RATHBONE: Pre-season training, interchanges, and the Rath returns

Clyde Rathbone Columnist

By Clyde Rathbone, Clyde Rathbone is a Roar Expert

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    June 6, 2005. Clyde Rathbone during Wallabies training in Coffs Harbour. AAP Image/Bruce Thomas

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    I thought I’d kick things off slightly self-indulgently and update you on how my comeback to rugby is tracking.

    Operation comeback got off to a rocky start when I experienced a hamstring tear a few weeks after resuming training with the team.

    This was followed up by ankle surgery late in October, which further slowed my progress.

    I admit that at times I’ve questioned the sanity of my decision to play again, but these moments quickly pass when I consider things in perspective.

    Nothing invigorates the mind like challenge, and somewhat ironically, I’ve learned that it’s often the obstacles and hardships in life that give meaning to our conscious experience.

    Happily, I’ve been running for a few weeks now in an attempt to make up some lost ground and I’m on track for the trial matches.

    Though injuries are never welcome, I’ve been in good company over recent months due to a number of players recovering from surgery or other injuries sustained during training or carried over from the past season.

    Brumbies Rugby has created a new staffing position in appointing a full-time rehabilitation specialist.

    Given the unavoidable nature of injury in the modern game, this is a smart move that facilitates a players’ transition between initial treatment with the physiotherapists and training under the guidance of the athletic performance coaches.

    Being part of the rehab group often seems like a “groundhog day” blur of boxing, rowing, gym, swimming and time spent in our newly acquired sandpit.

    Getting properly fit is great, but every player wants out of rehab and back into full training as quickly as possible.

    After all, rehab is for quitters.

    Pre-season is as much a mental battle as a physical one.

    A good friend of mine likes to quote Vince Lombardi when he says: “Those with the most invested are the last to surrender.”

    Pre-season is where you invest so that you never roll over during the season proper. And the boys have invested well over the past few months.

    Some serious gains have been made and I have no doubt we’re going to arrive well prepared come round one.

    In one of my first columns for The Roar, I made the case for rugby to implement a league type interchange. The incredible injury tolls so many teams experienced during 2012 has only solidified my opinion.

    I’m still waiting to hear a plausible solution to the growing injury problem in our sport.

    In my mind, there exists only two reasonable ways to reduce injury in the modern game: either we must reduce the number of games, and/or training, or increase squad sizes to allow for a more aggressive rotational policy.

    Given that it’s not commercially viable to reduce the total number of matches or significantly increase squad sizes, in the short-term we must turn our attention to training.

    The reality is that rugby is increasing in its physicality, speed, and ball in play time.

    This means that to properly prepare teams to be competitive for the duration of a season, players are pushed to the brink and often beyond that which the human body can tolerate.

    An interchange rule would not wipe out injuries in rugby but it would allow training volume to be reduced.

    If coaches know that they can replace a fatigued player with a fresh one, the simple reality is that players will be required to run less.

    And running less in football boots on hard surfaces whilst often weighing well north of 100kg translates into less injuries.

    Roarers, as this is my first column for 2013, I thought I’d ask for your assistance. Coming up with interesting topics to write on is a never-ending task, and though I’ll write on subject matters I’m most interested in, I would love to get some insight into what Roarers prefer to read about. At the least, I’d appreciate the ammunition in my duel with writers block! Please leave a note in the comments with some ideas for me to write about.

    Clyde Rathbone
    Clyde Rathbone

    Former Wallaby & Brumby Clyde Rathbone retired from rugby in 2014. Clyde is a writer, speaker and technology startup founder. A Roar columnist since 2012, you can follow Clyde via his Twitter page.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • January 10th 2013 @ 3:43am
      Billo said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:43am | ! Report

      The growing size of players, and the inevitable growth in the incidence of injury, is the greatest threat to the future of the game.
      Good luck, Clyde, with your comeback.
      When you came from SA to Oz I thought you’d have a glittering career, but it was curtailed by injury.
      I hope you are much more fortunate this time around.

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2013 @ 4:18am
      biltongbek said | January 10th 2013 @ 4:18am | ! Report

      Clyde can you tell us how your relationship is doing with Jake white please?

      If I remember correctly you guys had a fallout when you left SA?

      Are things fine now?

      • January 14th 2013 @ 11:21pm
        Dadiggle said | January 14th 2013 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

        This time he can’t run away to another country. Argentina and IRB made sure of that. Wonder if Jake shown him how a World Cup winners medal look like?

        • March 11th 2013 @ 9:33am
          Slowpoke said | March 11th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          He’s probably already seen Gregan’s or Larkham’s or Joe Roff’s.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 5:40am
      Fatty said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:40am | ! Report

      Clyde some issues…
      Difference in physicality of game at S15 and Test level now compared to when you first came to Aust. Implications of this change on the expectations on juniors to get to this level?
      How to expand the game at grass roots level? I am from a country town in the Brumbies area of NSW but we are getting swamped by AFL and soccer. Similar in western Sydney.
      Who really runs the show in the S15 franchises from a playing/tactics point of view? How important are all the various other coaches and how significant their roles …eg attack/defence/restart/forwards/backs/kicking coaches
      As an ex insider in the Wallaby camp…how would you be planning to play/beat the Lions and then AB’s this year?

      That’ll do to start….

    • January 10th 2013 @ 7:57am
      nickoldschool said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Always interesting to view a professional player’s views on injuries incidence in the modern game.

      I still think some players are more injury-prone than others full stop. Sure the number of games/year is important but not that important imo. A physical player like Ma’a Nonu is rarely injured for example. Team docs and coaches should know their athletes well and adapt training sessions to them. When i read what docs/coaches do in the top 14, it seems they prepare their players so they can last the full season, i.e 10 months. You can’t be at your peak for that long and i think they manage the players quite well. SR is a 4 months sprint on the other hand and teams have to be ready from day 1, and i have the impression coaches want to maximise what their players can bring and have them at full steam as early as possible. Probably rush things a bit and overload training sessions.

      The goal of always having bigger and stronger players could also be an issue. Nonu is naturally a 100-110kgs, strong player. Others aren’t and had to go through huge workloads to transform their body. Eventually, injuries do arise more often imo. Some players (backs) are not meant to be 100kgs big hitters. why want to transform them?

      • January 10th 2013 @ 11:10am
        Bakkies said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Nick, Super Rugby has changed from being a 4 month sprint in to a more NH style war of attrition which forces coaches to use their squad more. Previously coaches needed to pick their best XV every week as you couldn’t afford to drop more then 4 games at least to try and make the finals off your own back. Now you need to rotate more and develop new players to get them up to speed.

        Currently the Australian squads are far to small and have had their academies taken away from them. That’s not helping the players, coaches and teams. Bill Pulver needs to look at this and part of it is to get a better tv deal next time around to provide the Super Rugby teams with more funding. This will help give them back their academies and to increase squad sizes. Ireland has a similar funding and contracting set up along with the player management system for the test players (which Deans is trying to push)

      • January 11th 2013 @ 12:06am
        Parra said | January 11th 2013 @ 12:06am | ! Report

        Palu is a physical player too!

        • January 11th 2013 @ 9:38pm
          Bakkies said | January 11th 2013 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

          When he isn’t on the medical table.

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2013 @ 8:35am
      B-Rock said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      The Brumbies are on the right track with beefing up the support staff to deal with injuries.

      I dont think there is much that can be done about the incidence of injuries – the hits are just too big and the game too fast now – they are a fact of life

      The key is getting players back quickly and minimising the risk of re-injury. Im no medical expert but these two things tend to be linked i.e. players get rushed back then become reinjured a few games in… Im sure there are a number of factors involved in the recovery process beyond just time. This is obviously the line of thinking with appointing a rehab specialist.

      Good luck for the season Clyde – good to hear from you again on the roar

    • January 10th 2013 @ 8:44am
      MadMonk said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Isn’t the experience from other sports that more interchange means bigger faster players. Which means bigger impacts which often means more joint injuries.
      Rugby, NRL and AFL all wrestle with this dilemma.

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