Raiders again look to rival code, this time for injury solutions
On the clock ... Terry Campese and Sam Williams. Photo: Colleen Petch
CANBERRA'S coaching staff will tour the facilities of AFL club Hawthorn on Wednesday as they continue to fine-tune a recovery system they believes can solve the club's injury woes for good.
In recent seasons, the Raiders have been riddled with injuries to key players, with the likes of Josh Dugan, Terry Campese, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Brett White spending long periods on the sideline.
Under the watch of new strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones, the Raiders have devoted plenty of time to analysing the player welfare methods of some of the best teams in Australian sport.
Two weeks ago, Ashley-Jones joined coach David Furner on a visit to the headquarters of AFL premiers Sydney, who beat Hawthorn in last year's grand final. They will tour the Hawks facilities before Canberra's opening trial match against Melbourne, at Geelong's Simonds Stadium, on Friday night.
Ashley-Jones, who signed with Canberra after a stint with English rugby union side Sale, is implementing a system he hopes will help the Raiders emulate the Storm and Canterbury, last year's grand finalists, by fielding close to their best side each week.
''It's no secret the Raiders did exceptionally well last year [despite] their injuries,'' Ashley-Jones said.
''Through a bit of good luck and good management, if we can improve those rates and get our best team on the field for 20 to 22 games a year, we're going to be really hard to play.
''Our No.1 word has been intensity, we've really worked the boys into the ground and we want them to be able to say no one is working harder than us. We've worked really hard on getting the boys to another level fitness-wise.''
Ashley-Jones said he walked away from the Swans visit satisfied the Raiders were on the right track in terms of sports science, recovery and rehabilitation.
''The last thing you want to happen when you go somewhere is think you're a mile away, we walked away pretty happy,'' he said.
''What we did pick up, which is why Sydney Swans win, was their culture and the way the senior players set the standards.
''You could smell it. We're [a] young [team] and that side of it will come, but we realise it's the only way and Melbourne is the most famous example rugby league-wise.''
Every aspect of Raiders training is monitored in extreme detail, and recovery and rehabilitation programs are individually tailored for each player.
''We've spent a lot of time on monitoring, every session is GPSed, hydration is tested most days, and we've got a new computer system which analyses their well-being,'' Ashley-Jones said.
''Fitness levels are expected to be greater, we're spending a lot of time on rehab work and the club's invested more on the physio side.
''We have a recovery system based on what fatigue you have, you do a different kind of recovery.
''We believe we've nailed the schedule to give the guys the best chance of recovery possible, but also be right for the game each week.''
It already appears to be reaping dividends with the Raiders squad in healthy shape before the trial with Melbourne.
''I've got to give Dave a rap on that, it's so easy for the coach to say no, but he's backed the system,'' Ashley-Jones said. ''The players have really welcomed me with open arms and grasped the new systems with massive enthusiasm, and I hope they get the rewards they deserve if you count it on effort alone.''