Aerobic powerhouse Will Snelling has blitzed the field to take out the Bombers’ 2km time trial on Monday.
Snelling, who was last week upgraded to the senior list from the rookie list, reaped the results of a strong off-season to finish first across the line ahead of Archie Perkins and Dylan Shiel (equal second), Sam Durham (fourth) and Andrew McGrath (fifth).
The time trial marked the beginning of the Bombers’ pre-season as a full squad minus the draftees, who completed their first main session on Wednesday.
Head of high performance Sean Murphy said he was impressed with what he saw in the senior players’ official return to the club on Monday.
“In the two k’er, there were some really good performances. The boys executed the program over the off-season really well,” Murphy said in Wednesday’s Liberty Financial Performance Update.
“The standouts for me were Snelling, who absolutely smashed his two k’er, ‘Shiely’ (Dylan Shiel) was really impressive, and young Perkins in his second year brought it home powerfully in the back end. He’s (Perkins) certainly made some in-roads in his [aerobic] capacity.”
A toe injury forced Nik Cox to miss the time trial, meaning the star youngster didn’t have the chance to defend his crown after winning last year’s edition.
Murphy said a conservative approach was being taken with the second-year Bomber as he builds his frame.
“Last week, Nik Cox presented with a bit of soreness under that first toe. We got that scanned and it showed a bit of inflammation in the sesamoid bones,” he said.
“Obviously this time of the year with a young guy like him, he’s put a bit of weight on over the off-season, so we just thought we’d offload him for a period of time.
“He should be back running this week, but we’ll probably be a bit more precautious in this pre-Christmas period. He’s done a full off-season program, which is fantastic, but it was just when he got back into the boots and a little bit of footy that he had some soreness there.”
After the first-to-five-year players returned to pre-season two weeks before the rest of the competition on a part-time basis, the Bombers will complete another two weeks of training as a full squad before their Christmas break.
Murphy said the early start, which also flowed on to the senior players, had allowed the training program to be more purposeful and effective in the lead-up to the 2022 season.
“It’s been fantastic to have that young group back. We had an extra two weeks with them, so overall they’ll have a six-week preparation pre-Christmas,” he said.
“We’ve been able to get quality in our training, which has been the biggest benefit we’ve seen. It’s great that they’ve agreed to come back (early), and they’ve hit the ground running and haven’t missed a beat, which has been excellent.
“With the full group back earlier this week and also with those older boys back a week earlier than they needed to be, they agreed on that program and again we get a lot of benefit out of that, having three weeks pre-Christmas.
“We’re straight back into footy. In this day and age, the footies are out and we’re straight into it. They’ve (players) done a really good block of conditioning leading up to us being back as a group, so that means we can execute the footy (drills) and that’s the most important part for the coaches – it means they can coach quality and we can really focus on that leading into the Christmas break.”
Murphy said McGrath, who was this year elevated to the leadership group, had made a huge impression in his start to pre-season.
The star 23-year-old was in strong form as a full-time midfielder before a PCL injury limited his 2021 season to 15 games.
But in a sign of his commitment, McGrath returned to training two weeks early and hasn’t missed a beat since.
“McGrath has been a standout for me,” Murphy said.
“He’s actually partaken in the whole block with the young players, along with Ridley and Francis. He is coming off that injury last year where he got back to playing, but he’s just got confidence over the off-season and I’ve been impressed with his first three weeks.
“He’s got that power and that agility step is his weapon, and we’ve certainly seen that on the track.”
While free-agent acquisition Jake Kelly and draftees Ben Hobbs, Alastair Lord, Garrett McDonagh and Patrick Voss have been new faces on the track this week, the Bombers have also welcomed some fresh talent to their strength and conditioning team.
Murphy said Alex Sakadjian and Conor Daly had “slotted in really well” since arriving at Essendon from the Demons and Manly Sea Eagles respectively.
“It’s a bit of a different look within our strength and conditioning team. We’ve filled one role with Alex Sakadjian, who comes with eight years of experience from the Melbourne Football Club,” he said.
“He’s going to look after our rehab guys and our first-year boys from a program point of view. He brings a wealth of knowledge and has been a really good addition to our program.
“Conor Daly comes in as our head strength and power coach from Manly Sea Eagles. He’s an Irishman, so he brings a bit of Gaelic Football experience, having played that as a youngster. He brings that combative nature, and he’s certainly taken some of the boys for some wrestling sessions, and that’s a nice point of difference in his sessions.”