Every great football club has a team working behind the scenes to ensure players are able to perform at their best. Joseph Turmine caught up with (pictured left to right) Rylie Padjen, Scott Graham, Luke Gallaher, Luke Rostenstengel and Jmara Hockley-Samon to find out about their roles and how they help Werribee succeed on the field.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same can be said when it comes to running a football club. Every club in Australia has a strong group of individuals working hard behind the scenes to ensure the 22 players that run out onto the ground each week are in top notch condition and ready to perform at their very best.
Whilst coaches might be in charge of game plans and strategy, arguably one of the most important off field roles at a football club is that of the High Performance Manager.
Scott Graham has been with Werribee since 2019 and is in charge of ensuring the physical condition of players is as good as possible. On match days Graham oversees a vast team in charge of anything and everything that falls under the High Performance banner and thanks to the quality of his team, his role is not too complicated.
“Ultimately my role is incredibly simple, involving structuring the pre-game and halftime schedules, for example, when team meetings occur and warm-ups start," he says.
"I also conduct the pre-game and halftime warm-ups. During the game I simply monitor what staff and players want and need to be doing and ensure that plans - such as for players on modified minutes - are being followed through.”
Throughout the week, his role becomes a lot more complex.
“When physically at training I lead medical meetings with my medical staff where we discuss injured or modified players, for example, who needs to get scans or what is rehab ‘Player X’ doing tonight. After the meeting I typically conduct the warm-up with the assistance of our strength and conditioning intern team.”
And then when training is underway it gets even busier for Graham.
“I check in with our GPS analyst to see if our soft tissue injury prone players have achieved x number of relative high-speed efforts, then I’ll get those identified players to perform x number of sprints based on how many we need.
"For the rest of the session I simply monitor the training time of each drill and inform coaches when time is up, whilst checking in with any modified and restricted players throughout the session.
"Outside of specific training time it is seemingly endless conversations with staff - such as nutrition, medical, strength and conditioning and rehab, players and coaches - about what we can do better, what is working and what isn’t.”
Making sure the players are fully fuelled is the job of Head Nutritionist Rylie Padjen, who has been at Werribee for three years. A key part of this is ensuring players are fed and hydrated in order to reach peak performance, both during the game and across the week.
“The nutrition team and I will weigh the players in to determine their pre-game weight, that way when we weigh them out at the end of the game we can see how much weight they've lost in sweat," Padjen says.
"This will help us to determine how much fluid they need to drink in order to recover appropriately. We also set up and provide food and Gatorade to the players before, during, and after the game to make sure they have adequate fuel for the game and recover properly after the game.”
With an ice hockey background, Padjen enjoys the large community feel that comes with being around a football club.
“I feel really blessed and grateful to have been able to see and become involved in football so I can see the potential of what a sporting club can do and be for the players and everyone involved. Every time I show up to the club it's like coming home to a huge family of people and I just love it so much.”
When players get injured, Rehabilitation Coach Jmara Hockley-Samon is tasked with guiding players back to full match fitness, which means training nights are a very busy time.
“I’m usually found in the gym, one of the first in and one of the last ones out," she says.
"I’m available to the players to help run through their gym programs, any rehab exercises before and after training, and more often than not just for a chat. During training I can be all over the place, whether it’s taking players through running, watching them integrate into training, keeping an eye on the GPS or doing cross training.”
Come game day Hockley-Samon must ensure players' workloads are strictly monitored, making for a different match experience to others.
“Game days are predominantly planning and executing the rotations throughout the game.
"Pre-game I chat to the coaches about what they want, then to the players about who they rotate with and when. Most of the time the plan gets thrown out early in the game, but you roll with the chaos and make it work.
"I can get so ‘in the zone’ and only focus on what’s happening with the players on the bench and who’s coming off, that I miss what’s happening in the game. Sometimes I look up at the scoreboard and think, when did that happen?”
Luke Gallaher came on board as a Development Coach for the start of the 2021 season and has been impressed by the inviting nature of the club.
During the week he liaises with the community clubs of the playing group on team selection, does admin work to support the match committee and assists the running of training.
Come game day he is a crucial part of the communication process between coaches and players as team runner, delivering messages from Mick Barlow and his assistants to the troops on the field.
It’s one thing looking after the players already at the club, but who helps attract new players to pull on the Big W?
Recruiter Luke Rosenstengel has been at Werribee since the beginning of the ill-fated 2020 season, and is charged with working with the broader recruiting team to compile the playing list for the upcoming season, which includes keeping an eye on all levels of football for potential recruits.
However, during the season his role looks slightly different.
“During the season I assist Jake Morrell with Opposition Analysis in the lead up to each game," Rosenstengel says.
"I also help out with our GPS program at training. On game day my role includes setting up the I.T. side of things in the coaches box, monitoring live stats that are fed to us by Champion Data and communicating them to the coaches and monitoring team defence rankings.”
Next game day be sure to keep an eye out for the team behind the team helping the Werribee boys achieve success.
By Joseph Turmine