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North Melbourne's high hopes

Snow business: Brad Scott and North players at their Utah training camp.

Snow business: Brad Scott and North players at their Utah training camp. Photo: kangaroos.com.au

SOMETIMES in AFL football you have to go that extra mile. It's what North Melbourne's players have been doing at their training camp in Utah this past fortnight. And it's what their coach Brad Scott has done, too. Literally.

Scott was there with the Kangaroos to kick things off upon their arrival in Deer Valley, Park City on a Friday night after 17-odd hours in the air. The next Monday evening, with the national draft looming, he headed home again.

The return flight arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday. The next morning, Scott caught a flight to the Gold Coast for the draft that evening, and first thing Friday drove to Brisbane to catch a plane to head back to Salt Lake City, via Los Angeles. Needless to say, he's now the full bottle on the latest movie releases.

“No big deal. It's just a schedule,” says the North Melbourne coach, once again in Deer Valley, of his own version of Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

“I was really strong on everyone being here on day one. I wanted our leaders to set the right example, and it would have been hypocritical of me to say I was going to wait for the draft, then come over. This camp is critical, but so is the draft, and I wanted to be there to support our recruiters as well.”

Scott is speaking a couple of hours before the half-dozen products of that draft mission – Taylor Garner, Ben Jacobs, Mason Wood, Mitchell Wilkins, Daniel Currie and Taylor Hine – arrive to join the rest of the group for the remainder of the annual gruelling three-week mission, now in its third year, and a selling point to them Scott was proud to use.

“One of the first things I did when I arrived at the club was to make a commitment to the players to come into an environment where we were genuinely going to provide them with the best opportunity to win and to provide the resources for that,” he says.

“I was concerned years ago that if a young 18-year-old listened to the draft and heard his name called out by North Melbourne, he'd be disappointed and wishing he went to a bigger Melbourne club. Whereas now, I think we provide them with great facilities and terrific resources to be the best they can be.

“Everyone who has played AFL footy remembers their first training session. It's a pretty daunting experience, but to be able to immerse themselves in this environment for two weeks, I think they'll come back from Utah feeling like they've been at the club six months.”

Soon after their arrival, while the rest of the group are preparing for another intense day of skills and running, the kids are out in the elements, setting out at 7am for a three-hour hike through deep snow alongside Scott and assistant coach Darren Crocker.

Utah has become like a second pre-season home for the Roos, one in which they have formed tremendous working relationships with the US ski team and other elite athletes who use the high-altitude settings as a training base.

Scott concedes that in the AFL, high-altitude training camps in the US have become almost a cliche.

This off-season, Essendon and St Kilda have done theirs in Colorado, Carlton and Gold Coast were in Arizona, while Collingwood, after years training in Arizona, is about to become the second AFL club to make Utah a training base after the Roos.

“I suppose we could be flattered by that,” he chuckles.

“I can't speak for other clubs, but we come here for very specific reasons, and all I can say is that I've had experience at different clubs, and what we're doing here is very different to what I've experienced in the past.

“Our focus has evolved a little bit. Originally, because we had such a young group, the camp was designed around educating them about how we wanted them to live their lives, and because being so young, aerobically we weren't as good as we needed to be. We wanted to fix that, and I think we've made some pretty significant improvements. But while still a key focus for us, now it's more of a pure football camp rather than just an aerobic base building camp.”

The Roos have had the footballs out a lot more this time, four days out of five, leading to an obvious question, couldn't they do the same thing at home? Scott is prepared for that one before it arrives, pointing out for good measure that this trip is funded largely by players and staff, costing the club itself “next to nothing”. “And we're here for the right reasons. If it was just about bonding, we'd be down at Torquay or somewhere.

“We're probably working at a higher intensity this time than we in have previous camps. A lot of our physiological testing has shown that the improvements we've made, the altitude has had a significant effect on. So, you're looking to pick up your program, take it over here and do what we'd be doing in a football sense at high altitude. The guys are tolerating a higher workload at even higher altitude than they've been at in the past, so the improvements are really clear to us.”

Scott notes a resolve among the group to continue to build on the form last season, which took North Melbourne into its first finals series for four years, apparent in the efforts of a 30-year-old, 12-season veteran in Drew Petrie, and other leaders like Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell.

“You'd think that this time of year someone like Drew is probably not looking forward to it and just thinking: 'Mentally, how can I get through another pre-season', but he and the others are really driving what we're doing here, not just getting through but really driving the direction in which we want to head, and the other guys are really following that lead.”

There's been enough time, too, for the odd social activity, many of the players having a few days ago taken in an NBA game between Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.

Mostly, though, it's been work and more work. Enough rest as is possible when you're trying to build fitness levels good enough to cope with the increasing demands of an AFL season. And the inevitable, for this time of year, lingering feeling of fatigue.

“You can take all the scientific markers which gauge players' recovery,” says Scott, “but as one of our great contacts here said, If you really want to know how your players are feeling, by far the best test you can do is to ask them'. So I'm doing that all the time. Most of the time they're a bit sore or a bit tired, but the most common response I get is: 'It's pre-season, I'm feeling how I'm supposed to feel'.”

Scott says North isn't kidding itself that having made finals, it now sits indisputably among the best teams in the AFL.

“We proved in the second half of the year that we can play some good footy, we beat Collingwood, Adelaide and some good sides, but I still think there's a lot of work to do before we talk about ourselves being in the top half of the competition.” But the Roos intend to do everything humanly possible to be able to say that sooner than later.

“If you speak to any club this time of year, they'll say they're training really hard and fitter than they've ever been,” Scott says. “But the game continues to evolve, and the changes to the rules are going to make it even more demanding on players, so in terms of improving their ability to run, it's a never-ending battle.”

One, though, that North Melbourne, now an old pro when it comes to a concept only a few years ago a complete novelty in the AFL, is giving itself every chance of coming closer to winning.

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($2.40)vs GWS ($1.57) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all
 

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