They say what goes on the footy trip, stays on the footy trip.
However, when it comes to the pre-season Bootcamp it’s open slather for weird drills, strange stories and bizzare injuries.
The recent story about the Adelaide Crows being subjected to a pre-season camp of being blindfolded for 24 hours and being subjected to the Richmond theme song on a constant loop has us reflecting on some of those strange occurrences over the years of pre-season training.
1. Adelaide Crows – Nigel Smart Walks on Hot Coals
In a team bonding exercise prior to their 1992 season, the Adelaide Crows embarked on a fire-walking exercise.
The club brought in a team building expert from Canberra to motivate the players.
The team chanted “WE CAN DO IT! WE CAN DO IT! WE CAN DO IT!”
The motivational speaker assured the Crows that they would be safe.
First up was Crows young-gun Nigel Smart.
Choc-full of confidence, Smart bravely walked on the hot coals assisted by his teammates only to suffer third-degree burns on his feet.
Smart wouldn’t be back in the team until Round 7 of that season.
2. NSW Origin Camp – Mark Gasnier Gets Sent Home
When on the NSW Origin camp in 2004, Mark Gasiner thought it would be a good idea to have more than a few drinks at a team bonding session and leave a somewhat inappropriate voicemail on a woman’s phone at 4am.
What could possibly go wrong?
As a result, Gasnier was dropped by the NSW Origin team, the camp ended 18 hours early and he would be suspended by his club St.George-Illawarra and fined $10,000.
Thankfully, incidents involving footy players and inappropriate use mobile phones never happened again…
3. Australian Cricket Team – Warney No Fan of Coach Buchanan’s Boot Camp
In the lead up to the 2006-07 home Ashes series, the then Australian Cricket Team coach John Buchanan thought it would be a good idea to make the team participate in a boot camp.
Known for his commitment to training and fitness, Shane Warne was not a fan of the idea.
Speaking to Channel Nine at the time Warne said “The Ashes will not start until November 23, it is three months away until the Ashes start so it is early, very early for a camp, but that is what John wants to do,” Warne further went on to add “I think it is one of John Buchanan’s wonderful, mastermind things that keeps everyone stumped … and, well, who knows, we all have to be there.”
Warne cited his commitments to playing County Cricket for English side Hampshire at the time as his reason for not wanting to go, but we all know Warney didn’t need any boot camp to get wickets.
Australia got back The Ashes with a 5-0 series win that Summer and Warne got his 700th test wicket and retired from international Cricket at the end of that series.
4. Manly Sea Eagles Struggle At The Top of the Mountain
During pre-season training in late 2014, Manly thought it would be a good idea to get the players to climb to the top of Mt Kosciuszko.
A symbolic idea you think. A team reaching the top of the mountain and reaching the ultimate goal. Makes sense right?
All except for the fact the players narrowly avoided hypothermia from a freak snowy mountains storm.
It was reported that a Manly trainer had to be carried down from the highest peak of Australia and 10 players suffered hypothermia-like symptoms.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, then Manly recruit Willie Mason said it was “Six Hours of Hell”. Mason further went on to add “We were flirting with danger and there were about 10 of us players with signs of hypothermia.”
“On the way back I couldn’t feel my hands and they were numb, so I had to drag the canoe to the bottom like a bunch of snow dogs.”
“I just had a pair of shorts on with footy socks, skins, a beanie and a jumper – so I was freezing.”
5. Dees Boycott Pre Season Camp
In December of last year, it was reported that 14 players from the Melbourne Demons complained to the AFL Players Association in regards to the teams proposed pre-season camp,
Sighting player safety concerns the AFLPA stepped in and the Dees cancelled the camp.
Melbourne who had finished 9th at the end of the 2017 season as a result of falling out of the eight in Round 23 in a spectacular style was labelled “soft” by critics and some had accused the players of going behind the back of coach Simon Goodwin.
Perhaps if the Dees went to the camp last Summer Maxy Gawn would have kicked the goal to win them the match last Sunday?
6. Robbie Kearns Gets Off His High Horse
In what was the start of a proud tradition of Origin camps going wrong, New South Wales coach Wayne Pearce thought that getting the players to partake in a horse riding activity would be a great way for the players to bond with each other.
All was running smoothly until the horses bolted and Robbie Kearns was knocked out and got a broken collarbone.
As a result, Kearns missed the entire State of Origin series in 1999.
7. Cooney’s First Camp
While not a disaster, it was a brutal initiation to AFL football for our own Adam Cooney.
Selected at number one in the 2003 National Draft, Cooney was off to the Dogs pre-season camp on his first day at the club.
Speaking on Melbourne radio station about it, Cooney reflected on the camp, “We went down to Port Melbourne beach at about 5:30 in the morning.
“It was a two and a half to three-hour session on the beach.
“Players were vomiting, doing push-ups, carrying ropes, all that sort of stuff.
“All day we were doing these exercises, 10-12 kilometre hikes, and the first night we finished up at about 11:00 pm, and they marched us back to our camps, which were just sleeping bags with tarps overhead.
“We were ready to bunk down, but then they got us all up, lined us up in the middle of the bush, 200-metres apart, and told us to stand there.
“They left us there for three hours.
“They came back at two in the morning to pick us all up and they said you cannot sit down, we are watching you in the bushes.
“I had a metal pole, and I was frightened in my first week, so I stood there the whole time.
“They picked us up one by one, we got to Farren, and he is asleep.
“He said, I stood there for two minutes and went to sleep.
“This went on for four days the camp, and you’d average about two hours of sleep per night.”
For the record, the Western Bulldogs finished 14th on the AFL ladder the next season with 5 wins and the coach was sacked.
8. North Melbourne 1989 Pre-Season Camp
This clip on YouTube of a promotional video of North Melbourne’s pre-season Bootcamp in 1989 is inspirational stuff.
No sooking, just the boys getting on with the job. It’s the kind of stuff that would make you want to run through a brick-wall.
North Melbourne went on to finish 9th on the ladder that season when the VFL was 14 teams and had a final five finals series.