There’s always one AFL footballer each year who enjoys his festive turkey (or turtle) too much.
Inevitably pictures surface of their sagging gut stretching out training guernseys in post-Christmas sessions. Nick Stevens and Lance Whitnall are previous offenders in this January football tradition. This year it’s a Crow who appears to have let himself go.
Yes, that low-slung roof over the toolshed in the front page graphic belongs to Graham Johncock, who had been on a personalised schedule training away from the main group during December. Evidently it wasn’t punishing enough to keep his abs hard, judging from pictures taken during January 5 training, the first day back for about half of the AFL clubs. The Crows training report on BigFooty also contains a lot of praise by Adelaide fans for Jared Petrenko, and if Johncock’s fitness doesn’t improve the two players may end up fighting for the same spot on the Adelaide depth chart as the third small defender. Johncock’s best form is better than anything Petrenko will be able to manage at this stage of the kid’s career, of course, but Neil Craig is the league’s greatest stickler for fitness. Stiffy is pushing the wrong buttons and Craig may lose patience sooner rather than later.
Over at Port Adelaide training, covered by the official Port site, the real preseason star continues to be new fitness coach Cam Falloon, whom the players are all raving about. Pity he can’t be drafted to your Dream Team! Oh yes, and Kane Cornes. A word of warning on preseason time trials: they are no indication whatsoever of performance in AFL games, let alone fantasy potential, so read nothing into them. Being a club report it’s mostly positive, but the item about Shaun Burgoyne suffering from hamstring tendonitis is bad news. That’s the sort of injury that means you’d be wondering about a recurrence all season if you bought him for your team. On the bright side, it was good to not see Chad Cornes‘ name in the list of those excused from the time trial.
At Punt Road it seems impossible for Ben Cousins not to be the subject of conversation, with coach Terry Wallace admitting that Ben was a month away from full fitness. Big deal! Most players are at least a month away from full fitness, that’s why they call it a pre-season. This only becomes an issue if he’s not fit to play any NAB games. He may well not fly to Perth for the Fremantle game in round 1, but you’d expect to see him either in the later rounds of the Cup or in Challenge games. Elsewhere at Richmond training, add Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls to the rehab group list after shoulder surgery. Wait, why am I even talking about him? Let’s move on to more important matters.
Better news from Carlton training, where the Adam Hartlett knee cartilage scare from last training appears to have been overblown with the unlucky bloke back to training in a fortnight. Personally, I was never going to consider him due to his injury history and this only strengthens my resolve, but those of you still holding a candle can keep watching the flame flicker. The only other chatter among Blue fans seems to be about Chris Yarran, who discouraged a certain minority of watchers by coming last in the time trial around the Tan (the winner was Andrew Walker). He does have the excuse of that ankle injury and I, for one, am not worried. To be perfectly honest, some kids just aren’t good trainers. Yarran’s got the body type that may not burn up the track but can turn it on for the real stuff.
At Eagles training, the rehab group was well stocked, though Daniel Kerr went on to impress during skills work – plus the rumour is that he’s off the grog! Interesting to note that Tom Swift was the only draftee to train with the main group. Given his poor injury record in his WAFL career you might think he was a classic project player, but he’s worth keeping an eye on for round 1 calculations.
At Melbourne training, despite previous reports John Meesen was still just running laps, while Brock McLean has graduated out of the rehab group. Much fan comment surrounded Liam Jurrah, who trained with the club for the first time on Monday and evidently needs a lot of work on many aspects of his game, not the least of which is his English, as it’s his fourth language! As expected, he’s strictly a project player. By the by, telling the playing group that they’re at the start of a five year plan just confirms in my mind that Dean Bailey is not cut out to be an AFL coach. That, or Chris Connolly’s influence is spreading mediocrity and a losing culture just as he did at Fremantle. It’s a poor time to be a Demons supporter.
Still very early doors for most clubs, and we’re a month away from the first NAB Cup game. Anything catch your eye amongst that lot? Tell me in the comments, particularly if you’ve been to an AFL training session yourself recently.