We spent a couple of days with AFL team the Western Bulldogs at a pre-season training camp in Lorne, Victoria. The team were there as part of a four-day camp that involved team building activities, problem-solving, and a teams time trial on the bike, all topped off with an individual time trial up Skenes Creek.
We spoke with Mathew Innes, the Western Bulldogs Physical Performance Manager, to give an insight into how the team use cycling as a fitness and team-building tool.
Western Bulldogs Physical Performance Manager - Mathew Innes
Mathew and his Physical Performance Team use cycling as a cross-training modality at least once a week. "This time of the year we're just trying to build some load into the players, increase fitness, and build some resilience for later in the season," says Mathew. Some of the older guys and those in the rehab group will do it even more.
"It's a good way to improve aerobic capacity without the running load in their legs."
The weekend was mainly a team building activity with a fitness element to it. As Mathew says, the team aren't going to improve fitness that much in four days, but working together as a team to complete their various challenges will hopefully have season-long benefits.
Mathew and the coaching staff love the philosophy and approach to cycling. "Everyone is working towards a common goal. People sacrifice their own performance to help the team or other individuals", he says.
With 18 players on the ground and four additional players on the bench, football is very much a team game. "Not everyone is kicking the goal, but in the end, if everyone works towards the team goal and sacrifices for the good of the team, that helps everyone."
"Some players love it, some players aren't so good at it"
Jake Stringer confirmed this about 2 km into the 9.5 km 5.1% gradient Skenes Creek climb. "I'll give you $5,000 to drag me up the hill... $5,000!", he says half joking, half serious to us in the van.
Coach - Luke Beveridge
Luke isn't a rider but admires the approach of sacrificing for the good of the team that is inherent in cycling. He likes the philosophy of the sport, which is basically an individual pursuit for glory within in a team environment, similar to football in some respects.
At the Q&A the team had with Cannondale Pro Cycling rider Simon Clarke and legendary cycling commentator Matthew Keenan, Luke was certainly full of questions and curious to understand more. There's no doubt Luke highly values the teachings cycling can offer and hopes his team embodies them during the season.