The Raiders want to learn about Hawthorn's training techniques. Photo: Robert Prezioso
The Canberra Raiders coaching staff will tour the facilities of AFL powerhouse Hawthorn on Wednesday as they continue to fine-tune a recovery system they believe can solve their injury woes.
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.
New Raiders strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones. Photo: Graham Tidy
Two weeks ago, Ashley-Jones joined coach David Furner on a visit to the headquarters of AFL premiers Sydney Swans, who beat Hawthorn in last year's grand final.
They will tour the Hawks' facilities before Canberra's opening pre-season trial match against Melbourne Storm in Geelong 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 NRL heavyweights Melbourne and Canterbury 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 20-22 games a year, we're going to be really hard to play.
''Our number one 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 confident 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.''
The Raiders have thrown plenty of money into ensuring the players are given the best possible chance to be at their optimum level each week. They have 25 GPS units.
Every aspect of training is monitored in extreme detail, and recovery and rehabilitation programs are 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 wellbeing,'' 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.''