Injuries likely to hurt cross-code recruits
Cross-code recruiting of footballers seems to be the new fad in Australian sport.
If sought-after players can run, leap, mark a ball, evade opponents and draw big crowds, they are hot property on the footy code market.If these players show a wiff of interest in switching codes to earn the big bucks, they could be snapped up by emerging teams.
With the Aussie sporting landscape changing, thanks to new AFL teams Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) plus rugby union team Melbourne Rebels, it seems anything goes.
In the past week Israel Folau abandoned rugby league to return to his roots in western Sydney, representing GWS, following fellow ex-NRL and ex-Bronco recruit Karmichael Hunt who is now with the new Gold Coast team.
Melboourne Storm champion Greg Inglis also had a ‘chat’ with AFL club Essendon.
I’m sceptical about these cross-code experiments, although there have been some exceptional cases in the past, most notably AFL Brownlow medallist Jim Stynes.
Stynes left Ireland and gaelic football behind for the AFL. He made some early mistakes as he worked hard to grasp the intricacies of AFL.
But Stynes gave AFL his best shot and enjoyed a successful career. Why?
Stynes had the mental endurance, good character and importantly, the right body type to adapt to AFL.
The same can’t be said about Hunt and Folau. I think Hunt will have more trouble adapting to AFL because of his physique will need to undergo dramatic change to suit AFL’s intense running game.
I can picture Hunt sustaining a number of soft-tissue injuries because of the stress placed on his body. Yes, he’s strong all right. But his bulky quadriceps muscles are best suited to league and not to AFL.
I would suggest Hunt’s adaptation program would need a great deal of swimming (to prevent micro tears) and carefully designed interval training, to help him gain the necessary running endurance. He would also need a playing season under his belt to cope with the high number of kilometres he will have to clock up on the paddock.
I think Folau is a great athlete but I won’t be surprised if he also suffers soft-issue injuries as a result of his muscular frame.
AFL players are lean running athletes who are not as bulky as they were before the game transformed into a running spectacle. Look at the footballers of the 1970s – they had totally different frames.
Hunt and Folau will need to work closely with sports scientists to help their bodies adapt to AFL. Then they have to fit into a game plan.
I would enjoy seeing them succeed. But I feel they will have to undergo serious body changes before they can adapt to the high-pressure running game of AFL.
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