A Letter To Season Members From Free Jacks Head of Strength & Conditioning, George Petrakos

Dear New England Free Jacks’ Season Members,

I want to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude for your ability to fill the stands with energy and excitement and fuel our players for physicality in defense and speed in attack.

 

NOLA

I write this letter just moments after completing the physical report for the NOLA game. Regardless of the result, we always scrutinize the physical determinants of our performance. The report outcomes were generally indicative of a team coming into reasonable rugby- fitness. Our capacity to repeatedly set in attack and defense continues to improve, whilst our kick-chase and general capacity for high-speed moments appeared impressive. Finally, ball carry dominance was higher than both our Anthem and DC outings and this could be underpinned by the players’ hard work in the gym and on the field.

Our areas of required physical development span the capacity to dominate longer-periods of play and general physicality at the breakdown. Season Members should know that in-week training continues to be both mentally and physically challenging as we extend our ‘preseason’ mindset throughout this first block of games with the hope we reach incredible levels of fitness and freshness towards round 14 and beyond.

 

Preseason

I felt it pertinent to provide you, the Season Member, with insight into our physical training processes. Let’s take a glimpse at our preseason preparations.

Most MLR teams face the same preseason time constraints. We have a 4-5 weeks block to physically prepare our players for a dense and travel-heavy 19-game season. We therefore recognized the importance of utilizing the limited time effectively, targeting November to January as a critical ‘at home’ training period to lay down a solid foundation for the season ahead.

One of the key learnings from our 2023 preseason was the necessity for our southern-hemisphere based players to adapt to artificial playing surfaces. Ricci spearheaded the development of the innovative ‘Prepare For Turf’; program, which has already shown positive results in helping our players overcome the challenges posed by harder astro turf surfaces.

The Prepare for Turf programme was an addition to our usual player-centered approach. Every Free Jack receives individualized training plans tailored to their specific needs, taking into account factors such as training history, injury concerns, and personal goals for the upcoming season. I was extremely impressed by the 2024 cohort. No player is under contract during the November-January window, but each showed remarkable desire to put themselves in an excellent physical position for the tasks ahead.

Throughout the intense 4-week preseason block, our players immersed themselves in a rigorous training regimen consisting of team rugby sessions (10-12h per week), isolated skill development (1-3h per week), weight-room workouts (4-5h per week), and conditioning drills (1-3h per week). Of course, there were additional countless hours of learning, eating, sleeping, recovering and connecting from a social and team perspective.

Our primary physical focus has been on building the resilience needed to dominate in crucial aspects of the Free Jacks’ game such as line speed & kick chase (“get the ball back”) and evasion (“beat the first defender”). By honing our defensive capabilities and creating chaos on the field, we aim to set the stage for dynamic attacking play and score as many tries as possible.

As we look ahead to the season opener, we carry with us the unwavering support of our dedicated Season Members. Your passion for the game fuels our drive for success, and we can’t wait to make you proud on the field.

Let’s Ride,

George Petrakos

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