An Inside Look at the AFL with Adelaide Crows Midfielder Rory Atkins- EP030

 In Podcast

Though AFL is the number one sport in Australia, few understand what it is really like to play footy. What does a typical week look like? What kind of training is involved? How much is the team involved in what players eat? What is it like to fight back from an injury? Does the team help players prepare for life after football?




Rory Atkins is a star midfielder for the Adelaide Crows, the top club in the AFL. He was the 81st pick in the 2012 draft, but he had yet to play in a game when he injured the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in 2015. Rory missed 14 weeks of football, but with the support of the team rehab staff, he fought his way back. After four games in the reserves, he played in his first AFL game.

Rory played every game in 2016, and was one of Adelaide’s most improved performers, averaging 21 disposals at 75% efficiency to secure his place in the Club’s starting side. He scored 11 goals last year, including match-winning majors against Sydney and West Coast. Today he gives the Ali Fitness audience an inside look at Australia’s top sport, explaining how the recruiting process works, how the team staff uses GPS numbers to prevent injury, and how strength coaches design weight training sessions tailored to individual players. Take a peek into a typical week in the life of an Australian rules football club, and learn how the team supports long-term health and prepares players for life after football.

Topics Covered

[1:04] The fundamentals of AFL

  • Mix of rugby, soccer and basketball
  • Play on oval ground with goals at either end
  • Goal worth six points (kick through goal posts)
  • Behind worth one point
  • Play four 25-minute quarters
  • Some describe as ‘aerial ping-pong’
[2:36] How Rory got into AFL

  • Played tennis, basketball, AFL and soccer growing up
  • Favored basketball and AFL, had to focus on one
  • Thought had better chance at playing AFL professionally
  • Got serious at 16, playing for state
  • Drafted at 18
[4:08] The AFL recruiting process

  • Recruiters watch players 16-18
  • Come to house, meet player and family
  • Looking for good people (who won’t jeopardize million-dollar sponsorships)
[5:45] How Rory came back from a knee injury

  • Damaged posterior cruciate ligament in 2015
  • Third year in league, hadn’t played game yet
  • Missed 14 weeks of football
  • Worked with rehab staff
  • Couldn’t run, did upper body weights
  • Fought through fears
  • Returned to play four games in reserves, then got first game in AFL
[7:20] The team who helped Rory rehab his knee

  • Head of Fitness
  • Fitness Coaches
  • GPS Monitors (look at numbers)
  • Team Doctor
  • Three physiotherapists (one specializes in rehab)
[8:29] How AFL players’ GPS numbers are tracked

  • Three positions (forward, defender, midfielder)
  • Midfielders run most
  • Players run 14-15km in game
  • GPS numbers are monitored
  • Top speed
  • Frequency of top speed
  • Determines who needs rest (if output is down)
  • Used in injury prevention (must reach certain speed in training session to avoid hamstring tear in game)
[10:11] The different types of training in AFL

  • On-field training (skill work, game plan)
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Cross-training (pool, elliptical, bike)
[11:18] A typical week in the life of an AFL player

  • Play on Saturday
  • Mobility (in pool), light stretch and ice bath on Sunday morning
  • Light jog (15 minutes), skill work, meetings and light upper body weight session on Monday
  • Skill session and ice bath on Tuesday
  • Agility work, speed work, conditioning, intense drills and leg weights on Wednesdays
  • Light work leading up to game day (light run, skill sessions and meetings)
[13:22] How AFL weight sessions are designed

  • 45 players split into three groups
  • Older players are stronger, do technique-focused exercises
  • Players with tendon issues do different exercises (no squats)
  • Strength coaches tailor 45 individual programs
  • Strength coaches there to monitor session
[14:40] What an AFL weight session looks like

  • In-season weight sessions focus on maintenance
  • Three sets of four/five squats, dead lifts
  • Hamstring exercises
  • Players can’t be too heavy, but must be strong
  • Bigger players do 120kg squats
  • Midfielders do 80-90kg squats
[15:49] How AFL players approach mobility, stretching

  • Yoga sessions
[16:40] The role of the team nutritionist

  • Develops individual meal plan tailored to each player
  • Players who need to lose/gain weight follow quite closely
  • Trust players to use common sense
  • Stick to meat and vegies, limit alcohol intake
[18:16] Blood work and supplements in the AFL

  • Players report what taken during week (supplements, knee injections, medications, etc.)
  • Batch test for illegal substances
  • Blood test only if player has weak immune system
[19:10] How the team medical staff respects players’ long-term health

  • Player-focused decisions
  • Recommend retirement for players with multiple concussions, high risk of debilitating injury
  • Quite caring
[20:37] How the AFL helps players consider life after football

  • Part-time university work
  • Easier to find job after football
[21:27] How AFL players maintain fitness and health

  • Focus on sleep, nutrition
  • Give body best opportunity to perform (feel 100% on game day)
  • Some players keep food diaries
  • Otherwise not tracked, team trusts players to do right thing
[23:01] What the general public doesn’t know about life in the AFL

  • Privilege to play game
  • Does take mental toll (waiting seven days to prove self)
  • AFL is business, performance-driven
  • Living dream on game day, feels like job other six days of week
[24:43] The team aspect of AFL

  • Rory is close with teammates
  • Loves that aspect of the game (work with 40 ‘best mates’)
  • Must learn to play for team

Learn More About Rory Atkins

Rory’s Adelaide Crows Player Bio

Resources Mentioned

‘Rory Atkins Stars as Crows Down Hard-Finishing Cats in JLT’ in The Advertiser




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