Pre-Season Wrap Up with Nigel Ashley-Jones
Tuesday 5 February 2013 1:09 PM
Raiders Media: Nigel, it’s obviously your first year with the club, has it been an easy transition?
Nigel: I’ve absolutely loved the transition. The move all happened pretty quickly, firstly taking the opportunity, resigning from my job overseas and then jumping on the plane the next day.
We started pre-season a day after I arrived so it’s been pretty full on but I have absolutely loved it.
My family has also settled in well. They’re all English and have really enjoyed the move to Canberra so it has been great personally.
Raiders-wise though, the club has been really welcoming and the boys have been absolutely brilliant to work with. I can’t give them enough credit for how they’ve taken on board the changes that we’ve implemented.
Raiders Media: Many of the players have said that they’ve never felt fitter, what has been the major focus over the pre-season?
Nigel: In a nut-shell, we’ve really tried to raise the bar to try and go to the next level – physically and mentally.
The bottom line is that we want the boys fitter, more powerful and quicker. Every NRL team prophesises to do this but we believe that we’ve got it right.
Everyone will probably agree that consistency is probably one of the areas that the Raiders need to be better at. The intensity of this pre-season provides us with a chance to be more consistent. One of the ways we believe we can do that is through toughness; mental toughness.
The boys went on a horrific camp in the Kangaroo Valley where there was sleep deprivation, food deprivation and arduous tasks designed to bring the boys together.
This is the toughest team sport in the world and the teams that win it, Melbourne Storm for example, are tough and consistent so we’ve got no chance if we’re not as least as good as them.
On the field at training, every time they’ve taken the pitch they’ve been tested through target times and accountability is probably the big word there.
There have been tests for the boys every day intensity and volume wise. The sessions were tough, really, really tough. Most of the feedback I’ve got is that it’s been the toughest stuff they’ve done in their careers.
All credit must go to the players, they’ve handled it really well and they’ve still got smiles on their faces. I love working with them.
Raiders Media: Strength and Conditioning Coaches are meant to be disliked by players during the pre-season but the players have really warmed to you due to your humour and quirky one liners.
Nigel: I really do hope I have a career in comedy at some stage in my life [laughs]. I haven’t been discovered yet, but I’m hopeful…
Seriously though, we’ve all got our own ways of doing it and I’ve worked in team sport professionally for 21 years now. You work out early in your career that it’s not just what you do, but how you do it.
If I can make this long season seem shorter and more exciting then it’s only going to be better for us physically in the long run.
Raiders Media: Back to football now, something that hasn’t helped the Raiders consistency over the last couple of years has been injuries to key players.
Nigel: You’re dead right and injury prevention has been a big focus for us. The Raiders did exceptionally well last year despite their injuries to key players like Campo, Duges and Whitey so if we have a better injury prevention program it’s only going to help our results.
I’ve come from Europe where I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in a few sports. In soccer in the English Premier League, you’re under an enormous amount of pressure to keep your multi-million pound players on the pitch and I’ve been living in that environment my whole career.
This is the area that is going to get more and more emphasis in the NRL. We’re aiming to put our best players on the field 20-22 times during the year and that’s hard. Europe is huge on it so if I bring that experience with me it will only benefit the club.
The types of injuries that we believe we have a chance of making a difference in like soft tissue injuries and even to a point of non-contact injuries, we’ve spent a lot of hours on. We’ve really tried to search the world for the best way of doing it and spending a lot of time on getting the programs right. The trip to the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn has been beneficial to us also.
A lot of credit goes to the staff here, everyone has ripped in and Dave Furner has sponsored a lot of that. He’s given us a lot of time in the program and he’s a believer in getting it right. It’s ultimately going to give him some good things to stress about in regards to team selection.
Getting your best players on the field, coupled with mental toughness, fitness and consistency, is the way to get success.
Raiders Media: Finally Nigel, who has really caught your eye over this pre-season and impressed you?
Nigel: Jeez this is a hard one to answer because every single individual has impressed me to some degree. There are different capacities so I’ll list a few that impressed me in different categories.
If you look at someone like Scott Jones he clocked 1.58 seconds for a 10 metre sprint which is unbelievably quick for a back-rower or prop forward. He came down on trial and has more than held his own; he’s an athlete. Joel Thompson also surprised me speed wise. He’s got a very ugly style but he gets across the ground quickly.
In the gym, strength wise, Tommy Learyoyd-Lahrs’ physical capacity would hold its own in any sport in the world and Sandor Earl is really powerful athlete whilst in the 1200m runs Reece Robinson has great endurance.
In all-round fitness though, Kiwi [Matt McIlwrick], is up there with the best in the world.
We’re pretty blessed with athletes and we’re happy where we are. I’m never the happiest man in the world because you’re always raising the bar but I’m very proud of what the boys have achieved in the pre-season.
It’s going to be an exciting time for all of us.