After being forced to rough it in scrub last year, the youngest Crows were understandably nervous about what the 2013 development camp would hold in store.
Survivors of the Strathalbyn Camp, Brad Crouch, Sam Kerridge, Luke Brown, Mitch Grigg, Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Nick Joyce, Rory Laird and Dylan Orval still held horrible memories of the two freezing nights they spent in the wilderness.
Fortunately for those second-year players and the Club’s newest recruits, Sam Siggins, Rory Atkins, Kyle Hartigan, Tim Klaosen and Jack Osborn, this year’s camp had a vastly different theme.
On the Friday before pre-season training resumed, the group – accompanied by Leadership Development Manager Paddy Steinfort and Development Coaches Matthew Clarke, Peter Jonas, Tate Kaesler and Heath Younie – jetted to the Gold Coast.
“There was a little bit of fear amongst the players based on what happened last year,” Steinfort said.
“We kept them in the dark again this year just to keep them on their toes, but when they found out they were going to the Gold Coast I think they were pretty relieved.
“Still, right up until we arrived at the place where we were staying they were waiting for the curveball … and it never came. We didn’t really smash them physically. It was more about learning.”
A far cry from the tents and trees that provided shelter in Strathalbyn, the group checked into a sports excellence centre for two nights. Instead of taking the players out of their comfort zones, the development team tried to instil the importance of professionalism into their young charges.
“The whole focus of the camp was on building the habits of professionalism. The young players usually pick up those habits along the way, but we want to fast-track them,” Steinfort said.
“Particularly with the draft sanctions we received, we can’t afford to have draftees take four years to turn into pros. We need to turn them into pros quick smart.”
With this goal in mind, the players were exposed to some of the “world’s best” athletes and coaches in several different sports. The group was particularly rapt to meet London Olympic gold medallist in the K4 (kayaking, 1000m) Tate Smith.
“Tate told us his story and offered his views on what sets him apart from the rest of the field in his sport of kayaking,” Steinfort said.
“We also spent a morning with Northcliffe Surf Lifesaving Club, who recently won the World Championship, and heard from the coach of the Australian men’s gymnastics team, John Curtin.
“The underlying theme we spoke about at the start of the camp was what we could learn from other sports in terms of professionalism, and what the common link is between the world’s best athletes. One of the common themes was training hard. Some of these athletes have a bigger training load than our players do, and many have full-time jobs. That was a bit of an eye-opener for some of the young guys.
“There was also a theme that, whether you’re in kayaking, surf lifesaving or gymnastics, you have to work with each other even though in some cases they’re individual sports. These guys are all trying to make their own mark, but in doing that it helps to have other people around you working towards the same goal.
“We’re looking for our players to become more conscientious at training, and to concentrate and work harder more often. We want that to be automatic rather than them waiting for a coach to give them a rip.”
The players gained a greater appreciation for surf life saving after a morning in the choppy surf. A former junior surf lifesaver, Cam Ellis-Yolmen was the standout but even he battled with the tough conditions.
Draftee Sam Siggins said he was happy to leave the surfing to the experts.
“The waves were pretty big and a few boys got smashed in it. One of the Northcliffe guys even broke his board,” Siggins said.
“It was pretty scary, and it was full on watching the pros do their thing afterwards, knowing what is was like out there."
Siggins said he’d enjoyed the opportunity to spend the weekend with his new teammates.
“After hearing about last year, we didn’t know what to expect from the weekend, but it was more like a bonding session,” he said.
“It was good just to spend some time away from footy with the other first and second-year players. I feel like we’ve become a bit closer as a group after the camp.”
It was a big week for the first-year players, who flew straight from the Gold Coast to Melbourne for the annual AFL Player’s Association Induction. The two-day seminar incorporated education sessions on issues such as respect and responsibility, gambling and general life skills and wellbeing.
The group of more than 100 players also walked away with i Pads.
“That was pretty cool. Some of the older boys here were a bit angry we got i Pads. Tex Walker joked that he was pretty much paying for us to have an i Pad,” Siggins said.
“It was a good couple of days though. It was eye-opening, hearing from past players who had left the game with no money. It was good for us young guys who are new into the system to hear that.
“It was really worthwhile.”