In the lead up to Richmond’s triumphant 28 point defeat of Collingwood at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, we were fortunate to sit down for a chat with the team’s Physical Performance Manager, Peter Burge.
Peter runs a tight ship at Richmond, managing the training of all 44 players, with a team of strength and conditioning, rehab, and sports science coaches, in conjunction with the clubs medical team. Much of his time is spent planning, communicating, and focusing on player wellness and preparedness.
“Number one thing is making sure players are fit and healthy, and able to do what they turn up to do each week, and that’s play football.”
Peter had his own athletic career in track and field, prior to moving to the AFL thirteen years ago. Having followed the sport for many years, the prospect of coaching AFL was very attractive, and would enable him to, not only, contribute to players health and fitness, but also impart knowledge and learn more about the game itself.
At the end of 2012, when at opportunity to work with Coach Damien Hardwick arose, he made the move from St. Kilda to Richmond. He and Damien had worked together at Hawthorn for seven years previously.
Between 2013 and 2015, Richmond made the finals three years in a row, however he recalls 2016 as a rather ordinary year, by comparison.
“Some people think we had this miraculous turn-around but for me it was just a blip on the radar and it was part of their progression to get better again.”
Heading into 2017 season, many changes were made, with different coaches helping implement new ideas around coaching and conditioning. Peter counts Richmond’s 2017 Premiership win as one of the highlights of his career so far, however he says it was a very special and unexpected win.
“It had been so long for the footy club, and to see a lot of happy faces, the people around Richmond enjoying it, it was a massive buzz to be a part of. “
The 2018 season has been an interesting time for Peter, facing different challenges and higher expectations. With a later finish to the season and a shorter pre-season, the number one priority has been player health, ensuring all players start out in great shape. After the massive year in 2017, it’s been a balancing act, getting enough work in without tipping players over the edge.
“Whilst I have a pretty important role, we all work together and I’m proud to be a part of the group.”
In the pre-season on top of their football training, Richmond players typically strength train four days a week with two lower, and two upper, body programs, which reduces to three in the playing season. Programs are tailored for players individual needs, with some younger players often getting extra sessions in to support their development. Programs typically focus on strength, power and speed.
To achieve balance, and get that 1% edge, they also take advantage of different recovery methods such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga and pilates, along with the strategic use of compression gear. Richmond uses Virus Bioceramic compression gear to help them recover post game/training, during travel and sleep, and to keep them warm in winter training sessions.
Performing at such a high level it is hard to completely avoid injury, especially with such a fast moving sport. So how does Peter deal with player injuries? Working with Richmond’s medical team and programs prescribed by their rehab specialists, players are kept moving. A player Injury provides a unique opportunity to make all-round improvements to movement patterns, techniques and ability. Player’s athletic conditioning is also kept up during rehabilitation using cross training, bikes and swimming, to allow them to heal from specific injuries while still staying fit and making improvements.
With such an extensive knowledge of coaching for the sport, where does Peter recommend amateur footballers can start to improve their game? The real advantage, he says, is in the conditioning. At an amateur level there is huge amount of variance in conditioning, compared to elite AFL level. Working on being fit, by eating healthy and having a good aerobic base level of fitness, can give an amateur much more of an the edge over the competition.
Speaking of competition, we wish the team all the best and look forward to watching Richmond’s performances heading in to the end of the 2018 season.