In the thick of what the team is calling its “second pre-season”, Newcastle Jets’ head physiotherapist Nathan Renwick says he’s confident his players are “fit and ready”.
“Surprisingly, they are ahead of where we wanted them to be,” he said.
“They are fresher and fitter.”
After the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) postponed all remaining matches of its 2020 season on 24 March due to COVID-19, Renwick said his priority became maintaining the form of players during lockdown.
“It all happened so quickly,” he said.
“We had to think fast on our feet and adapt.
“Our goal became to replicate, as much as we could, a normal week of training, but it was up to each player to maintain form.”
Renwick said players received an exercise bike, delivered to their home.
“The gym had a whole room of them not being used, so we dropped them off with a bike program to complete.
“But a bike program is limited when your sport requires you to run, so the players then moved to a running-based program.”
Renwick added that fitness programs were adapted for each player depending on what equipment they had access to.
“We did what we could with them to keep them ticking over,” he said.
“Head coach Carl Robinson demands that all players earn their position in the starting team each week.
“No spots are ever guaranteed so it was up to the players to do what was necessary to ensure that they returned in the best condition possible.”
Lockdown also had some surprising benefits.
“One ‘positive’, if you could say that, is that the players are returning a lot fresher mentally,” Renwick said.
“They’ve been home and had time to be with family, more time than they usually do during the season.”
Despite weeks away from game conditions, Renwick said he was not worried about injuries.
“Theoretically, in any training load when you progress from a low load to a high load, the risk of soft tissue injury increases,” he said.
“We’ve had to be extra careful in our training programs but the players have looked after themselves so well, I’m not overly concerned.”
The Jets are returning to team training this week, albeit with new COVID-19 restrictions.
“There are protocols in place for both players and their families,” Renwick said.
“All players and staff had to be swab tested, medically cleared and had to self-isolate for two weeks prior to returning to training.
“They now must complete a daily wellness check on a mobile phone app and if there are any concerns I’ll be notified immediately and we’ll make decisions with medical direction.
“We’re trying to keep it seamless so players can just focus on play.”
At the moment, the team has three coaches and a player in quarantine after returning from overseas.
“We had to drop down a bike and weights to [midfielder] Joe Ledley at a hotel in Sydney last week,” Renwick said.
“It took a bit of convincing hotel staff but he’ll be sitting on his bike for the next two weeks.”
Logistically, COVID-19 regulations are keeping the team on their toes.
“It’s a unique situation we’re in and we just have to keep adapting,” he added.
“Our bunch are pretty low maintenance so it hasn’t been too difficult.
“Their attitude to work has been admirable.
“Before the pandemic, the boys were in a good place and came up with some good results.
“Now we’re just hoping we can continue with this form and have some success.”
The Newcastle Jets return to competition on Tuesday 21 July when they take on Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.