Deep heat: Nathan Buckley will consider a "heat camp" in the Middle East in the next few years. Photo: Ken Irwin
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has questioned the merits of expensive high-altitude camps, declaring the Magpies have almost completed a comprehensive pre-season program on home soil.
The Magpies this campaign opted not to head to the US, where they regularly ventured under former coach Mick Malthouse, former head of sports science David Buttifant and in the first years of Buckley's tenure.
While admitting high altitude delivered a ''two or three per cent'' increase in pure fitness, Buckley said remaining at Olympic Park and the Westpac Centre had delivered a rounded routine that had included fitness, game-plan development and leadership testing.
''We have had a really consistent training block, especially pre-Christmas,'' Buckley said on Saturday. ''The fact is, inside the Westpac Centre, we finalised the upgrade probably halfway through last year; we got the hydro pools. So this is the first pre-season we have had with all our facilities available.
''Clearly, we wanted to focus on other elements as well. We identified that we needed to develop leadership and we wanted to get consistency of environment as much as anything.
''The fact that we didn't have to jump on a kite and waste a day and a half to get to the States, then a day and a half coming back, three or four days off to recover - we just got some really consistent training. It felt like we had been able to get more volume and more consistency as a result.''
After an intra-club clash at the club's family day on Saturday, Buckley said the Magpies were thinking about sending their players to a ''heat camp''. Port Adelaide fitness boss Darren Burgess has espoused the benefits of training in the searing heat of the Middle East.
''We really don't care what anyone else is doing. We are keenly aware that we can develop our players and our list and the way that we play our football in many different ways,'' Buckley said.
''Finding 2 or 3 per cent at altitude … is unquestioned in a fitness sense. Technically, we are trying to increase haemoglobin at altitude. You get the benefits of that when you come back. It helps you train harder for the next week, which makes you a bit fitter, and then it's a ripple effect - that's really what the altitude theory is.
''We believe we have been able to tip in really good volume here. We have not discounted the possibility of going to altitude, we are looking for a heat camp at some stage in the next couple of years.''
As the equalisation debate intensifies in the AFL, that the Magpies opted not to head abroad should mean clubs with less resources do not feel as if they need to stretch an already tight budget to match the overseas training programs of their cashed-up brethren.
While the re-signings of Dane Swan and Heritier Lumumba gave the Magpies reason to cheer on Saturday, young defender Adam Oxley was carried off the field on a stretcher during the intra-club match with a suspected leg fracture. Oxley, who played two matches last season, was taken to hospital for scans.
In a match where the Magpies played eight periods of nine minutes, recruit Jesse White was strong up forward, while the ball-carrying Clinton Young, having endured a wretched first season at Collingwood because of injury, was impressive.
''We are obviously looking at him [to play] through the wing and half-back and he can even play as a high forward at times. He has great running power, great penetration on that left foot,'' Buckley said.
Adding that Lumumba, formerly known as Harry O'Brien, would be used in defence, on a wing and in the midfield this season, Buckley said he was happy with how the Magpies' defensive objectives were progressing.
''We wanted to see some elements of our defence that we have been working on and we did see that,'' he said. ''We are just starting to see it all come together from potentially putting pressure on the ball but also supporting the defence down the field a little bit. Getting that balance right is important for us.
''I thought our back-half ball movement last year was a highlight - we are continuing to do that. We just have to find that connection inside 50 a little bit more.''