DONCASTER Knights go into Saturday’s opening Championship game of the 2012-13 season at Plymouth Albion ready to do battle, according to fitness and conditioning coach Dougie Flockhart.
Flockhart took over the role, which he combines with his playing duties, in the first half of last season.
He says he is happy with how his first pre-season campaign has gone and feels the majority of the squad are ‘battle-hardened’ after a tough run of warm-up games which culminated in last Saturday’s match away to Premiership giants Gloucester.
“Although we lost two of the three games the results aren’t important in pre-season and you actually learn more when you get beaten by a top side rather than easily beating a lower one,” he told The Star at the club’s Castle Park ground this week.
“I’m happy where we are in terms of fitness. We did a series of tests in week three of pre-season and we did the same tests in the week before the Gloucester game and they had improved massively.”
As with most major sports clubs these days, the Knights players were given schedules to follow during their summer break.
“It was mainly aimed at avoiding injury when they reported back for pre-season training,” explained the Scot.
Avoiding injury during the long pre-season was one of the main priorities when Flockhart, who also showed himself to be more than a useful goal-kicker last season, set to work on his training schedule.
“We did a few tests on the first day back but to avoid the risk of any injuries we did the bulk of them in the third week back,” he said,
The players all had their individual targets and we operate a red, amber and green colour code. If anyone is in the red then that is unacceptable. If they are in the green then they are in what we call the Knights’ standard.
“Not all players were as fit as they thought and I think some of the boys got a bit of a surprise at the standards we set. If players are fit we push them to be fitter and if they weren’t we pushed them to get fit.”
Whilst most of the nation complained about the wet and cool weather during June and July, not so Flockhart.
“The weather was quite good for pre-season training,” he said. “A lot of time in pre-season the ground is very hard and very hot so not only do you run the risk of soft tissue injuries, but you also have problems with hydration.”
Players I have spoken to during the summer have been complimentary about the training.
“We’ve tried to include everything in the sessions and we’ve also tried to use the ball as often as possible,” he said. “Nobody has run more than 50 metres without changing direction. Long slow runs are out - they only make slow runners and we wanted everyone to be sharp.
“We’ve not treated all the players playing in different positions the same; everyone has got different targets and different aims.
“The forwards have done a lot less running and more ‘strong man’ stuff which mimicked what they do in a game. Whereas the backs did a lot more running and agility stuff because we are wanting to have a really quick back line playing behind a really big pack.”
Flockhart, who can operate either at full-back or on the wing, is hoping that will prove to be a winning combination this season, starting at Brickfields.