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Coburg captain Nick Carnell takes through a typical week in the life of a VFL footballer

Reported by Nick Carnell
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EVER wondered what it’s like to play VFL football? We asked Coburg captain Nick Carnell to write a diary detailing a typical week.

Here is what he came back with.


WE HAVE just walked off Chirnside Park after a disappointing 55-point loss to Werribee.

Vice-captain Ben Clifton sums up the day: “one quarter of good footy doesn’t allow us to compete at this level”.

At our team meeting, coach Peter German is disappointed with the way we went about it as well. He highlights some keys statistics that let us down and some focus areas for our next match. Peter’s main message is we will continue to search for the right people as it is the only way we as a club will improve.

After the meeting, it is time to commence rehabilitating. Trainers, physiotherapist’s and our high performance team fill the room to ensure all players refuel their bodies and attend to any injuries. Our weights are taken to assess how much fluid we have lost throughout the game, which then outlines the amount of fluid we must replenish our bodies with over the next two hours. After this, foods with high proteins are supplied and players have ice baths and showers before after match presentations.

Monday, July 6

TRAINING is at Piranha Park and the list is broken up into three separate groups for a compulsory weights session.

The main focus for our recovery sessions is to get the body moving again and review the weekend’s match with the aim of continuing to develop as individuals and as a group. Our video edits have been are loaded on the computers in the ‘Learning Room’ and each player takes time to review their own game with their line coach. This is an opportunity for players to seek clarity on the area of their game they need to work on and for coaches to highlight any specific trends they may be finding in a players’ game.

A light running and skill session occupies 30 minutes of our training tonight, managed by the high performance team led by James McConnell. After this, it is back into the ice bath, before heading into our team review.

Peter is forever repeating that Monday night is the most important training session, as it is where we do the most of our learning. All 50 players attend to watch presentations from each senior line coach followed by a short presentation from Peter which includes several video edits.

Every fortnight, the leadership group meets.

These meetings provide an opportunity for the senior members of the team to plan and monitor the development of the playing group. We discuss the progress of each player, along with our alignment as a club with our team values. We also use this forum as opportunity to provide each member with 360 degree feedback about their leadership performance.

Tuesday, July 7

THE demands of playing VFL are becoming more ruthless. Competing against full-time athletes on a weekly basis, it is vital that all VFL players manage their time to progress their careers or studies at the same time as training to a high level. Tuesday night is a non-compulsory session, yet every player would be doing something to assist their football. Tonight I go for a light 4km run and do a weights session.

Wednesday, July 8

THIS is our main training session for the week. It starts at 5.45, but most players are at the club by 5pm to do weights or watch more vision. Peter usually builds our main training drills around some fundamentals that we were poor in the previous game and some areas to focus on for the coming week.

Tonight involves a lot of one-on-one competing and defensive transition drills. After ice baths and massages, all players under 22 years of age move into our development academy meeting. Each week, they have a guest speaker come to the club to assist with off-field development, with this week’s a financial planner.

Meanwhile, coaches move into match committee, which is a pretty intense couple of hours. The high performance team present a report comprising of a full team list with all injuries and monitored programs.

Our opposition coach, James Belcher, provides a detailed analysis of this week’s opponent — Sandringham — with edited footage, some key facts and the Zebra’s ball movement patterns. We then pick this week’s team. Due to injuries and past performances, changes are both guaranteed and welcomed.

The 10-strong committee deliberates for an hour and a half until we feel confident our team is balanced and will be competitive against Sandringham.

Coburg captain Nick Carnell is wrapped up in a tackle earlier this season. Photo: David C
Coburg captain Nick Carnell is wrapped up in a tackle earlier this season. Photo: David Crosling

Thursday, July 9

WELCOMED night off. I spend it at home and cook dinner.

Friday, July 10

OUR last training run prior to Sunday’s game. As we enter the rooms, a huddle has formed around the whiteboard which has squads displayed on it. This time of the week always brings mixed emotions, with some players included in the line-up and others omitted.

Peter uses the Friday night session to educate and implement drills based around the skills and structures that we will use to combat Sandringham during Sunday’s game.

The assistant coaches work within each different zone to specifically touch on focus areas for the game ahead. Our high performance team conducts some last minute testing on players that are under an injury cloud, which today forces three late changes. Match committee reconvene and the final side is selected.

James Belcher conducts a 45-minute presentation on Sandringham for the players, including footage, statistics, specific match ups and team line-ups. Players ask a lot of questions during this. Peter then reiterates the importance of preparation ahead of Sunday’s game.

Saturday, July 11

DAY off ahead of the big game tomorrow.

Sunday, July 12

THE weather conditions are terrible as I get to Sandringham. From arrival time to our pre-game meeting, players get strapped or speak with assistant coaches about their roles. The main meeting commences and the feeling in the room is different to the past couple of weeks.

Peter has simplified his message, and asked questions of the group — ‘Have we come with the required energy?’ and ‘Have we come with a team first attitude?’ are two.

Our starts have been an issue over the past month, yet this week our first quarter is our best for the year. It is not maintained, though, and while we fight out the game we fall 15 points short. We know we have let one slip. The boys are guttered.

We put in the effort but got no reward due to some costly mistakes. Peter commends the boys as we leave, but you still feel disappointed by the result. Some people outside football find it strange, but the difference between winning and losing on the weekend has a massive impact on how your week plays out.

Your body hurts a lot more Monday morning after a loss. Tomorrow, we will be back to the club though to recover and refocus our attention to our next challenge. The Lions live to fight another day.

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They train 4 nights a week?

That's a big commitment for anyone who's past dreaming of being drafted to the AFL... It's no wonder our clubs lose players to local footy!