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'An experience I'll never forget'

Danielle is all smiles after getting the call-up from coach Brendon Bolton to help out with training. (Photo: Carlton Media)
Danielle is all smiles after getting the call-up from coach Brendon Bolton to help out with training. (Photo: Carlton Media)

Nineteen years after watching my first training session as a nine-year-old supporter in Adelaide, today I was lucky enough to run (well … jog) out with the Carlton players.

When coach Brendon Bolton says he wants to create a united culture at Carlton, he doesn’t just mean within the playing group. Through a new initiative introduced by ‘Bolts’, he’s helping build strong relationships between everyone at the Club.

Each Monday over the pre-season four members of staff will get out of the office, head onto the park, and help out with training. Whether they’re from membership or merchandise, corporate or communications, everyone will take part.

Monday morning marked the first day of the rotating roster and I was fortunate to be first off the rank. Having been a mad football fan my entire life (thanks, dad!) I couldn’t wait to get out there.

After arriving at 8am and being kitted up with a pair of shorts, training top and cap (not to mention lots of sunscreen), I was ready and raring to go.

First stop: the team meeting.

Sitting in the lecture theatre I felt like I was back at school. All the boys had notepads and pens, listening intently to what each coach had to say. They talked through drills, watched videos and identified specific skills they wanted to improve during the session. Once the 20-minute meeting was over it was time to head onto the oval for a warm up kick-to-kick (luckily I practiced on the weekend!).

I’m not going to lie, it had been a long time since I’d kicked a footy (hence the weekend practice), but as a child I loved nothing more than playing ‘marks up’ with the boys at school. Growing up on a quiet Adelaide street, my dad, my brother and I often kicked the footy on the road. On a couple of occasions we were delighted to be joined by our next-door neighbour. He had a pretty good kicking technique and took a decent mark. His name was Tony Modra. And yes, when we took a mark we’d all shout ‘MODRAAAA’.

As the warm-up on Ikon Park ended it was time to get into agility and skills. I had the task of handballing the footy to the boys as they ran past. One thing that stood out was the constant encouragement the players gave each other. The positive chatter among them and their ability to push one another was really evident – they were always looking to improve on drills and go that extra one percent.

Danielle and Blaine Boekhorst gather for a quick chat during the warm-up. (Photo: Carlton Media)

As the coaches moved from exercise to exercise, I was more than happy chasing balls, picking up cones and jumping up and down on the mark when players were aiming for a set shot.

When the team moved on to running assistant coach Dale Amos asked if I wanted to join in with the sprints. Lucky I have netball tonight and have to leave something in the tank. Well that was my excuse anyway!

As the session came to an end we all gathered in a circle, linking arms around each other’s shoulders. This proved rather difficult for me, as I just happened to be standing next to the tallest player on the list: the big American Matt Korcheck. We decided to link around the waist instead – much easier. Standing there side-by-side, particular players were highlighted for their efforts at training. It was a positive way to end the skills session.

Danielle receives a handpass from Michael Jamison. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

After taking part in training this morning I know just how hard (and sweaty) our players get on the training track. Not only do the coaches teach and encourage them, they push them to the limit. Each player is trying to better their time, always looking to drive each other and always trying to improve.

I know every member of staff will enjoy the experience just as much as I did and I have no doubt this initiative will succeed in what it was designed to do – create whole of club unity. We are all in this together.

It really was an experience I’ll never forget.