The rapid improvement of the Club’s young players has kept the Crows veterans on their toes this pre-season.
Despite being on modified training programs prior to Christmas, experienced pair Ben Rutten and Scott Thompson have posted personal-best results this summer.
Rutten, who missed most of last pre-season with a foot complaint, has focused on improving his mobility in line with the increased speed and demands of the game. Physical Performance Manager Nick Poulos said Rutten had benefited from a rigorous cross-training program.
“Truck (Rutten) has lost a couple of kilograms, but he’s also more powerful in the gym,” Poulos said.
“He looks lean. We’ve still got to chip away at his footwork and agility to keep him sharp, but his movement out on the track already appears a lot better.
“He’s got a huge training base behind him, so we managed him leading up to Christmas but his physical conditioning shows he’s still done a mountain of work, just not as much on his legs.”
Thompson, who turns 30 in March, played every game last year on his way to All-Australian honours and a second-straight Club Champion crown. The star midfielder has missed only two matches since round one, 2005.
Poulos said the Club had also managed Thompson’s training load to ensure he was ready for another full season at the elite level.
“We managed Thommo early on and he’s come out the other side better for it,” he said.
“He did a personal best in his five-minute run after Christmas. He’s done far less volume of training than the other guys, but the type of training he did has paid dividends. You only have to look at him to see how fit and strong he is, he looks very good.”
Adelaide’s oldest player Graham Johncock, 30, has also approached the pre-season with renewed vigour. A substitute in the Club’s preliminary final loss to Hawthorn, Johncock has shed four kilograms to be the lightest he’s been (82kg) since 2005.
“Graham’s going well. He understands that the younger players are going to keep improving and that if he doesn’t go with them, being a bit older now he’ll get left behind – it’s the same with all the senior boys,” Poulos said.
“We’re trying to manage him without breaking him. He came back after Christmas in really good condition. We asked a bit more of him again and he’s responded. He’s training really well.”
Promising teenager Brad Crouch is tipped to establish himself as a mainstay in the Crows side this season, but he isn’t the only young player pressing for selection.
Second-year Crows Sam Kerridge, Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Mitch Grigg and Rory Laird are all eyeing AFL debuts, while inexperienced midfielders Aidan Riley and Jarryd Lyons are also better positioned after another pre-season each.
“Even though a lot of those guys are only in their second year, they set such high standards for themselves,” Poulos said.
“Curly (Ellis-Yolmen) is blowing personal bests out of the water across the board. Sam Kerridge is a beast … he benched 130kg last week. He’s just an incredible all-round athlete and a real leader in that 1-3-year group.
“Crouchy is coming along great guns. We have to hold him back a bit. He always wants to do too much too quickly, and with another couple of years under this belt he’ll be something special. Rory Laird is another guy, who is coming along really well. Mitch Grigg has put his nose down in terms of physical performance and has gone to another level, and that’s showing out on the field.
“All those guys have great attitudes to training.”
The second and third-year Crows have also taken it upon themselves to mentor the Club’s newest recruits. Poulos said draftees Sam Siggins and Rory Atkins and rookies Kyle Hartigan, Jack Osborn and Tim Klaosen had learned the culture and standards required from their young teammates.
“It’s an infectious environment. I’d be surprised if anyone coming in wasn’t affected by that enthusiasm and attitude … it’s pretty special,” Poulos said.
“Kyle has done a higher percentage of work than the other first-year guys because he’s had a longer training history. We’ve still had to manage his work load because it’s a different volume and intensity than what he’s used to, but he’s fitted in well and is going to be a monster in the gym. He’s dropped a few kilograms of, I guess you’d call it, ‘puppy fat’ and is starting to look like an AFL athlete.
“I’ve been really impressed with Sam Siggins. He has a great training ethic, as do the alternate sports guys Tim Klaosen and Jack Osborn. We’ve had to pull them back a bit at times, but they always want to do more. Rory Atkins is a bit cheeky. He’s extremely talented, but we’ll have to manage his program and build both he and Sam up slowly, so we don’t break them down in the transition to AFL.”