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

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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.

Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes columns for The Roar and has made his return to top level rugby with the Brumbies. Follow Clyde at his blog or via his Twitter page.
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