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    How to Play Footy like an AFL Superstar

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    Written by Olivia O'Donahoo

    AFL is not only about fitness, like any other profession it requires so much more.

    Consistency & practice

    Practice, practice, practice, there's no shortcut to becoming an AFL star, it's all about repetition! This is what gets our stars ready for a game. AFL players often spend two to three hours, three times a week doing hand drills or kicks, to ensure they will be ready when they hit the field on game day.

    Nutrition & diet

    Nutrition and diet is extremely important part of being an AFL player. Players pay a lot of attention to what they eat, making sure their diet is full of protein and carbohydrate-rich foods at the right times. This is vital to fuel and recover their body for daily gym sessions, weight work and grueling match days.

    “The quantity and timing of carbohydrate and protein- rich foods are important to AFL players and change throughout their careers. For example, a new young player may be wanting to gain muscle mass. They need to ensure they have carbohydrate-rich foods for each meal and snack to provide energy, so protein can be used for muscle repair and growth. Typical meals could be cereal with milk and fruit at breakfast, a toasted cheese, beef, tomato and avocado sandwich for an in-between training sessions snack, chicken curry with rice and vegetables for lunch, a tub of yoghurt and fresh fruit in the afternoon.

    A more senior player could already be at his desired body weight, so will focus on maintaining and repairing muscle, not gaining. Both carbohydrate and protein requirements would then generally be lower than a player who wants to gain weight. During the season, requirements also change depending on training and game loads. It is up to the individual to listen to their body and their appetite. When they are hungrier, they need to eat more. Spreading their protein intake out over the day is also important for maximum muscle mass gain.

    Post-game, players replenish their fuel stores and start to repair their bodies. A good hearty burrito with beef, rice and vegetables works well. Fluid replacement is important also. Milk, water and a sports drink can help. How much a player needs for protein, carbohydrate and fluid depends on their body weight.

    Players look for nourishing carbohydrate choices, that will provide them with valuable vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrate. Examples include wholegrain bread, fruit and vegetables and less of the lollies and sugary drinks.”

    - Simone Austin, Sports Dietitian at the Hawthorn Football Club

    Patrick Dangerfield kicking a football

    Aerobic fitness & recovery

    Did you know that AFL players can run up to 10kms during a game? That requires a high level of fitness and speed.

    Endurance is key to any AFL player. The game demands players to be as fit as they can be and players need to constantly be working on this.

    During the preseason, players spend on average 30-35 hours a week training and preparing at the club. Throughout the season there is a high level of focus on recovery to ensure players can give it 100% week in and week out on game day.

    “Building recovery time into our training program is key. During recovery, the body adapts to the stress of exercise, replenishes energy stores and repairs damaged tissue” – Patrick Dangerfield, Geelong Football Club

    If you have dreams to play professionally, you need to start by incorporating a fitness regime that gets you moving daily, then build on that, pushing your fitness limits and building endurance.

    Commitment & passion

    To be an AFL player it takes a lot of discipline and commitment. It is an extremely tough sport to play and you need resilience to cut it at AFL level.

    The AFL jersey represents the history of the club and the past champions who have sacrificed everything to play professionally. Every time professional players pull on the uniform they remember those before who have played and the passionate fans who attend games week in and week out.

    To win a premiership is the dream of any AFL player and success is the ultimate driver. As a competition, the AFL is amongst the most elite in the world, therefore the players involved are at the top of their game.