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The perils of pre-season AFL training and the players you can't afford to lose


An AFL premiership is never won at the end of January, but plenty are lost at this time of the calendar!

An injury hiccup for any player at the end of January makes you real nervous. Sure, you can be confident if you’ve knocked off a couple of months of hard training but across the next month, teams will begin to hone in on the physical side of the game.

The next month or so is when players nail down contested marking, full on tackling, endure more game specific and match simulation drills… they’ll lay almost everything on the line to ensure they themselves and the team as a whole are on the right path toward Round 1.

Slip ups cost you a season at this time of the year!

A night out leads to poor sleep, and poor recovery leads to a soft tissue injury during a 35 degree, 14km training session.

A niggle is treated like a long term injury… you’ll be nursed back to 110% health, meaning you’ll likely miss plenty of match simulation and maybe even the only official practice match that is on offer!

Then, all of a sudden, you are entering Round 1 off the back of little-to-no match practice and uncertain how your body will cope with being behind the rest of the group and the rest of the competition.

Get everything right, have 44 healthy players leading into February and March and the world is your oyster.

Clubs often know what’s in store for them for the upcoming season based on the health and readiness of their squad.

The key number is 80.

Have 80% of your playing squad complete 80% of the pre-season and you’re in a good position to attack the season.

Begin to have a handful – or more – dip below 80% training completion and life gets invariably harder from there.

Because injuries come and go, players will play most of the season with niggles and knocks. We know that – and they can overcome that, but beginning the season with knocks and niggles compounds your inevitable issues of the future.

So, from a health and wellbeing perspective, what do you want to see happen for your squad… who do you least want to see pop up on with a ‘hammy strain’ or a ’niggling calf complaint.’

For my Cats, maybe it’s Mr Everywhere Mark Blicavs.

For Richmond, seeing Tom Lynch miss a month is what I least want to read about.

For Sydney, maybe Isaac Heeney is the one I want fully healthy entering season 2023.

Is Nic Naitanui still the guy out West? Or have we reached the point where an Oscar Allen is the one we need fully wound up?

You tell me! Your club is ramping up everything.

Match practice, contact training, tackling, marking, running, change of direction, mechanical work… who are you praying comes through unscathed and in perfect condition?

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