Players and staff begin to filter in to the Austworld Centre for the first day back at training. 

Everyone has had their initial COVID-test which gave the final green light for training to resume.

The first point of contact is at the front door.

Temperature checks – the beginning of the new normal for AFL clubs and something players and staff must agree to daily if they wish to enter the building.

The list of 52 players have been split into seven groups of between seven to eight players each. 

The SUNS have decided to split each group according to their playing position – two groups of defenders, two groups of midfielders, two groups of forwards and a final group of development players. 

Senior Coach Stuart Dew, GM – Football Operations Jon Haines and High Performance Manager Alex Rigby have been careful to ensure groups are evenly balanced, with best 22 players sprinkled evenly amongst them. 

The idea is to ensure if a player in one group gets sick, the club isn’t handicapped by having all of its best players forced to isolate for two weeks by association.

"We've got a little bit of a mix, but even to the point of having a couple of inside [midfielders] in one group, a couple in another, and a bit of speed in one and speed in another, just in case,” Dew said on SEN on Monday morning.

"Our boys have been pretty good and clearly everyone's tested negative thus far but we've got to be vigilant."

The first appointment in the calendar is a health briefing for the Development Group at 8am.

It’s run by Dew, Haines and the club’s doctor.

Players are briefed on the restrictions they have to train under and encouraged to ask any questions they may have.

Next up on the schedule is a skills session for two hours.

After their briefing the defenders are out on the field adjacent to the Austworld Centre, split into two groups with each getting half the field.

While this is happening the midfielders are having their health briefing - the day is staggered this way to restrict the interaction between the groups.

The defenders are visibly happy to be back together.

They crack jokes as they warm up and chat with those they haven’t seen in a while.

The session involves some defensive gameplay and game-scenario situations.

“(There was) a lot of activation to start with and then some really good intensity in terms of some ball out of defensive 50 drills,” key defender Sam Collins tells SUNS Media on the Macca’s Minute.

“I thought it was a really good session and the boys trained really well.”

After skills, the defenders then go into a 1.5 hour gym session.

One group uses the Austworld Centre gym while the other uses the SUNS Academy gym.

Part of the hygiene protocols require each gym to be disinfected and cleaned after a session.

The day concludes with treatment after a lunch break. 


Assistant Coach Dean Solomon is mic’d up for the training session with the forwards.

He says everyone is comfortable training in small groups at the moment and he’s given players the autonomy to tweak their own drills.

“You really get to analyse the boys in smaller groups how they take control of the drill,” Solomon said on @training with @realty.

“We just tell them what the drill is and then from that point on they go and run it and we give them the license to add or subtract certain things in the drill.

“They can take control of it and make what they want out of it. 

“You get a real good look at the quality of leadership that’s coming through and in particular individuals who want to stand up and take control of the playing group.”

The day is once again staggered to reduce interaction between the groups.

Everyone departs by 5pm


Players and staff arrive for training after completing their second COVID-19 test the day prior.

The midfield group is first on track for skills at 8am.

Hugh Greenwood is mic’d up.

The start of the session is an intensive conditioning circuit.

Players have to commando roll every time the whistle is blown in one station.

Another has Alex Rigby yelling the colour of a series of cones surrounding the player, with the player then having to quickly scamper to touch the coloured cone in question then return to their starting position.

After the block of conditioning it’s skills and decision-making.

Stuart Dew says it’s tough to execute drills without any contact, but said the group was excited for contact training with the full group on Monday.

“It’s obviously skill execution and just some decision making and getting some shape in our offense and defence,” he said on the @realty Coaches’ Chat.

“They’re ready for contact but it’s been obviously unusual for them to be out here training flat out as much as we can without the contact,”

“But I think they’re all looking forward to Monday training together.” 

Coaching has looked different for Dew this week, not assigned to any one group but overseeing each of them during different parts of their program.

“You can’t get as involved as what you would like but you’re still amongst it,” he said.

“With the team of coaches we’ve got we’ve essentially assigned a coach to each group and they’re more heavily involved.  

“We’re trying to get around to all groups and maintain the right distance.”

It’s been a different week in football.

Group training, COVID tests and social distancing – it’s the new normal, but everyone is committed to make sure we can have football back on our screens in the near future.