Northwind Coaches Bet on 'Team' Discipline and Fitness
Feb 16, 2011
So far in the Northwinds' campaign- in preparation for the 2011 International Cup to be held in Sydney and Melbourne in August 2011- the East based squad have been giving it their all. While the West based players have also been giving it a full 100% during their pre- season training sessions being held in Calgary and Vancouver. We started back in mid-November and in the East have had a squad of over 45 players training 4 times per month and working extremely hard. The squad dynamic has changed a great deal compared to previous I.C. campaigns; with 80% of the current squad being new to the program.
An East based leadership group was selected by the coaching staff with input from the current squad- and these 5 guys along with the coaching staff have been setting the bar high in regards to expectations from their team-mates. Demands have been made on commitment to the weekly training sessions; as well as squad members being asked to submit individual fitness goals and results to the leadership group and coaching staff. All fitness tests have been based around the A.F.L. draft camp testing requirements which include 3 km time trails, beep tests, skin-fold testing and agility tests. The fortnightly Dynamic Conditioning Centre boot-camp sessions have been brutal- with many guys recently deciding not to eat too much before getting along to training!
A squad of 30 will be chosen on March 27th as per the AFL's demands for the 2011 International Cup. This squad will consist of East and West based squad members. 10 emergencies will also be named and brought into the squad should any of the original 30 be forced to drop- out due to the monetary, time off from work during the tournament requirements or not passing fitness tests/meeting team expectations between April and August. As I have mentioned; myself and the West based Northwind coach- Stu Grills- have been working our squads extremely hard- as we are planning to take a team of fit athletes to Australia that can compete well with the likes of traditional power teams- Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Ireland. These 3 sides have several things in common; fitness, speed and fast ball movement. Long gone are the days were teams are playing 1980's style footy of kicking the ball long to a one on one contest in the hope for a clean mark and set-shot on goal. So as such- the Northwind squads are working diligently on fitness and a united team game-plan based around a strong defense with a floating zone that sets up attacks.
Importantly the game-plan forces us to work hard and fast upon a Northwind turn-over. So we push back hard to suffocate the space the opposition are working to free-up for their goal scoring opportunities, before winning the ball back and then counter-punching by moving the ball fast and with running numbers into our open forward line. Back in early January the east based Northwind leadership group sent out an email to all squad members which included one major point- that a maximum number of 3 training sessions could be missed without a realistic excuse/ reason by any player living within 50 kms of the G.T.A. Missing more than 3 sessions without reason simply meant that squad member would not be considered for selection. Slightly different selection requirements have been demanded from players based outside of the 50 kms of the G.T.A.- including those squad members in Ottawa, Hamilton, Guelph and Montreal. Also certain requirements need to be met by squad members currently located outside of Canada- including the 5 squad members who are currently living in Australia. Examples of requirements being submitted by these squad members are fitness journals and video footage of their club training.
The squad chosen on March 27th will be young, fit and compared to years past- inexperienced. But the team chosen will be just that; a team. United in every way and playing an exciting, yet accountable style of footy which has been developed from training together as a unit for 3 months and by the time the 2011 I.C. rolls around: 9 months. When that squad is finalized and the East contingent join with the players from Alberta and British Columbia; the squad will truly have immense football depth. Many of the East players names will not be familiar in O.A.F.L. circles- but these are the guys who have been busting their ar$es off over the last 3 months in an effort to represent their country- and they will do Canada proud and will be very deserving of their selection and most importantly; fully understanding of the team game plan and their roles within it.
The squad we will take to Australia need to be adaptable; but also reliable in certain positions. It would be easy to pick the best 30 players in Canada based on "stats" and flashiness during a regular season game. But this would mean we would take a squad of 10 forwards and 18 midfielders and 2 defenders. This won't work; as we need natural disciplined back-men; as well as forward line and midfield players with that defensive mind-set. Why? Simply because in an International Cup the standard is very high. The opposition will have the footy for 50% of the game. So we need to plan for this. We train as if we don't have the ball and we want to get it and then score. We don't train as if the game will always be played: "Ruck wins tap to Rover. Rover kicks to Full-Forward. Full-Forward marks uncontested, stops, goes back and slots a goal- repeat!".
Of note here is that many guys stand-out during a one-sided game of footy during the home and away season; but go missing in finals when the heat is turned on and a more defensive team mindset is required in those lower scoring finals games. Each I.C. game will have the intensity of a final- so the squad will be chosen with this in mind.
The squad will also be very evenly spread. Rotations within the 24 chosen (outside of a settled back 6) for each game will be many- think of Ice Hockey- where each player will be expected to run them-selves into the ground and then rotate off-field quickly and then recover and be ready to go again 4-5 minutes later. This includes the deep forwards; who are expected to chase down from behind any opposition player in front of them in possession of the ball. This is done by the deep forwards so the high half-forwards and midfielders can hold the formation of the floating zone. Some names to keep an eye on leading into the 2011 O.A.F.L. season...
· Pablo Pineda Willis from the Hawks. Played in the backline for the Hawks in 2010- but the basketball star has been catching everything in his role as one of the 2-2 forward line hit-up targets over the last 3 months. Extremely fit and just keeps presenting.
· Edsart Heuberger from the Dingos. Another name many won't know; but the 6 foot 6 jumping jack has been dominating practices and not missed one session since November. Kicks long and accurately- super hands and working well in tandem with Pablo.
· Kyle Graham from the Quebec Saints. Made the drive across from Montreal several times for the Northwind sessions and his hands have been strong. He always extends his arms to catch the ball away from his body. Very neat and accurate left foot disposal both when open and also when under pressure.
· Justin Settle- while well-known in O.A.F.L. circles due to his strong captaincy with the Wild-Cats; the Northwind team "quarter-back" is always setting up the next play or getting in as third man up to help his fellow defenders. Think of the role Heath Shaw plays with Collingwood.
· Alex Flipowicz from Guelph. Fit and strong. He will be the classic in and under midfielder who will go un-noticed by the opposition- but his team-mates love his physical presence around the coal-face. Fast accurate hands followed by big space providing shepherds.
· Andrew Boyce from the Kangaroos. Precise, disciplined and determined are words I would use to describe Boycey. Won't get beaten one on one and will then hit a target coming out of the backline when he has the footy in his hands. Plays the percentages. The perfect back-pocket.
I encourage all O.A.F.L. players, coaches, fans, etc.- to come along this Saturday to U.C.C. at 530pm to watch a Northwind training session.
Get behind the current East based squad members and support their push to represent the O.A.F.L. in Australia this August; as part of the Canadian National Australian Rules Football team- The Northwind!!!