Monday I had my first training session with Prahran AFC, where Rob Oliver is the reserves side coach. The wind blew relentlessly, but the skills were impressive. We did a large chunk of half ground ball movement after doing some handball and ground ball skills. We finished off with a goal kicking competition. I narrowly lost to my partner, which meant I had to do the punishment of 100 pushups, squats, and lying down butt-raises. Some of the winners opted to do some extra running while we did the punishment.
Tuesday afternoon Hannah and I went to the Westpac Center, the home of the Collingwood Magpies. We parked behind the Rod Laver Arena where the Australian Open is held. Rain lashed down on us, so we tried to find a shortcut through the parking lots out to the front of the arena. Luckily, we saw two men dressed in work clothes and asked them the quickest way out to the Westpac. They brought us underneath the arena and we saw a bunch of offices and some of the behind the scenes areas of the arena which was awesome and really lucky. Jonathon Bernard, the Digital Media Coordinator at the club greeted us and brought us inside. Then Shae McNamara, the clubâ€™s American recruit, brought us for a little tour of the facilities and explained what a normal week is like. He introduced me to Derek Hine, the head of recruiting. In his office were two players, Jarryd Blair and John McCarthy. I think they were a little surprised to find that I knew their names. Later Nathan Buckley walked by……. and not much more needs to be said about that. I also met Paul Licuria, former player and current team manager of the VFL side and got a picture. I have to give a shoutout to Jason, Domenic, and Wiggo in the video edits department because I told them where they could find my blog so hopefully they see this. Shae treated us to hot chocolate and we just chatted about footy, sports, Melbourne, Shaeâ€™s blog he plans to create, and a bunch of other things. It was something that will stick with me for life. I am really grateful to the Collingwood Football Club for having me and to Jonathon Bernard, Shae, Glenn Ormsby, and Hannah Oliver for the transport and picture taking.
Tuesday night I had my first session with the Melbourne University Blacks u19s. The ground was soaking wet making running no easy task. My skills were shaky at best when we started, probably from nerves and the rain. However, once we started a game simulation I stopped focusing so much and just started playing. I dropped a few marks, but also took some pretty good grabs, and I made some pretty good leads. I just enjoyed playing footy with people my own age. The boys were all very welcoming and we finished off with some snaps from the boundary line to get used to that type of shot in those conditions should we ever find ourselves in that situation in a game. Then Steve Cerni, coach of the u19s, brought me over to the senior training session to see how they went about preparing for an important game and assessing where they were at mid-season. Everyone spoke honestly about how they felt they were adhering to the clubâ€™s rules and beliefs. It was all very professional and impressive, but there were a few laughs mixed in as well. The way they approach footy motivates me to improve my own game.
Wednesday morning my groins were really tight. I think that it was due to how heavy my boots and socks were with the rain. I went for a walk to see a bit of the neighborhood and get familiar with the street names. In the afternoon I went to training at Robâ€™s club to get a rub down to try and loosen up those muscles. Apparently I do not have much flexibility in that area, so it is something I can work on when I have nothing else to do.
Thursday I participated in a little bit of training with the Blacks u19s. My legs still felt sore so I did not do too much. After training, the senior team had their selection meeting. Before they announced the team, though, they had a bit of fun at the expense of a few of the guys at the club. They also had a competition to see which volcano would win in a fight between last yearâ€™s eruption at EyjafjallajÃ¶kull, and this yearâ€™s eruption at Puyehue. Naturally, since the competition was judged in Australia, Puyehue won.
Friday morning Rob and I went to Collingwood training to watch how they go about their business. First we watched Shae and the reserves. It is pretty amazing that you can just waltz up and watch the top-level players of AFL train. Shae and I had a little bit of a chat about how he is expected to move on the field and where the ball moves. He told me who to watch during the senior session, too. By the time we finished talking we were about half-way down the path that goes back to the Westpac Center where the players come out and the seniors were making their way out to training. So I ended up walking back down the path right behind all the senior players like it was no big deal, but I was pretty amazed at how lucky I was with the timing of it all.
Saturday morning I had my first game with the Uni Blacks 3rd side. We were clearly fitter than our opponents, but they used their size pretty well. In the first quarter I fumbled the ball a few times from nerves and just not really focusing. The second and third quarters were much better and I hit a few leads and even had a goal after the second quarter siren. We won by a little over 40 in the end, and despite the ground being pretty soggy the boys moved the ball around well. The pace of the game is quicker than in New York so I am looking forward to playing with the u19s next Saturday which should be another step up in pace.
Sunday I watched footy and had dinner with Lisa and Keith and their kids who are in-laws on Kerrynâ€™s side of the family. Lisa is a great cook and I had my fill. The good food helped take the bad taste out of my mouth left by the Crowsâ€™ 52-point loss to Geelong. They probably cannot do any worse than their first quarter effort, so I am cautiously optimistic about seeing some good efforts for the rest of the year.