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 @ 8:55am
      FX Gatto said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      If Clyde finds he’s lost a step when he gets back to playing S15, it matters little. Looking at the top 10 teams in the world there’s quite a difference in the comparative pace of the 20 wingers. It’s more important to be smart about attacking positional play, anticipation and solid defence – three attributes he possesses in abundance – than it is to be a grass scorcher. I expect him to be a standout for the Bs, and to be solidly in line for a return to the Wallaby squad. We’re going to be needing his kind of experience and guts for the Lions.

      Note to all union players – don’t put too much stock in Lombardi and his grumbling platitudes. He’s exactly the kind of Captain Bligh we can do without.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 9:27am
      Sandgroper said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Clyde ,

      Some points I’d like you to cover would be:
      The best mentors and why they are/were the best in your opinion.
      The hardest teams to play against and why
      How the team keeps its cohesion going and how do you deal with the inevitable doubts that creep in to one’s game.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about FX Gatto’s comment about using the Vince Lombardi quote. The quote you used is about Lombardi’s most intelligible one in a string of bloopers.

      Thanks for opening up to us. I wish you well (until you play the Western Force of course) Cheers

    • January 10th 2013 @ 9:40am
      Hightackle said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Good luck Clyde.

    • Columnist

      January 10th 2013 @ 9:57am
      Brett McKay said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:57am | ! Report

      Welcome back Clyde, and great to hear you’re on track again. Hope to catch up around HQ sometime soon. Maybe even today?

    • January 10th 2013 @ 10:13am
      JamieJ said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      Always interested to read your articles Mr R. An articulate and well-worded description of the life of a professional athlete.

      A topic I’d be fascinated to hear about is a players perspective on the pressures faced by those on the brink of Wallabies selection and the dramas (if they exist) between doing what’s best for the club on one hand and doing what it takes to catch the national selectors eyes on the other.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 4:32pm
        Go the Wannabe's said | January 10th 2013 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Yeah, please throw in an article on selection in national teams and the part politics plays in sport…..I’d like to see that!

    • January 10th 2013 @ 10:30am
      Jim said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      When I look at the training regimes that continue to be used in Australian rugby it is not surprising to see the injuries. Proper functional strength and power work needs to be the core of the weights programs used. Instead many sides (and many League sides) continue to use structural strength work. By it’s very nature structural strength and power generates imbalance in the body and significantly increases injury risk. There is good data and growing experience that the a focus on proper functional movements is the ney to building strength and power with reduced injury. Put simply, this means, no machines in the weights rooms.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 12:09pm
        RedsNut said | January 10th 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        Agreed Jim.

        My son is only 60Kg, but you should see the heavy things that he can lift on his own. Staggers me at times.

        IMHO, – the creation of bulk for bulk’s sake seems me to have a correlation to the number of injuries.

        Does each person have their own optimum for bulk, before injuries become an issue???

        • January 10th 2013 @ 2:24pm
          Jim said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

          one of the challenges is convincing the old school that strength and power dont equate to bulk. In fact often bulk gets in the way of power. Remember that Power is the amount of force in a given time. Yes size has an impact when momentum comes in, but it cant be at the expense of power. You need to get the individual athletes balance right between power and size. Also depends a lot on their position and style of play.

          Plenty of people will look at strength and size data. But the reality is that power is by far the most important. Harder to measure, but vital. Doing lots of reps of structural excercises can easily increase size and strength. But unless you are using functional movements you will struggle to convert that strength into power. Also increase risk of injury.

          It is why the Franks Brothers own a crossfit gym. Becasue they undertstand the need for power in their game. and that comes from Olympic lifting.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 3:05pm
        jameswm said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:05pm | ! Report


        Can you please explain to this lay person the difference between functional strength and structural strength? I’m interested in the subject.


        • January 10th 2013 @ 4:09pm
          Markus said | January 10th 2013 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

          I don’t claim to be an expert, but at its simplest it is a focus on developing strength in ways most beneficial to performing a real-life activity, as opposed to developing strength for strength’s sake.

          A common example would be the bench press. It has been used for a long time as one of the primary measures of strength development, when realistically the strength it builds is so limited to just a few select muscles that, by itself, it offers very little benefit to any activity besides more bench press.

          • January 14th 2013 @ 10:54am
            Jim said | January 14th 2013 @ 10:54am | ! Report

            Functional strength and functional training is about training groups of muscles through movements that relate to real world activities. This means that as well as just building the big mover muscles, you are developing all the small control muscles,coordination, complimentary muscles groups, balance, etc. Building strength from a functional perspective is often done with olympic lifting, pull ups, kettlebells etc.

            Structural strength and structural training is more like what body builders and a lot of trainers that charge by the hour do. It focusses on one particular muscle group at a time. It means you have to do lots of different individual excercises to get strength and function for complex real world activities. THis means that it is easy to miss the little control muscles or to get muscles groups out of balance. Structural work often involves machines and excercises like inclined leg press, bicep curl, etc that isolate a single muscle group.

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