Titans converge on Angourie for gruelling training day
NO NRL team had ever trained as a squad in Yamba. Yesterday morning fans were treated to a rare glimpse of an elite sporting team going through the paces in their backyard.
The Gold Coast Titans stopped in Yamba on their way to Novotel Pacific Bay Coffs Harbour, where they will attend an annual training camp.
Eager fans came to watch the players train at Angourie Sports Complex, grab some autographs and meet their hometown hero Luke Douglas.
The former Lower Clarence Magpie wasn't required to train, as he had just returned from playing for Scotland in the Rugby League World Cup.
Instead, unannounced, he took the bunch of kids for an impromptu session of their own.
At 7.45 in the morning, Douglas had the youngsters stretching on the field, half a stone's throw from the big boys - mimicking their every move.
"Okay lads, we're going for a jog in a group together. Three, two, one ... a little bit faster", new assistant coach Neil Henry suddenly barked.
"Fresh as a daisy," remarked one of the players, as they surged off as one. The kids quickly tagged onto the back of the group.
As they easily kept up with the pace, they must have thought being a professional athlete was a piece of cake.
But the half-hour of stretching and slow jogging was merely preparing these bodies, property of the Titans, for what was to come.
After moving south from North Queensland, perhaps Henry could provide the boost needed to return the Titans to the top eight?
As Douglas took the local kids off the main ground to play a game, the Titans players were split into forwards and backs.
The forwards were assigned a task of completing 800m in three minutes and 30 seconds, the backs 15 seconds faster.
Four weeks into pre-season training, both crews handled the brief session quite comfortably.
A minute's rest and they had to do it again.
At this drill, Kevin Gordon is in a class of his own. A couple of guys are told in no uncertain terms to "pick it up". Dave Taylor wasn't built for middle-distance running. I think he and a fellow prop were excused for dropping off the rear slightly.
By the end of the second 800m the group is collectively gassed. They've worked up some fatigue. So you know what that means? Time for some ball skills!
They started with the same simple criss-cross passing drill you'll see at under-14s training.
As sweat started to glisten in the bright morning sun, it's clear to see these guys don't skip on the basics.
The moves start to require more and more skill, then it's "time".
"We'll do 20 push-ups, whole group together," orders Henry.
"1, 2, 3 ... 20," the players chorus. Another 10 minutes of ball skills, followed by two more 800m runs. This time, Taylor is one of three big bruisers doing squats behind the goals. Gordon is still whipping around the oval at a rate.
All this, and it's only November. We've still got a whole Ashes cricket series to get through before we even think about the start of the NRL season.
It's enough to make you appreciate the consummate professionalism that goes on behind the scenes to create an 80-minute piece of entertain- ment we enjoy from the comfort of our sofas on a wintery weekend.