It’s Thursday evening in the High Performance Centre at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.
The sun which has been so prominent through the day has disappeared. It tends to go quickly here, as rapidly as a public servant when it’s knock off time. Apologies to those in that sector who go the extra yard, but it is tough to get a phone call answered after 4.30pm.
Anyway, we’re in the hub and the minutes between dusk and dark have elapsed.
Most players and staff have filtered through the level seven suite that has been fashioned into a make-shift laboratory. In the guise of COVID-19 testing we have had swabs pushed down our throats and into the nasal passage.
It’s part of the routine of 2020, a twice weekly occurrence for most in the hub. We know it’s coming, but you never get accustomed to that probe, especially the one up the nose.
The test has mainly been scheduled for the mornings, but on this occasion it’s in the evening. Once things have settled, the head has been shaken, moisture soaked up by shirt sleeves, most people head to dinner.
Premiership ruckman Nathan Vardy, with that long, purposeful gait of his, is steering in that direction, but he has his footy boots with him. He takes a detour to the right.
The big bloke is on his way to the makeshift training field that has been created in an apron of space between the accommodation and one of the three nine-hole golf courses for which this place has become a famed destination.
Vardy sits on the fringe of the grassed area, it looks like the rough alongside one of the manicured fairways. He pulls on his boots and grabs the footy that was sitting alongside him.
Development coach Adrian Hickmott soon follows. After a series of exercises to ensure his body is ready, Vardy goes to work. He’s going through ground ball collection, marking overhead. He’s working to get his game back to optimum levels.
So far, in a football sense, he has had a frustrating time of it in 2020.
We are four games into an abbreviated season and Vardy hasn’t played senior football. He hasn’t been selected for the round five game against Sydney tomorrow either. But he’s leaving nothing to chance.
Senior coach Adam Simpson has reiterated this week that there is only one way to force a form reversal and it’s hard work. Doing all that one can to improve, to eradicate deficiencies. Even players at the highest level have areas that need attention.
Some are closer than others to perfection, but none have ever achieved it.
Inaugural Eagle and former Perth and Richmond champion Robert Wiley always went for a run on Christmas Day. He reasoned his opponents probably wouldn’t, so that might just give him an edge when it mattered.
Great players don’t become great just because they have talent.
So Vardy was going the extra yard. In all likelihood he arranged that short skills revision with Hickmott before he knew whether he was in or out of the team.
For Vardy and others like him, who are not yet getting their chance it’s difficult in this environment. This afternoon there was a scrimmage session against Gold Coast, but it’s not a genuine practice match.
That is, however, all he that has at his disposal to push his selection claims. There – and on the training track.
This hub thingy has its pros and cons.
For Vardy having a coach available to help him get to where he wants to be is one of the upsides.