TRAIN FOR THE AFL DRAFT – Words by Michael Grbac, Essendon Physiotherapists and Strength and Conditioning Coach

Are you hoping to train for the AFL draft one day?

With the AFL draft combine testing all completed for another year it is useful to look at the extents some athletes go to get that edge over their competition.

While some lucky few have natural skill and athleticism, not many possess the full set of attributes required to make the cut for AFL team selection. As a result, many athletes seek to improve their shortcomings by seeking extra training to improve their weaknesses to allow them to shine to selectors both during the year and at the combine.

Apart from the main skill based tests such as goal kicking, kicking efficiency and decision making, the selectors also look at the physical attributes that make up an athlete.

There are 4 main areas they look at:

  • Endurance (via the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test and 2km time trial)
  • Power (via the Vertical Jump Test)
  • Speed (via the 20m Sprint Test)
  • Agility (via the AFL Agility Test)

While shining in one or more of these tests can be a big tick for selectors, getting into the top 10 doesn’t just happen. In fact, it requires discipline and hard training.

We had one young draft hopeful start with us mid way through last year. Indeed, Lachlan Sholl showed a new meaning to the word dedication and perseverance. Despite his busy training and school schedule, Lachlan made every effort to make it down for training 1-2x per week. After seeing him on the football field, it was evident that he lacked endurance. This was especially clear with repeated high intensity runs. Furthermore, his running technique was very flat footed and heavy. Therefore, he also needed work to improve his speed. This was underpinned by the fact that he needed more muscular strength and power to help him accelerate and change direction more effectively.

Over the course of the season and leading into the combine testing, Lachlan worked diligently. As a result, he managed to amaze us with a top 10 result in the Yo-Yo speed endurance test and achieved a PB time on the 20m sprint. This was a testament to his commitment to our strength and conditioning sessions and the outdoor speed sessions at MCAP.

You cannot have speed or power without strength. Therefore, in the strength sessions we focussed on his maximal strength and power. By using velocity-based monitoring we were able to focus on maintaining speed and thus power through all main lifts. As he was in-season we were unable to do much hypertrophy training (to build muscle size).  If Lachlan had been with us in his offseason he would have aided his speed and power development, but nonetheless we still managed to increase his strength and power sufficiently over his course of training.

In contrast, on the field we worked on fixing his acceleration mechanics. We did this by focussing on how he applied force to the ground and the direction to which he applied force. This change in technique allowed him to run with more efficiency and achieve faster speeds of acceleration. Furthermore, we also minimised his injury risk. He also followed an extensive running program to build his anaerobic endurance. As a result, this shone in his brilliant efforts in the combine.

Now imagine if he had started at the end of the 2017 season what he could have achieved.

Don’t wait to get started.

Michael Grbac, Essendon Physiotherapist & Strength and Conditioning Coach

Michael has both a Masters in Strength and Conditioning and is a practising physiotherapist.

Michael has conditioned AFL players and those at an elite sport level in juniors in Basketball, Australian Rules, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis and Athletics. Michael has also been an Australian team physiotherapist at the 2015 IAAF Bahamas World Relays. Level 2 ASCA, Level 2 IAAF Athletics, Level 1 Weightlifting.

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