Pre-season training for the Raiders kicked off in late October with players undergoing two days of testing. The majority of players were then granted an extra two weeks holiday, after the testing results were positive and players reached their targets. Along with many rival clubs the bulk of the Raiders squad officially began training on November 2.
Nigel Ashley-Jones, the Raiders head of Physical Performance, began his position in 2012 and has again set a gruelling pre-season program that will reap rewards once season 2016 begins. Ashley- Jones explained his approach to pre-season this year.
“Our pre-season system has been in place for a couple of years. Each year the priority is just to simply get better at it. The type of training will be very similar to what we always do. We believe our philosophy works, it is our methodology that is tweaked every year. Pre-season is all about building the base, working on strength and power and everything else needed to develop a rugby league player at this level.” Ashley-Jones said.
Base day for the players now takes place at Stromlo running track, which hosts the annual Australian Cross Country Running Championships. The undulating track will test even the fittest player’s resolve but could prove crucial in the last 10 minutes of games in 2016, where superior fitness is an advantage for teams looking to close out games. Small tweaks to the program like this are perfect examples of the surprises Ashley-Jones uses to challenge and place pressure on players.
Several key staff changes and acquisitions have also occurred with a focus on athletic performance, highlighted by the hiring of Ryan Clayton who has extensive playing and working experience in English professional league and union sides. Injury management is always important over the long NRL season, a point which Ashley-Jones has been particularly focused on since taking up his role.
“Physically we were pretty happy with how we were last year, our injury rates were good. In three years we have gone from 187 missed games to only 79 missed games through injury last season. We want to recreate that again and raise the bar, obviously zero injuries being our goal.”
The team also held their annual training camp to Batemans Bay recently, where players experienced the infamous soft sand sprints that Ashley-Jones takes pleasure in delving out. In his time with the Raiders Ashley-Jones emphatically stated that the team’s fitness and conditioning coming into pre-season was the best he had ever seen.
From here players will enjoy a deserved break over Christmas before the final build up to the NRL season.
The insight into the Raiders pre-season training with Nigel Ashley-Jones is featured in the fourth and final edition of the 2015 Raider magazine, which is now available. Also included in the magazine is an interview with Sia Soliola after he picked up the 2015 Meninga Medal plus heaps more!
CLICK HERE to read the online version of the Raider Magazine.
NOTE: Physical copies of the magazine will be available at Raiders HQ mid-December. There will be no copies sent via mailout.
CLICK HERE to read all of the past issues of this year's magazine.