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S+C coach Vardy on COVID impact to training


It has been a strange year for everyone linked to a rugby league club; from fans to players, volunteers to coaching staff.

With the 2020 season cancelled, all eyes turned to preparation for next year and the Eagles’ Strength and Conditioning Coach Simon Vardy had to plan lockdown training for the squad.

No face-to-face contact throughout the first lockdown, which included uncertainty surrounding a possible restart to the 2020 season, was just the beginning of a busy few months for Vardy.

“It (COVID) has had a big impact and made it difficult to do the in-person stuff that we’d usually do, so there has been a lot of virtual conversations with the lads,” he said.

“We need to make sure they’ve got all the correct information they need to ensure they do something productive while they’re away from us.

“When we are unable to have the opportunity to be with the players, we need to do work behind the scenes to stay in touch, keep them motivated and with adapted training plans.

"It was all quite new at the start of the first lockdown, so it was difficult to work out what we were going to do.

“Probably the biggest challenges within that was not knowing when or if we were coming back in, whether the season was done and also keeping the lads on track."

Recently, as the second lockdown came into place, things have got gradually easier for Vardy and the rest of the backroom team.

With rugby league classed as an ‘elite sport’, pre-season training has started with the squad present in the same facility.

Although normal service has far from resumed in the outside world, the Eagles’ pre-season is on track following initial COVID testing.

“We have been lucky that we’ve got pretty much everyone through the initial testing phase,” Vardy added.

“Coming into the second lockdown, we are classed as an elite sport, so we are able to come into training.

“We knew how we were going to approach this second lockdown due to how we dealt with the first one.

“Getting the fitness and strength testing done first of all has made it easier to get straight into some of the pre-season training we’d be doing usually.”

The Eagles are aiming for a March/April start to the 2021 season after discussions with fellow clubs and The RFL.

Vardy added: It’s really important to have that goal to aim at and we are going for an early/mid-March start from the conversations that have taken place,”

“We have that little bit longer to prepare due to the early start to pre-season and having that goal means we can target it.

“I highly doubt that the season will start earlier but if we end up coming back later, we have that longer, gradual pre-season in the bag already and we can add extra bits into it.”

By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman