Not rocket science, but it is science
Nominated: Suki Hobson of the Bombers. Photo: Pat Scala
SUKI Hobson doesn't gild the lily when discussing the season from hell in Essendon's hurt locker. Given her expertise - strength scientist is the 34-year-old's official title - a plague of soft-tissue injuries, while clearly not ideal, presents the kind of conundrum she finds ''absolutely fascinating'' to dissect.
This time last year the British-born Leeds University graduate was part of Geelong's flag-winning fitness team. Now at Windy Hill, Hobson is a member of the most scrutinised strength and conditioning unit in the AFL, working again under Dean Robinson, who first lured her into Aussie rules ranks from a position at the Queensland Academy of Sport and whom she followed from the Cats.
In the running to be named football woman of the year today, a prize awarded annually at Essendon's grand final week debate function in Melbourne, Hobson is being recognised as a pioneer. She says with pride that she is the only female in the AFL doing what she does.
Hobson cut her teeth in sport science working at the English Institute of Sport and has played a hand in preparing athletes for the past three Olympic Games. Equipped with a degree in sports science and physiology, she came to Australia nine years ago. Then, after landing a job at the Queensland Academy of Sport, she made a big impression for her innovative work in rehabilitating anterior cruciate ligaments - the ''rock star of injuries'' in her terms. NRL star Andrew Johns was one of Hobson's major success stories, and Carlton's Jarrad Waite was an early AFL guinea pig following knee surgery in 2009.
A year earlier, Robinson had heard Hobson speak at a conference and was so impressed that he invited her to consult at Geelong before she joined the club at the end of 2009.
''My job is to write, coach and implement the strength and power program across the whole club, and ultimately that is overseen by Dean,'' Hobson says of her current position with the Bombers.
''Strength coach just doesn't really cover what I do … the science side of it is huge, the analysis side, the use of monitoring systems, the blood analysis.''
Despite recent analysis, Hobson gives the impression that she and her Essendon cohorts are no closer to resolving what went wrong on the medical front in 2012.
She outlines the facts candidly: the Bombers were bulked up over summer, Mark Thompson had a lot to do with the directive, and injury after injury ensued.
''I didn't think the pre-season that Essendon had was anywhere near as hard as Geelong's last pre-season,'' Hobson says, with firsthand knowledge of what both clubs did and when.
''I don't think they lifted anything near as heavy as Geelong lifted last year.
''I sat down for an hour with James [Hird] going through all the weights programs and he was like 'I could do those', so it's not that.
''The size they put on was all before Christmas, and the two who put on the most size were [Jake] Melksham and [Travis] Colyer and they've not been injured … I'm sure we could have done the same thing and had no problems.''
Hobson has admired how her immediate boss, Robinson, has endured the blowtorch: ''We found it very hard as a team to watch Dean being victimised, for want of a better word, when everybody's involved.
''Situations like this I find fascinating,'' she says. ''I try not to take things personally. I've learnt a lot from my last couple of years that if you do you're not going to last very long. It's all performance based, so if we don't perform we don't stay. It's not rocket science.''