The day before the game is always one I find really exciting. Anticipation and the unknown of the battle ahead blend into something that jolts your body into action. A physiological reaction begins to occur, you can feel your muscles start to store fuel, your senses become more focussed, the mind beings to centralise its thoughts. It’s a process you come to love as you move through your AFL career, you learn to crave the anxiousness and adrenaline rather than fear it.
We trained today at a more ‘conventional’ AFL ground, the SCG in preparation of our game there tomorrow night. Access to the ground was short and sweet as per the AFL and state guidelines currently in place. There is very little new strategy to discuss at this point in the week, it’s about reiteration and reinforcement of knowledge learnt in the previous days. The SCG is such a beautiful stadium steeped in a rich history. It’s hard not to let your mind drift and imagine an earlier time when the great Don Bradman would stroll out to the centre on his way to another century. Watching the tweak of the fingers of Richie Benaud, or more recently the busyness of contemporary artist Steve Smith as he manoeuvres his way through another classy innings. The ground has a character about it that makes it a privilege to be standing out in the middle.
With training complete, we head back to the hotel for lunch and a restful afternoon. Diet forms a vital part of your preparation as an athlete, the quality and quantity of what you consume a necessary consideration for the battle ahead. Food for lunch includes anything you can imagine that goes in a wrap or a sandwich as well as a selection of pasta and vegetables. Working out what and how much to eat sometimes takes a few interstate trips to get your bearings.
Dawson Simpson, an old teammate and I, both farm boys with above-average appetites, who thought the word buffet meant trying every possible food item available certainly were a little ‘green’ on our first few trips. As a 34-year-old I would still finish in the top 5 in the food quantity stakes but what and how often I eat has changed significantly since those earlier trips.
Pregame dinner is always a decent helping of pasta and apple crumble for me, the energy contained within important but so too is the nostalgic element of the chosen meal. Pregame pasta is something that helps fuel that physiological reaction, working to further solidify in my mind a battle awaits that I need to be ready and able for. In times of uncertainty one things remains assured, the day before AFL gameday will be one of excitement, eagerness, pasta and apple crumble.
Who doesn't love a buffet?