With the NRL season set to restart on May 28, players and coaches have had to keep the foot on the accelerator in isolation to remain fit and focused.
To do this, players were given at-home training schedules and borrowed equipment from the club gyms.
They haven’t had an extensive coaching staff and high performance team running them through their drills like they usually would but that doesn’t mean they can slack off.
Coaches have kept in regular contact with players via Zoom. It’s a handy tool but Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire says it’s definitely presented some challenges.
“The big problem I have found is that you can’t multiply messages quickly,” Maguire told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Coaching is about one-on-one, face-to-face contact. When you are not with them, you don’t see the intensity.”
Maguire fears most for the younger players in his squad. They are at a crucial point of their career – and lives – and in isolation he isn’t able to spend as much time mentoring them as he’d like.
“Coaching via Zoom is an art, but how can you be sure the message got through?
“With the 18 to 20 year olds, it is a critical time of their lives and some of the coaching questions around their personal lives and family, you don’t get a lot of opportunity to ask on a one-on-one basis.”
The Tigers have a mixed squad. Veterans like Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence, right down to the next generation of talent like Tommy Talau.
Maguire has relied on his experienced guys to lead by example but while in isolation he’s had to trust that individually his players can push themselves.
“We’ve got 300-game players down to debutants,” Maguire says.
“When you’re not all together, you don’t have the older players pushing the younger ones.
“(Melbourne’s) Cameron Smith trains at such a high level that you have young players looking at him, saying, ‘That’s what I have to do to get to that level.’”
The current climate has got a positive though. Maguire says it’s put the onus back on the player.
“We’ve had to put a lot of trust back on the player,” he said.
“It has allowed the player to grow.”
Players are expected to return to training next week. It’ll be an interesting first day back when coaches get a first look at who has kept up their routine in isolation and who has slacked off.
While the rugby league community is counting down the days for footy to return to our screens, clubs will continue to face an uncertain time even when the season is back up and running.
The financial impact of coronavirus on the game is no secret. The NRL is expecting to lose millions in broadcast money, which will impact club funding.
Maguire fears that cost-cutting within the football staff at clubs will have a dire effect on the quality of the game.
“The chat around is that we will lose part of our budgets,” he said.
“If finances are going to be scaled back, we won’t have that specific coaching. It will affect the product on the field.”
“It means we won’t be able to produce the amazing athletes we have been seeing.”
The Matty Johns podcast: “I found myself three feet away on my arse”
Matty and the rest of the Johns clan are still in iso, like the rest of us. The guys talk through which biblical character you would be? What happened when Trish had Cooper and Jack and that Michael Jordan doco we’re all watching