New nib Newcastle Knights Physical Performance Manager Tony Ayoub has one of the most impressive CVs going around in Rugby League.
Over the last 28 years he has worked with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Melbourne Storm, Cronulla Sharks, Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons, NSW Origin team and the Kangaroos.
Ahead of the 2017 season he has linked up with the Knights, and is looking forward to the challenge of working with a young squad.
“Good people like Matt Gidley (CEO) and Darren Mooney (General Manager of Football) being involved drew me to the Club,” Ayoub explained to Knights TV.
“I’ve known Nathan Brown for a long time as well, and just the pitch that they gave to me about where the Club is headed helped as well.”
The Club currently has six staff members in the physical performance team, and Ayoub’s main responsibility will be to make sure that the department meets the needs of the coaching staff.
With two sports scientists, two physiotherapists and two strength and conditioning coaches beneath him, Ayoub will also be taking a hands-on approach to the physical development of each player.
“From a performance and recovery perspective, I’ll be making sure that we’re ticking all the right boxes,” he said.
“In terms of the large amount of injuries last year, we’ve certainly identified some risk areas.”
The Club certainly had a bad run with injuries to the first grade side in 2016, and Ayoub said that this is something that will be addressed ahead of 2017.
“I was told when I first started that there are 24 blokes under the age of 21, and that’s a real tough task,” Ayoub explained.
“It’s now about putting some good systems in place and this year the players’ bodies are one year older.”
And while the youthfulness of the squad last year meant that some bodies were unprepared for the rigours of NRL football on a regular basis, Ayoub says now that the young players are becoming accustomed to what is required, there is a new opportunity present.
“We’ve got an opportunity to shape them and mould them into what we want, and I think they’re going to have built some resilience with what they did last year,” he said.
In his short time at the Club so far he has been impressed by the character and professionalism of the younger players, but said that it was Sione Mata’utia who has caught his eye the most.
“I met Sione coming into the Australian side as an 18-year-old two years ago,” he said.
“He was a really quiet kid, and now he’s a confident young man and his body shape’s changed.
“He’s a leader at a really young age, so hopefully with time we’ll see some big things from Sione.
“But there’s lots of really good young kids here… the Saifiti boys are impressive young men that hold themselves well.”