand the importance of playing your role and playing to structure. We try to mix up the teams so our senior guys some weeks will play on other senior guys so they can challenge each other but also mindful of giving younger guys an opportunity to challenge themselves against senior guys.
This is the best way to coach the players through our game plan changes in a realistic environment as our older players become coaches out on the ground. The challenge with that is that both teams know what each other is trying to implement, so that’s why this week is exciting to see how it stands up against genuine opposition.
My approach to last nights trial match was to pick what we feel is our best available 24 players. I believe it is important to get high game time for all players in their best position in preparation for round 1 where the bench is trimmed back to 3, however this can be difficult to manage with an extended bench. We have attempted to bring some flexibility into our list by having some players learn and train multiple roles and we will have a look at those this week. We will then thoroughly review the match on video and assess what worked well and what areas we need to work on for our final trial against Central District, my old Club. Expect a full report of the trial match Tuesday 12th of March.