The AFL and COVID-19 | Wayne Carey writes that there’s nowhere to hide for players when footy returns


He brought a new level of individualised training to the club and was clearly someone who knew what he was doing.

But, at the same time, the modern fitness boss or sports science staff tend to put tighter restrictions on what players can and can’t do.

Already during this break, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether the modern player is
over-coached and this might be another example. That’s why players have viewed this time as an opportunity to work on their game. Yes, they would have had programs given to them by the club, and, yes, they would have been monitored closely.

But if you’re paid to kick goals, this has been the time to go out and have 200 shots a day if need be.

There’s no one looking at your GPS numbers telling you it’s time to head in for a shower. You’re
effectively your own fitness boss. If it improves your accuracy by even a couple of per cent it will have been worthwhile.

Likewise, if endurance is an area of weakness, this was the time to put in the hard yards. Robert Harvey never struggled to cover the ground, but it was the extra work he put in that set him apart.
His work rate was legendary.

I always remember hearing how the Saints were trying to hold him back, telling him he was doing too much work and was risking injury. He didn’t listen. It’s what made him a champion.

Hawk Jack Gunston training in March, before the season was shut down.Credit:AAP

Once we get back playing again it will be blatantly obvious who’s put in the work and who hasn’t. In fact, the gap could be more pronounced than ever.

Players should always be self-assessing and be honest with themselves in terms of where they’re at.

Even without playing, the motivation shouldn’t change. Whether you’re a premiership player, All-Australian or not, you should always be trying to get better.

It’s what drove me over the summer months. The advantage was two-fold: not only are you physically stronger, but with that comes another level of confidence.

To reach that point I’d do anything I could during the off-season. Mixed netball, touch footy, water polo, water skiing, you name it. Some of those things were forbidden in my contract, but I did them anyway.

Those sports aren’t necessarily practical for the players who are currently in isolation, but it raises the question about what’s appropriate when normal life resumes.

Port Adelaide’s Ollie Wines copped plenty of criticism after he injured his shoulder wake-boarding, but, in many respects, he was just unlucky.

I’ve always felt if you’re trying to better yourself, physically or mentally, that far outweighs the
possibility of an injury or two.

You can use the same argument for Isaac Heeney and that recent vision of him doing flips into a dam on his property. Players should be challenging themselves, within reason.

Of course, when it comes to fitness work it’s important to listen to your body and for many players that becomes easier with experience.

I read with interest recently my old teammate Adam Simpson saying some of his players at West Coast had gone “turbo” during the break and were suffering a few soft tissue concerns.

My counter argument is there are no guarantees those same players wouldn’t have had a few niggles on their normal programs, anyway. As we know, some are more susceptible than others.

And while that’s never ideal, I think deep down ‘Simmo’ would be proud of the work they’re putting in. It might prove critical when the games are back, thick and fast later this year.

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