A positive start has been made to pre-season training by the Gundagai Tigers, with around 50 players attending the early stages of their campaign.
Returning first grade coach James Smart has been extremely impressed by the fitness levels maintained by players over the break and says there is a positive vibe at Anzac Park ahead of the 2016 Group Nine season.
“There are some really good signs. There’s been around the 50 mark which is really encouraging to see everyone’s enthusiasm at this time of year,” he said.
Pre-season is often one of the toughest times of year for players, though there seems to be no premiership hangover or lapse for the Tigers.
“At this stage we’ve started doing some running and getting a gauge on where everyone’s at with their fitness levels,” Smart said.
“There have been really positive signs there as well because everyone has come back to training in really good shape.”
“As well as the running, we’ve been doing a few different skill activities and different games to make sure we’re having a lot of fun at the same time.”
The fitness of Gundagai’s playing group was one of the key factors in breaking the 32-year premiership drought last year and Smart is hoping to build on that platform this year.
“The job for us is to try as best we can to pick up from where we left off last year and just keep that positive vibe going, which has made training even easier because everyone is enjoying themselves and when you’re having fun it makes coming to training really easy,” he said.
The coach rates the training period before the club’s first hit out in late February as an important factor for success this season.
“It’s huge. It’s the time of year where you’re not playing each weekend so you can really concentrate on a few areas you want to work on,” Smart said.
“For us, while everyone has turned up to pre-season in pretty good condition, it’s important that at the same time we build on that.”
“There is a bit of hard work to be done but I’m pretty fortunate going off the back of last year.”
“The club wouldn’t have had the success that they had if everyone wasn’t on top of things fitness-wise. Things flow on from there.”
The Tigers first test will be when they suit up to play in the West Wyalong knockout on the last weekend in February.
The club have also organized a trial match against Woden in Canberra on March 19, but the final details have yet to be finalized.
“We haven’t decided yet on how many grades we’ll be taking over,” Smart said.
“We just need to see what’s happening with Group Nine rep football because the Indigenous All Stars game will be on the night before.”
“I’m not to sure how many of our guys will feature in that game so depending on how many players are playing rep football that may have an impact on whether we play a reserve grade trial over there as well.”
After a year away from Gundagai and a year away from the game altogether, Smart has slipped seamlessly back into the club and back into the coaching role.
“I’m loving it. It’s just good to be back and in the club environment that I really did miss,” he said.
“The club’s been really good to me and all the players down there are really good to train with because everyone gets down there and does what’s required and we all enjoy it at the same time.”