Well, we’ve finally got a few moments to sit back and write about our our first week in Melbourne. Our itinerary has been jam-packed, with only a few hours here and there to spare. Here’s what happened during our first week.
Northern Lights Support Staff
At our first team meeting, the Northern Lights were introduced to our support staff. I was shocked and surprised at the experience and talent that has volunteered their time, effort, and expertise to help us on our quest to win the International Cup. Along with our head coach, we have 3 assistant coaches (forward, midfield, backline specialists), 2 specialist coaches/runners, 1 player liaison, 1 strength coach, 1 trainer, 1 statistician, 2 team managers, 2 physios, 1 masseuse (and however many hands she can get during the day). This totals around a 15 or so people who can help us manage both our physical and mental side of the game.
Daily Training at Port Melbourne & Ocean Recovery
Along with our support staff, another resource that was set up for both our teams was daily trainings at the amazing grounds of Port Melbourne, a club currently at the top of the VFL ladder. We trained every morning from Monday, August 4 to Friday, August 8, alternating 9am and 10am start times between our two teams.
Then, after training we had the pleasure of ocean recovery! What’s that? Well, that’s exactly what it sounds like! Both the men’s and women’s teams have had the pleasure of wading waist-deep in the freezing, cold ocean for 10 minutes! Apparently these sessions reduce muscle inflammation and decrease muscle soreness after heavy training sessions. I had been dreading the ocean recovery sessions even before I left Canada, so the first one was pretty rough. So far we’ve made it through four ocean sessions… and I am not looking forward to the last two!
Northern Lights Guest Speakers
In between training and ocean recovery, the Northern Lights also had multiple guest speakers come in and talk to them. These presentations were given from highly respected members of the AFL community, and I was grateful to have that level of experience give their time to come and talk with us. Over the course of the week, the Northern Lights had the following guests:
- Michael Vozzo, AFL Assistant Umpiring Coach
- Gave us insight on the rules of the game and the umpire’s perspective
- Damian Carroll, Hawthorn FC Development Coach
- Told the story of Hawthorn’s loss in the 2012 AFL grand final and the importance of their focus for their ultimate win in Horgan 2013 AFL grand final
- Andy Collins, Williamstown FC Senior Coach
- Stressed the importance of keeping the game plan simple and playing for your team mates
- Leigh Russell, Hawthorn FC Specialist, Facilitator and a Counsellor and FOX8’s The Recruit Psychology Coach
- Explained the mental barriers athletes experience and spoke briefly about common cognitive disorders
Team Bonding and Social Events
If you are sensing a trend here, our days were pretty packed during the first week. There was training in the morning, recovery/rehab sessions mid-day, team meetings in the afternoon, and usually some sort of team bonding or social events during the evening. Here’s what we got up to…
On Tuesday, August 5, all 3 teams were divided into teams of 6 to do a Melbourne Amazing Race. Essentially there were 80 or so Canadians in bright red jackets running around downtown Melbourne, asking people where certain statues were, what Korean messages meant, and if they had tattoos below the waist. As you can imagine, this “fun day” for 80 national athletes ended up being fairly competitive and most teams ended up running an extra 8km that afternoon. My team came in first, beating out the second place team by just one minute! Steve’s team was the first men’s team to finish, with an overall placing of third.
In one of the evenings we had free, a few of us went to St. Kilda at dusk to search for fairy penguins. Each night fairy penguins return from the ocean to their nests. We were delightfully surprised and were able to see around a dozen or so penguins up close (and for free)! Afterwards we found a pub called Big Mouth and had the best, cheapest, and largest dinner of our trip! The chicken parma (a Melbourne must) was HUUUUGGGGEEEEE! We ended our trip in St. Kilda fare visiting one of the many cake shops in the area and getting Spanish hot chocolate as thick as molasses.
We also were able to make it to 3 footy games at the MCG:
- Collingwood Magpies 11.10.76 defeated Port Adelaide Power 10.10.70
- Richmond Tigers 14.11.95 defeated Essendon Bombers 11.11.77
- Hawthorn Hawks 17.13.115 defeated Melbourne Demons 9.11.65
We ended off the week at Port Melbourne who had put on a BBQ for us. This meal consisted of some traditional Aussie football club staples, such as dim sims (Asian dumplings), burgers complete with a fried egg on top and sausages.
Next blog post will be updates from the start of International Cup! Stay tuned!