While SUNS players continue to train through an AFL shutdown period, key football personnel within the club have devised an ingenious way to keep the players switched on.

A partnership between Senior Coach Stuart Dew and High Performance Manager Alex Rigby has seen a series of challenges formulated and integrated into the players’ regular training program every two to three weeks.

The aim, according to Rigby, is to keep players engaged with each other and the club while also having some fun.

“The challenges have been varying from whether they’re group workouts, group competitions, team competitions or individual ones,” Rigby told SUNS Media.

“The best one we’ve run was a teams’ competition where we had them all up on Zoom.

“They were competing in their teams and in those teams we’d draw an exercise out and it was basically the fastest to complete whatever we drew out of the hat.

“We worked out what equipment they had at home and catered it for that. They got pretty competitive.”

An example of an exercise would be the fastest team to complete 100 pushups or do 1000kg worth of bicep curls.

And the challenges aren’t always physical either, with Rigby stating how important it was to mix things up with a few trivia and team-building challenges instead. 

It’s a difficult feat to pull together with a list of 52 players, but that’s where Rigby said the support of the leadership group had been invaluable. 

“The biggest thing that we identified from the very start is that we wanted to maintain engagement right across the group,” he said. 

“That was probably more important as our number one priority over the physical program to begin with and making sure that we kept the boys together and connecting and engaged.

“We meet with the leaders twice a week and they’ve been brilliant to be honest.

“The leadership group over this period has grown massively compared to where they were at.

“They’ve been so influential in driving the program and helping us drive the program so that’s probably been the most pleasing thing.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the club to adapt and re-evaluate how things are done inside the football department. 

But Rigby said this new method of delivering programs to the players was only accelerating their development as elite athletes, and could dictate how things are done in the future.

“I see a massive positive to come out of this period in that we can fast-track the development of our young group,” he said. 

“At the moment we’re not there holding their hand to do their training sessions and to work out how hard to push themselves - they’re actually working that out for themselves.

“They need to understand that as elite athletes they need to know how to prepare, how hard to push, when to train, when not to train, when to stretch and stuff like that.

“We’re really focussed when they come back to continue to drive that culture at the club because we know that the best athletes are the best preparers and they drive themselves internally. 

“If we can create that across the squad we’ll be pretty successful I reckon.”