The football premiership. How the teams prepare for it
No team in the league has given so many men a trial this year as Carlton. In all between 30 and 40 men have worn their colours. After their opening match with Fitzroy this season, when they were badly beaten, they rejected eight players in one week. Like other clubs, they have recognised the change in the character of the game brought about by the introduction of boundary umpires, so their training is mainly directed to the development of dash rather than strength.
They train chiefly on Tuesdays and Thursdays — one of their trainers being an amateur, Mr. Tiley, who believes in massage. After their running and match practice is over on training days, each player in turn is laid out upon a table and kneaded into elasticity, this treatment, it is thought being of advantage to men of exceptional muscular development, who by reason of their avocation, have a tendency to become muscle-bound. Thus a few years ago one of the finest athletes in Melbourne, a wrestler, weight-lifter, and smart boxer, failed as a pugilist because he could not hit hard enough. His arms were finely developed, but his work as a blacksmith had taken all the spring out of the muscles.
Carlton's field practice begins with matches once or twice a week in the early part of the season, in which teams of 10 a-side try to keep the ball away from each other. This develops accuracy in passing and kicking at all distances and skill in high marking. As soon as the team is fairly going these matches cease - and the practice takes another form. It begins with goal-kicking - then four or five balls are thrown amongst the players and these are passed from one to another as quickly as they can pick up the ball and pass it. The object is to encourage quick, short dashes, clean picking up, and quick passing- and it is the great skill developed by this sort of training that makes the pass at times almost too quick for the onlooker's eye to follow. He thinks the player has thrown the ball - not punched it. A long run improves the wind and staying powers, then comes the massage, the shower-bath, and the final rub down.
Before each big match the Carlton team have a meeting at which the only man present beside the players is their secretary and mentor, Mr. John Worrall. The first thing discussed is the plan of campaign for the following Saturday. They know the strong and the weak points of each of the cracks opposed to them; everyone present is encouraged to offer suggestions, which are adopted or rejected as the meeting thinks fit. Thus on Thursday night the style of game Carlton are to play to-day was agreed upon, and until this evening it will be private and confidential.
Suggestions by the gross are offered to players by club enthusiasts, but nothing counts unless the joint wisdom of the team commends it. The players at Carlton are their own critics. At these private meetings each man in turn, beginning with one of the best, is criticized..Complete candour is encouraged, and suggestions are offered as to points to be developed or faults to be suppressed. The player may have strong connections of his own, but when the team agrees upon a point he takes it as a command, and sinks his own opinion.
They have been somewhat unfortunate this week, as Leeds, who played such a fine game back for them last Saturday, and M. Grace, are both injured - Grace wrenching his ankle in practice. He may play, but Leeds is uncertain. Both are under hot-air treatment, which is considered best when time is the first consideration.
It is 17 years since Carlton won the premiership, though prior to that they were always a hard team to beat. Fitzroy were second last year and in 1900, but won in the two previous years.
At Fitzroy the early arrivals on Thursday reached the ground soon after half-past 4 o'clock, and from that time until darkness drove them in there was plenty to watch and admire. As each man came out he practised marking and kicking for a while, and then those present formed themselves into two bands, and there was a fine exhibition of short and long passing, of dodging, and hand work. There was not a man among them who was not keenly alive to the importance of the occasion. Outside the fence were hundreds of supporters, watching and discussing. That is the barracker's part. His reward comes with victory or a nod of recognition from one of the crack men of his team. Brosnan, Trotter, Milne, Jenkins, Millis, and the others were all hard at it, the only absentees being J. Sharp and Walker. The former does not care to put too much strain upon an injured leg, and Walker trains after tea.
The indoor training at this time of the year is with Fitzroy also mostly confined to massage. The men came in glowing after their run, and as each left the shower the trainers, A. McCormick, W. Cleary, and E. Melling, took them in hand. A sharp rub down followed, and in case of a strain or a bruise special massage. Brosnan, the captain, felt a strain in the thigh, and McCormick massaged him as he lay at full length on a table, with towels as cushions. McCormick went through all the kneading and rubbing processes known to masseurs. "Just a little extra there, please," says the Fitzroy captain. Meanwhile, members of the team come in and get in the shower. The Fitzroy men look fit to play for their lives, and are very confident.
The absence of any exercise in the training-room is noticeable, but when it is remembered that these men have been in training since April, it will be realised that all they require now is a run to open the lungs, a rub down to loosen the muscles, and as much work in the open with the football as daylight will permit. In the early winter, when the "condition" which accumulated in the summer had to be dispersed, the punch-ball was going constantly, and there was the perpetual "Flip, flip," to strengthen the leg muscles and expand the chest.
The dressing-room at Fitzroy was rank with eucalyptus oil and embrocation, and there were many onlookers and admirers. Amongst the old Fitzroy heroes who looked on and admired were A. B. Sloan, T. Banks, P. Descrimes, J. Dalton, E. Melling, W. Cleary, and Mr. W. H. Gill, Hon. Sec. of the Southern Tasmanian Association, who had come over to see the game.
A visitor to the training-room has to put his pipe out. When W. McSperrin came in his arm had been grazed with a fall. "I felt so well," he said, "that I ran over myself." The remedy was to bind the arm in hot towels. It was only a scratch, but the trainer would take no risks.
The older players are more serious than the youngsters. They know how often Fitzroy has just missed the highest honours. There is an inner room at Fitzroy, the walls of which are hung with pictures of old players. Brosnan leads his team there and talks to them. He touches with the judgment of an expert on the faults of his own men, and points out some of the weak spots in the opposing team. Then they all cheered him, for Fitzroy to a man respect their captain.
Title: THE FOOTBALL PREMIERSHIP. HOW THE TEAMS PREPARE FOR IT. Author: Argus Staff Writer Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, 1848 - 1957) Date: Saturday, 17 September, 1904, p.18 (Article) Web: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/10340512