Ben Gardiner is already reaping the benefits of his first pre-season as head coach of the North Sydney Bears.
Armed with a fresh squad and the access to various high-class training facilities, the Bears’ future is looking a lot more positive than it did this time last year.
“Having a pre-season is very beneficial … last year we found that taking over in the middle of the year, there were a lot of things that we couldn’t cover that we would have liked to,” Gardiner said.
“Pre-season is about putting bases in place for particular things that you can go back and refer to throughout the season.
“As a coach I like to put a lot of those basics into play, (as well as) our movement of the ball and our movement as a team around the field so that if there are circumstances during the year you can come back to that.
“We’ve still got a fair bit of it to go with a month and a half before the season starts, but it’s been very beneficial doing that throughout the off-season and pre-season periods.”
A downside of calling North Sydney Oval home is that the ground is occupied with cricketers over the summer – and therefore during pre-season.
However, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Bears staff and players, as they have had the opportunity to train at high-class venues such as Redfern Oval and Camperdown Fitness.
“We’ve been lucky enough to use some different facilities, we’ve worked with Camperdown Fitness and grown a relationship with them,” Gardiner said.
“With our relationship with South Sydney we’ve been able to do a fair bit of training at Redfern Oval which has been helpful. There has been a little bit of moving around, but generally, the boys are in good spirits so we’re going along quite well.”
One would consider the Bears’ 2015 season a success considering their discouraging position at the start of last year, but to move forward in 2016 they have to adjust to their sudden influx of new players.
“We’ve probably kept half of our squad from last year,” said Gardiner.
“We picked up Brad Deitz and Jaden Clarke from Cronulla and they’re going quite well. We’ve picked up Jokatama Dokonivalu and Siti Mociereke (Illawarra Cutters) as well … they’re guys that I’ve kept on over time and we give them an opportunity as well.
“Samisoni Langi and Jack Siejka (Wyong Roos) have been really good additions to our squad and they bring a wealth of experience to us.
“They’ll have an opportunity to get in and do a fair bit of training in the (Rabbitohs) NRL squad as well.”
While the new players have certainly impressed Gardiner, it’s the familiar faces that have stood out in the various elements of training.
“Bernard Gregorius is very fit, and is doing a good job in conditioning and also in the strength work,” Gardiner said.
“A lot of our bigger boys are showing great improvements in their strength. Fred Junior Mauala and Jokatama Dokonivalu have done a really good job.
“A couple of those blokes have lost up to 8-9kg which is fantastic when you look at it as a coach.”
Despite the hassle of relocating and the challenges a new squad brings, the Bears appear to be on track for a stellar 2016 season.