by Michael Whiting www.afl.com.au
WHAT started as a trickle has quickly turned into a flood of teams heading to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for pre-season training camps.
St Kilda made its first trip north during the past week and will be followed by Hawthorn, Greater Western Sydney, Collingwood, the Brisbane Lions, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne before the pre-season finishes.
That’s seven clubs – or close to 40 per cent of the competition – choosing to head to the tourist hotspot 100km north of Brisbane.
But why has it become so popular?
It wasn’t that long ago altitude training was all the rage and teams headed to the United States in their droves – think Collingwood, North Melbourne, the Lions, Gold Coast, Essendon and St Kilda.
Port Adelaide bucked the trend by travelling to Dubai before the 2014 season, citing growing evidence that heat training was just as beneficial as altitude training.
The Hawks have been regulars on the Sunshine Coast through their premiership years, while the Demons, Bulldogs, Lions and Giants were all there last pre-season.
In simple terms, it’s a great region to take sporting teams as you’re almost guaranteed great – hot – weather, there’s no fuss from the locals and there’s excellent training facilities.
Also, as St Kilda director of coaching Danny Sexton said earlier this week, there’s no disruption to training at either end of the trip – in contrast to an overseas camp.
But it’s more than that.
While the other six clubs head to Maroochydore, the Giants will station themselves 40km north in Noosa before they split for the Christmas break.
Head of athletic performance David Joyce said travelling to the region was both a physical and mental stimulus.
“My belief, and I think science is starting to back it up, is the effects from heat acclimation training is as good, if not better, than altitude,” Joyce told AFL.com.au.
“And the fact is we don’t have a lot of altitude in this country, so if it’s 50-50, you go somewhere hot.
“Sydney is hot at this time of year, but what Noosa gives us is greater exposure to humidity, which will help us in the early and late months of season.
“Altitude training is clearly effective, but when you look closely at the research, altitude is effective for a short period, and you need to do it over an extended period of time to get that physical adaptation.
“So at the end of the day, is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Joyce says the notion of the pre-season camp is crucial for development in other areas that simply physical preparation, particularly leadership.
“It’s not just an opportunity to flog the boys … it’s a holistic way of looking at athletic preparation and leadership,” he said.
“Our grounds are fairly strongly based in science and leadership principles. It’s hardly surprising there’s a trend that way (in the industry).”