NAT FYFE: A week in the life
I headed down south with teammates I’m pretty close to — Matt de Boer, Zac Clarke and Tendai Mzungu.
We stayed in a holiday park for a couple of nights and watched the Margaret River Pro surfing competition on the Saturday. It was some down time away from the club, a mental refresher.
It’s the last weekend off before the mid-season break in round 12 so we made the most of it to get away with our girlfriends.
I still spent time at the beach on Sunday morning to get in a light jog. I have a program set by the club and needed to do an easy flush run to tick the legs over and keep active a little bit.
I did five 500m runs with a light stretch in between, nothing rigorous, but just enough to get a light sweat up. We drove back to Perth on Sunday night.
I got to the club before 8am. We have a screening process that every player has to do and it takes about an hour.
It involves weighing in with a waking body weight and going through tests to determine the strength of my groins, the length of the calf muscle, hamstring tension and any points of soreness.
Then I go and see the doctors and physios. The data is entered into a matrix of how everyone has been going since day one of the pre-season.
The club won’t put anyone out on the track unless they’re 100 per cent ready to go. That’s probably one of the biggest changes in my two years in the AFL, how much detail goes into each individual player and their program. It’s not like one size fits all.
Coach Ross Lyon has introduced a generic cut-off mark with skin folds for all players. Everyone must meet that mark to be able to play. I’m really lucky with my body that my skin folds stay really low.
My biggest battle has been trying to put on weight over the past couple of years. I put on about 4kg over the pre-season and my playing weight will be around 87kg this year.
It’s a far cry from the skinny 70kg I was when I was drafted back in 2009. I’ve also grown about 4cm since then and am about 190cm now.
I get strapped and am ready to go for training by 9am. We have a quick meeting first where we go over the training plan for the week. We then break up into our separate groups, players who played WAFL on the weekend, players in rehab and then players who will be in line to play this weekend.
We do 30 minutes of light ball work focusing on skills. From 10am I do weights for an hour and then spend another 30 minutes in the pool recovering.
At 11.30am I go in to see the physio for half an hour, then we break for lunch after that. When I get back to the club I have a 45-minute massage. It gets into those tight muscles and loosens them off a bit. I’m finished by about 2pm and head home for some study as part of getting my helicopter licence.
I arrive at Fremantle Oval by 8am. I go through a similar screening process to yesterday, but it’s not as rigorous. Nothing comes up out of the ordinary, so I don’t have to see the physio.
We have a meeting at 9am to go over what we’ll aim to do at training today. The coaching staff show clips from last week, things that we’ve done well or poorly.
It’s shown on the big screen with the entire group watching. With the vision now there’s nowhere you can hide. There’s an intense focus on what you’re doing when you don’t have the footy.
That’s really what players are critiqued on these days. Ross always says that he can cop skill errors, but he won’t compromise on the structure.
The meeting goes for half an hour and then we do our main training session for an hour.
We go through everything from skills to a little bit of game scenario training. Everyone who’s fit and available is training.
We’re like an American NFL side with the amount of plays that we run. We’ve had to do written tests on our structure, with a lot of meetings to teach us the new set-up and to re-create it at training. There’s a camera that films us from side on. That’s a new thing. We also have a camera filming us from behind the goals.
At the start it was quite full-on with how much Ross presented to us. I was a little bit behind with the practical side because I was recovering from shoulder surgery.
By the time I got out to training the boys were already five weeks plus into practising the game plan. I had to transfer everything I’d learnt on paper into the game.
The first week or so it was quite daunting, but after training two to three times a week every week it gets ingrained. Ross is big on ‘we play anywhere, our way, against anyone’. It’s always going to be our fallback and we’re confident the structure will stand up.
After training I do weights, recovery and have a massage just like yesterday. We then have a two-hour meeting going over everything to do with the opposition. It’s heavy video analysis.
We sometimes break up into our lines. My line coach is Mark Stone and I’m able to sit with him and go through individual vision of Geelong players.
I have to know all the on-ballers because I could play on the whole midfield, six to eight different blokes given I’ll get rotated 14-15 times a game.
I study what foot they kick with; if they’re going to baulk which side they usually go to; are they likely to kick more or handball more; are they likely to play on after a mark.
There are a few new players for Geelong that may play, so I have a look at vision of them in case I come up against them.
Ross is really big on not overworking the players mentally or physically. He really enjoys having feedback from the players on what they thought of each meeting. He’s really personal about it. I head home after that meeting’s finished.
It’s a day off, but I head into the club in the morning to see the physios.
They go through the areas that I’m a bit sore in just to help me get up for the weekend. I then head home to spend time at the beach, limbering up the areas where I’m still stiff.
I see footy as my profession, so I’ll use any time available to make sure I’m right for the weekend.
I think as a third-year player who’s played nearly 40 games I’ve got a bigger-picture view now.
I spend the night loading up on carbohydrates. It’s a diet plan that I’ll stick to for the next two days.
The day starts the same as the previous two, except we find out the official squad.
After screening we head into a meeting where the roles of certain players are discussed. We go through what we’re doing at training then head out onto the track.
It’s a similar session to Tuesday, about 35 minutes of skills and game scenario drills. There’s a bit of goal kicking at the end.
I like to work with some of the other inside midfielders and practise having real crisp, clean hands, and also on my body work.
With a limited pre-season I’m aware not to cook myself too much. I only stay out there for a few extra minutes before going in.
I then do a weights session, recovery, see the physio and have a massage.
The afternoon meeting is again about the opposition. It’s another chance to ask questions of my line coach. After that I leave the club and it’s basically getting myself mentally ready to play.
It’s a very light day. There’s no expectation to go into the club unless I want to see the physios or to get a massage.
That’s changed. Last year we did what’s called a Captain’s Run where we’d do a 15-minute training session to free up the legs.
Ross has brought over his idea of Friday being a rest and recovery day ready before a Saturday game.
I decide to go in and see the physios and then come back home for some down time. I don’t want to do too much, but if I go and sleep during the day it might throw me out for the night so I do some more study, some housework and watch a movie.
I use study to take my mind off thinking about the game and playing it before I get there.
I continue eating carbohydrates. I take it in turns with my housemate Jay van Berlo to cook because we have similar diets and body shapes.
It’s a relatively early night. I watch a bit of the Friday night footy, but it’s not a ritual. I’m in bed by 10pm. I’ll go to bed with a heat pack on my groins to help them out.
I’ll wake up about 8.30am. I’ll go out and walk around the park, have a big breakfast — usually baked beans on toast with a few eggs.
I’ll have a bottle of Aqualite with me at all times. I’ll do some housework or watch a movie and have a snack mid-morning. I eat an Up&Go or Cruskits with honey.
For lunch I’ll have a ham Subway, a sandwich or a little bit of pasta. I like to play on a lighter stomach.
The last time I’ll eat will be two hours before the game. I’ll snack on another Up&Go or a sandwich, muesli bar or banana.
I’ll have a rest for an hour from about 1.30pm. I usually watch a DVD. I’m watching How I Met Your Mother for the fifth time.
Before that it was Boston Legal. It’s OK if I doze off for half an hour, but I’ll set an alarm so I don’t oversleep. Then I’ll start getting ready.
I try not to think about the game before I get there. I’ll have a shower, put my Freo kit on and get in the car.
I’ll listen to my iPod on the way to the game. I get to the ground two hours before the game. We have 45 minutes until the first team meeting.
I usually waste time, go out on the oval, do a few bananas. I don’t like to get ready too early.
We’ll go into the team meeting and then I’ll start ramping everything up. I’ll get strapped, get a light rub through the calves.
The team meeting goes for 8-10 minutes. Ross will go through the final positions, anyone that’s in and out for the opposition, who will be the substitute.
We’ll have a few focus points up on the board. That meeting’s finished about an hour before the game. About 35 minutes before bouncedown we’ll go out and do an on-field warm up.
Then we’ll come back in, put our jumpers on and our mouthguards in.
I’m not sure what Ross will do today because it’s our first real game under him, but it will probably be a quick pump-up speech.
Then we run out onto the field. I always come out last. I’ve done it ever since my first six or so games for Fremantle.
Usually myself and Greg Broughton are the last two. I don’t really know why I do it.
I’m wearing a headband this year, so if I start playing terribly I might cut the hair off and go back to what I’m used to.
Once I get out there and start running around it will be exciting, but with that excitement comes the nerves of playing the reigning premiers in round one.
I’m sure every player will be nervous. It doesn’t get any easier.
I haven’t written down any individual goals, but I know myself the progression that I want to make this year.
We’re really confident with our pre-season and the game plan Ross has brought to us. He’s had success and the players have really bought into the way he goes about things and really trust in what he’s doing.
We’re confident that we’ve got it pretty right this year.
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