As the AFL squad shifts into the final phase of pre-season with practice matches on the horizon, GM – Football Operations Jon Haines has given an update on the male program.

Haines was happy with the physical state the players returned to pre-season in as the club aims to integrate more speed-based training in 2020.

“From a loading perspective, the loads are reasonably similar to last year but we’re certainly looking to add a little bit more speed into our program this year,” Haines told SUNS Media.

“The most important part has been that this is year two of a multi-year program and we feel like last year we started a really good foundation and we’ll continue to add different elements to the program as we go along.”

Haines revealed midfielder Anthony Miles will miss the start of the 2020 season.

“Anthony was in the gym late last week doing a really simple bench press and he’s managed to rupture the pectoral muscle in his chest,” Haines said.

“It’s a reasonably unusual injury but one that will mean Anthony will be out of the game for a while.

“It’s going to be an extended period because it’s quite a serious injury, but we’d expect to see him back in the second half of the year.”

Haines also gave updates on the club’s other injured players, starting with co-captain Jarrod Witts who has been recovering from a foot injury.

“Wittsy’s travelling well. He’s tracking as we would have expected and it’s been a good opportunity for him to concentrate on his upper body weights and put some more strength on,” Haines said.

“It’s been also a good opportunity from a leadership perspective for him to further grow as captain of the club in a different role to perhaps what he’s been used to.

“He’s hitting all his benchmarks and we’re confident that he’s tracking as we thought he would be.”

Third-year players Charlie Ballard and Wil Powell will both miss the start of the season and are currently attacking their respective rehab programs. 

After joining the club in the mid-season draft last year, midfielder Mitch Riordan is also on the injury list and is preparing to go in for surgery on his injured ACL.

“It was unfortunate for Mitch as he’s become a really important part of the club in a short amount of time,” Haines said.

“We’ll obviously support him all the way through his rehab.

“The group have been terrific with how they’ve supported him already and we’re really confident that will continue.”

In good news, key defender Rory Thompson is tracking well in his recovery from a ruptured ACL sustained on the eve of the 2019 season.

“He’s ticking off all the physical benchmarks and parameters really well,” Haines said of Thompson.

“He’s been integrating back into full training with the main group which has been terrific for him but also the group as well.

“All things being equal he’s tracking as we thought he would be.”

The SUNS’ first practice fixture will be this Saturday when they take on the Brisbane Lions in a curtain closer for Round 2 of the AFLW at Metricon Stadium.

Haines said it would be a chance for players to put their hand up for selection throughout the remainder of the pre-season.

“We’re moving into a match phase now in terms of our in-week program,” he said.

“We’re certainly looking forward to playing a squad of 30 this week against Brisbane and then leading into our Marsh 1 and Marsh 2 games.

“It’s an opportunity for the players to put into practice what they’ve been taught and what they’ve been practicing over the summer.

“We’ve been engaging in a fair bit of match play over the last few weeks so they’ll be really well prepared.

“But certainly once they start playing against opposition the stakes go up a little higher and the competition for spots is really strong so we’re looking forward to it.”

The match will also be the first chance the club’s draftees will have to play against an AFL opposition.

“It will be an opportunity for us to expose some guys who haven’t played at that level before,” Haines said.

“There will be a group of players who will be rested and another group who are unable to play due to injuries. 

“We’d expect to expose some younger players to some serious competition and also having a group of 30 allows us to expose a larger group than normal so the group are really looking forward to it.”