The return of London Broncos’ loyal fanbase to the Trailfinders Sports Club on Sunday came as a tremendous boost to everyone.
After 14 long months, many were fortunately able to at last share the matchday experience. But have you ever wondered what happens at the Broncos’ training headquarters in the six days between fixtures?
In our second instalment with the Broncos’ Head of Performance Mike Eccles, we learn the processes and routines the club’s full-time players follow on an average week.
Day One – Monday:
Each week, the 48-hour period that follows a game is dedicated to rest. This means, typically, the Broncos’ squad will enjoy a full day off on Mondays to recover from the previous day’s fixture.
“We have a lot of travelling to do,” said Eccles. “Every fortnight, we will spend at least nine hours on a coach together travelling to and from a fixture.
“It’s important that players take a day away from the environment to recover from a game both in a physical and mental capacity. At home, players are tasked with re-watching the game in their own time and making notes to discuss with coaches things they felt they did well and areas they need to improve.”
Senior players or those who performed well at the weekend might be asked to fulfil media duties on this day. This could include speaking to the Broncos media team, a local journalist or writer for a trade magazine or website about the result.
Day Two – Tuesday:
Recovery remains at the forefront of the Broncos’ coaching routine on Tuesdays. Exercises are low impact to encourage further rehabilitation from minor injuries.
This includes swimming and yoga, plus ice baths lasting seven minutes. Players also receive any appropriate medical treatment from the physio team as well as the option of a massage.
Eccles added: “By Tuesday, the injuries, bumps and bruises have come out. We will check every player to assess their condition for the week ahead.
“This is something that works for us, other teams will adopt different processes. By assessing players 48 hours after a game, we feel we can make better calculated decisions on their physical state.
“Training load and capabilities of the players for the week ahead are determined from these assessments, so it’s a key part of the schedule for us.”
Tuesdays also allow the squad to run through post-match analysis, incorporating video review with the coaching staff.
“The previous game is now put to bed and all focus heads to the coming weekend.”
Day Three – Wednesday:
On Wednesdays, training is stepped up a gear. This is when the process of looking at forthcoming opponents begins. The day starts with a video preview to highlight strategy against the weekend’s opposition.
On the field and in the gym players will work at their hardest, looking to maintain their speed, strength and conditioning.
“This is our biggest day,” said Eccles. “It’s the day when players will be running the most and working at their hardest in training.
“Speed and defence are the main focus on the field. In the gym, we target strength maintenance with various key lifts such as heavy squats, pull-ups and everyone’s favourite exercise – bench press.
“Wednesday would typically be the day players are on the field and in the gym for the longest period during the week.”
Day four – Thursday
Training is toned down following Wednesday’s intense session. The field session will be purely focused on rugby, with no strength and conditioning input. In the gym, the focus switches to power-based lifts such as Olympic lifting and plyometrics.
Eccles said: “Day four is a chance to build on the work established from the previous day but at a lower intensity, moderate would be the best way to describe it.
“On this day, the coaching team typically focus on attack. Again, this is what works for us.”
Day Five – Friday
To recharge the batteries, Fridays are generally taken as days off for the Broncos’ players.
It is an opportunity to ensure every player is as fresh as possible ahead of kick-off in just 48 hours’ time.
Day Six – Saturday
With only 24 hours remaining until kick-off, the Broncos’ squad will run through the final pieces of preparation and fine-tune tactics.
Understandably, Saturday sessions are low in intensity and duration.
Eccles added: “You’re looking at half-an-hour to 40 minutes for a Saturday session. It is a chance for the coaching staff to re-cap the game plan by running various attacking shapes and defensive structures that are applicable to our opponents the following day.
“Make no mistake, this isn’t a day off. Players aren’t in for long the day before a game but they come in with a real focus of intent to execute the game plan in the final stages of the weekly preparation.
Day Seven – Sunday
It’s gameday! The final process of the week before the cycle starts over again.
On gamedays, players will report to the ground approximately 90 minutes before kick-off.
Food intake is crucial on matchday. Players will eat a large carbohydrate dominant meal that will fuel them for the game four hours before kick-off. Similarly, players’ energy levels are replenished during and after the game through solids and liquids.
“What may surprise you is that the players are at their quietest before the game,” said Eccles.
“The players have a focused look about themselves and are trying to concentrate on the job in hand whilst not wasting too much nervous energy.
“It’s also the time of the week that staff have the least interaction with the players. Our job is done during the six days leading into the game. It is now over to the players.
“We are there to merely support them with their preparation and remind them of key bits of information as to how we want to play that day.”
Communication is key
After 10 years at the Broncos, what has made Eccles retain his passion for the club and our ambition to win promotion back into the Super League?
Eccles said: “We’ve got a very close-knit group of staff, and that’s a huge strength of ours. We have an open office – we all work together and communication is constant.
“Rather than certain meetings taking place at specific times, our team is in constant dialogue which is important.
“Most of that comes from Wardy (Danny Ward) and his coaching style. He is very much at ground level and doesn’t shut himself away as head coach, he is aware first-hand of what is going on – though it would be nice if he contributed getting the coffees in every once in a while!
“Ultimately, all staff are all motivated by the same things – creating the best training environment possible for players to develop in, creating a player pathway in Rugby League for kids in the south of England and establishing this club in Super League.”
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