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Young Dockers pushed to the limit

Freo's first and second-year players were not broken as they completed the annual development camp. Fremantle's first and second-year players took part in a development camp in Byford.

They might have been tired, hungry and exhausted but Fremantle’s first and second-year players were not broken as they completed the annual development camp, held this year at the Manjedal Activity Centre in Karrakup.

For the first year players, who were only then starting their third day at the club, it was an ominous 40 minute drive from Fremantle's training facility in Cockburn to what was then an unspecified location.

On arrival, the group of 16 ran through their pre-camp checklist to make sure every participant had the required items, which included camping equipment, torches, sunscreen, insect repellent and food.

For every individual item missing, the entire group had to do 18 push-ups and sit-ups, with the number 18 representing every player on the field who would be let down by a lack of preparation.

Instead of calling those out who had let the team down, everyone got to work and encouraged those who were struggling.

New draftee Tom North powers through the push-ups

It was just the beginning of what would be an intense three days, with the players split into two groups of eight, Alpha and Bravo. 

Sean Darcy, who had completed a similar camp in 2016 in the Stirling Ranges, made a clear effort to keep morale high in group Alpha – even resorting to singing as they completed their tasks.

“It’s just little bit of talk and creating some banter within the group,” Darcy said.

“It’s all fun and games as we’re just trying to get through the day.

“All of the boys are doing well, Lukey Ryan and Taylin Duman are cracking a few jokes. Andy (Brayshaw) and Mitch (Crowden) are both talking a fair bit and Scotty (Jones) and the rest are going really well. It’s been a good group so far."

Sean Darcy sings as group Alpha completes their first task

Group Alpha successfully finished their first two tasks for the day, completing an endurance challenge and a puzzle to earn shelter and sleeping bags.

In a sign of how difficult the camp is for the group, their sleeping bags were soon confiscated by the drill sergeants.

“The reward for completing the first challenge is that we got a hootchie (tarpaulin) so we can sleep undercover tonight,” Darcy said.

“Our second challenge, we got the sleeping bags but as we didn’t carry them to the third challenge, they were taken away from us!"

Group Alpha at work: Luke Ryan, Stefan Giro, Sean Darcy, Taylin Duman, Andrew Brayshaw, Mitch Crowden and Hugh Dixon

New draftee Tom North, of group Bravo, said his team also had an unfortunate end to their second challenge.

“We have to drag a huge sled with our drink bottles in the tyre to a site about a kilometre away,”

“We went down and made a shelter for a storm. It took us about an hour and we didn’t end up getting to complete it as there was some pretty unforgiving judging.

“We were hoping to get our sleeping bags but, unfortunately, we won’t get those until another challenge is done.

“We’re still all pretty good, we said we’d get back up in the morning and head back down to finish it off, we’re trying to stay as positive as possible.”

Lloyd Meek talks to Griffin Logue as group Bravo builds a shelter

Senior development coach Marc Webb said there was a purpose behind putting Freo’s young players through trying circumstances.

Alongside development coaches Roger Hayden, Brent Guerra and Adam Read, Webb’s role was to observe and not interfere.

“The camp is really important for us,” Webb said.

“You’re always going to be challenged throughout your football career, either through injury or on game day or at the gym. It’s about being able to work through these challenges.

“Football’s a group sport and it’s all about your teammates and working together, so it’s about building those principles and sharing the load.

“We’re seeing them working tougher and being stronger as a group, while also finding a bit out about each other. It’s really bringing the first year players into the Freo community.”

At camp Alpha: Taylin Duman, Luke Ryan and Andrew Brayshaw

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs