These are the people who are responsible for making sure Port Adelaide sends out a team which is in peak physical condition to play each week.
THEY are the people behind the scenes.
And they are responsible for making sure Port Adelaide sends out a team which is in peak physical condition to play each week.
While there has been much debate about the value and credibility of sports science department’s at football clubs in the past 18 months due to the very public Essendon supplements saga, behind closed doors at the Power I have witnessed the meticulous work which has gone into making our team tick.
And trust me, we are still ticking, despite talk that the players have run out of gas.
Our recent form slump has nothing to do with fitness issues, with all the key in-house statistics showing we are running as far, as fast and as powerfully as we were when we were sitting at the top of the table after round 14.
None of the core stats show we are fatiguing.
Our head of high performance, Darren “Burgo’’ Burgess, has been given much of the credit for having us run on top of the ground.
But below him there are a group of high-quality, experienced people who are preparing elite athletes in an era where a point of a per cent can mean the difference between success and failure.
As the AFL continues to evolve and become more professional, the importance of each club’s fitness department cannot be understated.
The introduction of an interchange cap, substitute rule and regular short breaks between games have only increased pressure on fitness staffs to fine tune their players.
The data collected at football clubs on a daily basis is astonishing.
There is the heart rate check the players must undertake three times a week as soon as they wake in the morning, the hydration checks pre-training and a wellness survey twice a week.
This, along with wearing a GPS unit — which tracks how quickly and how far we are running — attached to our backs at every training session and game, as well as a perceived exertion rating for everything you do and a player starts to think he has a group of stalkers on his tail.
But it is all in the name of sports science.
It takes just one individual meeting with Burgo to realise how much he loves collating data and showing off his latest graph to track player outputs and specific workloads.
One glimpse into the office of Stuart Graham, Port’s head of sports science, and it hits you between the eyes as to how much time goes into collating all the GPS data and how he works with players to improve their running patterns in games.
Graham has joined the Power from the Australian Institute of Sport after completing his PhD in sports science.
Plenty has been spoken about Burgo’s impact at Port in the past two years but he is flanked by a very committed and knowledgeable team.
Every time a Power player steps into the gym at Alberton he is met by a team of professionals who have prepared an individualised session for him.
Each session starts with 10 minutes of exercises designed to prevent injury or improve critical areas.
This is followed by strength exercises that usually involve improving core strength and power through your legs and upper body.
Our sessions are crafted by Ian McKeown, an Irishman who worked at the AIS before joining Port two years ago.
He holds a PhD in strength and conditioning and with this knowledge he has the complete trust and respect of the playing group.
Our long-term injured men Jarrad Redden, Brent Renouf, Campbell Heath and Sam Colquhoun have been in the good hands of our rehab man Jarrod Egan.
Egan has been with the club for three years after having previously worked with the Crows, North Melbourne and Scottish soccer powerhouse Celtic.
His job is to make sure our injured players return from injury ready to play.
He works closely with the medical staff, which includes physiotherapists Tim O’Leary, Michael Wilson and Mike Heynen.
Wilson, a 2004 premiership star, has worked at the club for two years and has been a perfect fit, completely his professional tasks while also being able to relate brilliantly with the players because of his background.
O’Leary is our head physiotherapist who has been working in the sports field for many years, including at English Premier League club Tottenham.
The players work very closely with the trio to get treatment on sore spots or undertake stretching and massaging work to prevent injuries.
Every player is meticulous with his diet and skinfolds.
The last thing an AFL player wants is to be carrying excess fat, especially when the average midfielder covers 15km of territory a game.
This is where our performance nutritionist and strength coach Andrew Rondinelli comes to the fore.
He looks after our diets and tries to keep our skinfold readings in the 40 to 50mm region.
He also works around the clock to make sure everything else in our lives is in order and can often be seen kicking the odd floater to the boys on the sidelines.
Burgo is a firm believer in meticulous planning and execution of an elite training program.
He is one of the best in the business and, along with his team, has ensured we have had a good injury run this season and been one of the fitness teams in the league, which has given us an advantage.
Players’ reliance on the input of sports scientists has corresponded with the AFL becoming more professional.
Players are leaning on their fitness professionals and working on ways to improve their game by gaining advantages in basic areas such as recovery techniques, dietary requirements, alcohol consumption and training programs specialised to the player’s position and needs.
The result is improved personal and team performance and a better game all around.