AFL players participating in the NT Thunder Under 16s Women’s Development Camp in Darwin have been woken by surprise this morning–not by their coaches but by the Army.
The sleeping players were risen in true military fashion at 6am and hurried onto the oval at TIO Stadium–Darwin’s home to AFL.
Two Australian Army Physical Training Instructors (PTI) and a number of 1st Brigade female AFL players from Darwin’s Robertson Barracks, put the 46talented female players through their paces.
Army PTI Sergeant Cameron Justice, who has led a number of these activities, said that the tough session deliberately omitted football drills.
“We ran a military-style ‘gun-run’ session designed to give them a greater appreciation for each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to build on their communication and team work,” Sergeant Justice said.
The young players were required to work together to transport heavy loads from one point on the field to another to simulate what a solider might carry on operations.
“The change in style allows us to place the players under different types of duress compared to their normal training regime.”
NT Thunder Head Coach Heidi Thompson said that the players arrived in Darwin by car, ferry or plane over the weekend from remote communities to participate in the training camp scheduled during the school holidays.
“As well as players from Darwin and Alice Springs, we have players from Elcho Island, Goulburn Island, Gove, Katherine, Milingimbi, Tennant Creek, Tiwi Islands and Wugularr,” Ms Thompson said.
“They have been identified to attend by their clubs, school, AFLNT remote development officers and AFLNT talent and pathways staff.”
Over the weeklong training camp, the girls will be training hard to be selected for the NT Thunder Under 16s women’s representational team for 2020.
The Army training session is just one aspect of the weeklong camp that provides the opportunity for the budding players to train in a high-performance environment where they receive coaching on technical and tactical skill development, nutrition, recovery, mindset and well-being.
Sergeant Justice said that while the military twist added something out-of-the-norm to the AFL program, achieving success in Army and sporting organisations like the AFL require a similar mindset.
“Army prides itself on being a professional organisation and leans on the key foundations of teamwork, sacrifice, selflessness, respect and courage, to succeed in its missions,” the experienced PTI said.
“A professional sporting organisation like the AFL has very similar values that underpin their ability to become successful.”
Local 13-year-old participant, Kierra Zerafa said that the session was challenging but rewarding.
“The toughest part of the session was definitely lifting the tyres and the logs – for the logs you needed four people,” Zerafa said.
“My favourite part was being called-up as one of the leaders and then having to tell my group what we’re going to do to get them moving….it involved a lot of leadership and we had to work as a team.”
The entire session lasted only an hour and by the end of it, the military instructors had the players exhausted but most importantly still sporting big smiles.
The gruelling session ended with stretching and a big post-workout breaky where the players had the opportunity to get to know their uniformed instructors.
PHOTOS: by Corporal Carla Armenti, Military Public Affairs