The toughest pre-season yet.
It’s been well documented how brutal the first month of pre-season training has been at nib Newcastle Knights HQ.
Tim Glasby described it as being “up there” with the toughest he’s ever done. Jacob Saifiti said it was a “shock to the system,” while Connor Watson explained it as being “really tough”.
The coaching staff have made no apology for pushing players to their limits, and the results being served up by the squad certainly back up the change of methods in regard to how the Club looked to attack the pre-season block.
One of the masterminds behind the new workload, Head of Physical Performance Balin Cupples, claimed the way the coaching staff are testing players has changed slightly from previous years.
“The detail we’ve looked at across the first month has been a little bit different this year,” Cupples said.
“We’ve gone into a little bit more detail in terms of all the factors we’re doing, both con wise and skill wise.
“That’s video, that’s GPS data, looking at the games we’re playing, looking at where individuals are sitting within their position groups, and the players definitely know where to get information about where they sit each day.”
With the players data being continuously fed back to the coaching staff, Cupples is able to better tell who the top trainers are each week, as well as who needs to step up.
“It varies across the week,” he said.
“Some of your consistent performers have been guys like Barney (Mitch Barnett) and Josh King, who’ve been leading some of those middles’ groups.
“For your adjustables, Connor (Watson) set the standard really high to start with, and now there’s a few guys really hitting his heels or nearly overcoming him in these last couple of weeks.”
With the Christmas break fast approaching, Cupples described the next few weeks as being critical for the squad to take training to another level before they break up for the holidays.
“As you go through a pre-season each individual hits a fatigue cycle at different times, where you’ll see some guys will peak for a few days and then drop for one, and that’s where the teams sitting at the moment,” Cupples said.
“We’ve just come off that first four-and-a-half-week block, we’ve held for a week, and now we’ve got to really go for this next three to get the most out of this pre-Christmas phase.
While getting the body right and prepared for the intense nature of a full NRL season is motivation enough, sometimes it's competition for spots which pushes players to the next level.
After all, a squad of 30+ doesn’t fit into a 17-man NRL side.
“Some of the OB’s (outside backs) like Bradman and Star have really made a fist of this first month,” Cupples said.
“Some of the edge backrowers like Lachy and Sione, they’re a group that need to compete because we don’t have many in that position group, but they’ve been competing strongly.
“It’s not really standouts because it varies across the week, but the consequences and consistency in what’s been measured, the players definitely get a sense of it.”