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 Steve: This is Steve from Calibre Fitness here with Michael Dugina, the strength and conditioning coach from Collingwood football club, How you going, Mick?

 Mick: Yeh, good thanks, Steve.


Steve: Fantastic. Mick, you are incredibly fit, what does your personal training week look like?

 Mick: In this day and age, I try to get in at least 3 sessions of resistance training and weights, which fits pretty well around what the players are doing in their standard week. As far as weights go, I try to do a fair bit of that now, seeing as though I’m getting a bit older and find that your hyperdrive drops off a bit, so I try to maintain that, but also, as far as cardio goes, I just sort of work around the players, sometimes I might get 1 session in, sometimes I might get 2 in, and that will consist of boxing, running, rowing or even some deep water running, which is what I do with the boys to try to keep the load off their feet. So, yeh, I just try to get in what I can, but it’s definitely not as much as I used to in the past, as your getting a bit older you really need to pick your days and pick your sessions, but general fitness these days is what I look at and definitely eating good food.


Steve: You’ve come from a pretty tough background then gone on to receive a Master’s degree in Business Management, can you give us an insight into your life so far?

Mick: I guess growing up; some people use it as a badge of honour. I grew up in a pretty ordinary area; say if you grew up in St Albans or the western suburbs, everyone’s got a story to tell. Mine was a bit of a harsh upbringing, starting off at home, you know, sometime you had to fight for what you got and as long as your father instils that into you at a young age, it can be a pretty harsh way of growing up and in this day and age it would look quite brutal. But, when you grow up in that environment with a number of people who did the same thing, it was basically just a normal part of growing up. It’s only until now that I look back and see how difficult it was, how harsh it was, but I must say I didn’t grow up with a study in the house or anything like that, so school was something that you went to, you participated in certain activities, but certainly weren’t adherent to a lot of the things that went on around you. Whatever was happening on the oval was often illegally moral and we got involved in some stupid things and therefore suffered because of that. I took a fork in the road, didn’t study and I didn’t actually start studying, doing my sports science degree, until I was 34, which led on to doing my masters and MBA. To be totally honest, I didn’t know how to write an essay, I didn’t know anything about that, so I had to get tutored. I knew that if I wanted to pursue this industry that I really needed to get my qualifications. It’s all well and good to have the experience and life-lessons which I probably have more of, but once I picked up a bit more of the academia, I really began to enjoy the research and I still do.


Steve: How did you end up being at Collingwood Football Club?

Mick: I actually started at Collingwood back in 1994, which goes back a while, so I was introduced to it by a chap I worked with at the leisure centre in St Albans, I started working as a pool attendant back then, the guy I worked with there was Lawrence Sperdilace, who back then was the first full time fitness advisor at Essendon football Club and he got a gig at Collingwood in ’94 and asked me to come down and do some cross training and a bit of boxing with the players and one thing led to another. I actually had to get talked into doing it, because I didn’t have a football background, I didn’t understand the football culture and it was probably the best thing I ever did, because it got me introduced to a few people who I probably would never have spoken to. As I said earlier, in my background I didn’t really trust too many people, when you grow up around some unsavoury characters you think the whole world is like that, so you don’t tend to put your hand out to people and think that people are just trying to get the worst out of you. Working at the football club, I found that there are a lot of people who try to get the best out of you and that’s where my career really developed, by taking a few people on in an area where you can trust, and see that people are really trying to help you. I probably owe all of that to Lawrence getting me started off. After his year at Collingwood, he went back to Essendon and then he had a career at Geelong, but he was quite a good mentor for me at the start.


Steve: Since 2005, Collingwood Football club has led the way in sending players to Flagstaff, Arizona, which is situated at an Altitude of 2000+ metres, generally the players are there for about 12 days, players live there and take part in a variety of different training exercises including a challenging hike up and down Humphrey’s peak. Did the club take much convincing to agree to the first trip?

Mick: It did. Luckily, we are quite a well financially backed club, but even though we are, we still need to give a good argument as to why we want to go there and David Buttifant headed that. He did some work at altitude for the Olympics, for the Sydney games, so his argument was that we could probably get more out of our players working at a level where we don’t have to do as much volume in a short amount of time. The time frame that we stayed there was 17 days and in that time we could basically double what we could achieve down here at sea level. Not just to mention the physiological changes, but also the psychological changes that we can get there. In answer to your question, the board were a bit sceptical at the start, but the results speak for themselves. We took on board a few executives to come, we get 4-6 executives along each year and they pay quite a substantial amount of money to be part of that team and that helps fund the trip also.


Steve: How do the players react to a trip like that? Are they excited to do something different?

Mick: Yeh, no doubt. We all were, when you do something like that it is exciting. You’re going over to the other side of the world, and that excitement leads to trepidation where you’re unaware of what to expect and the first trip, going there and running up and down the grand canyon, we also did Humphrey’s peak which is 400m above sea level which was challenging, but people forget about the canyon and not many people are encouraged to do the canyon up and down in one day. The ranger said that they have a couple of deaths there each year whereas we go down and we try to get down as quick as we can. It all starts out quite well in the first hour and your taking in the sights.... But when you need to do that for the next 8 hours, run back up in altitude when you’re physically and mentally exhausted, it is a tough challenge. After you’ve done 6 trips, you know what’s ahead of you so you know that there’s a tough slog. But the players who initially start, they’re full of excitement, they can’t wait... but they can’t wait to get home too because it’s such a tough trip.


Steve: I remember reading an article in the Herald Sun a few years ago about you helping Eddie Maguire up Mount Humphrey in Arizona. He basically said it was the most physically demanding thing he’s ever done, and he couldn’t have done it without you. Can you tell us a bit about the experience?

Mick: Yeh, myself and the group with Butters, we get the on-ballers, obviously they’re the ones with the bigger engines, so we go last up the mountain and we sweep up whoever gets caught up or has a problem, and it’s not just Eddie, sometimes we have problems with the players that struggle, we’ve had problems with staff who have had to get sent back, they get altitude sickness and so-on. As we were leading up, myself, Butters, Paul Licuria, I think Dane Swan was with us too, we saw a little figure there leaning over, normally I’ll carry a backpack with a night kit along with a defibrillator just in case there is that issue there and someone gets violently ill, so when we got to Eddie, I took his blood saturation levels and it was something in the low 70’s as far as I can remember, which is quite severe, you can get cerebral edema which is bleeding in the brain. You don’t need to be at 4000m, you can be at 3000m which was roughly where we were at the time. I told Butters and the others to go ahead and said I’d look after Eddie. Eddie initially was telling me to go to the group, and I said this is my job; I’ve done this mountain 4 times, so it wasn’t about that, it was about making sure he’s okay. I said to Eddie, we either go down, go up or stay here, and to his credit he was pretty amazing to do that, because, like I said... not just himself, there’s been players who haven’t made it to the top, and also other staff members who are fitter than Eddie was. But, to his credit, he dug deep and soldiered on. He actually gave me more inspiration than what he gave himself, because at one stage I really didn’t think he was going to make it, and my main concern was his safety, I’d rather him go down than go up and we’d somehow have to get a helicopter to lift him off. But, to his credit, he soldiered on and the further he got up, he actually adapted to the altitude, and got better and better. So, it was quite good, and not to mention it was good for me getting a story out of it to. He put me on the map, so to say. I’d been at the club a long time, and that was the first article I’d had written about me. It was good, not just for me, but for my family, and now that we’ve got a little girl, I appreciate it much more now, she’s not just going to remember me as a crusty old man, she’ll see that I actually did something once and was quite fit, haha.


Steve: What are your views on the new substitute rule introduced last year and how do you think it’s changed the game?

Mick: Well, we definitely have to be more conscious about how we use the players now. We have to be sure that if we’re going to use the sub; we always try to wait until the 3rd or 4th quarter, because we don’t want to sub too soon. You really have to look at players and where they’re at and sometimes you might go in with someone that’s a bit proppy, and you say we’ll see how that player goes, then we’ll use the sub if we can. But you don’t always have that luxury, sometimes you’ll lose a player in the 1st quarter and you’ll have to use the sub. Then the player who’s gone in and might have a bit of an issue will put pressure on the rest of the team. Personally, I think we’d be better off if we didn’t have it, if we went back to the old system, and that’s not trying to have an old way of thinking, it can work in your favour, but it at the same time you always go into a game with a slight bit of trepidation, if we have the luxury then great, but if you don’t it’s an accumulative effect, lose a player in the 1st quarter, someone else goes in and they’re a little bit proppy and they need to keep hanging in there. All of a sudden, it has a domino effect on others, so I’d prefer to have the old system for that simple fact, that it can create more injuries for you in the long term.


Steve: Can you take us through the average Collingwood training week, and how different is your approach at this time of the year heading into finals?

Mick: The average training week generally varies, depending whether it’s a 6 day turnaround or 7 day turnaround, which obviously mean if we play a Saturday, then play the following Saturday, that’s 7 which is great, you can monitor your load a little bit better. So for example, if that were the case, Sunday we’ll have a basic recovery, although we’d do a post-game recovery on the Saturday night also. Sunday morning the boys will come in and do a light bike, some functional weights, a bit of walking in the water and the ice baths. We also do a thing called the CK level, we take the blood’s Creatine Kinase levels to see the muscle degradation and obviously they’re quite high post game and then obviously we can target those players even more so. So basically, the following day they’ll have recovery, Monday they’ll have a light flushing session, Saturday’s basically just another recovery based on massage and so on and then Wednesday will be the main training session, so they’ll have that day and then the Thursday off, Friday will be a light touch session, and then they’ll play obviously on the Saturday. If it’s a 6-day turnaround, it’s very similar, but we just minimise, and what that does if it’s a 6-day turnaround is that it minimises your chance to get the players up and increases your chance of soft-tissue injuries, so that’s why you’ll probably hear a lot of talk in the media about 6-day turnarounds and that they’re not that great for recovery, especially if you have a few guys that are a little bit proppy, which every team does, you prefer the 7. If a team goes into a match a day up on the other, it just means that their players will be that little bit fresher.


Steve: With only 3 weeks til the grand final, Collingwood finishing 4th, what’s the feeling around the club at the moment?

Mick: I think, winning the Essendon game, even though it wasn’t the best looking game and we know we’ve still got a bit of work to do, there’s a bit of relief. We’re in the top 4, so we’re all in the same position and have the double chance. We’ve been in this situation before and if anything we’re going to be going in as the underdogs. Hawthorn obviously have been outstanding all year and are going to be a tough team to beat, but in saying that, we’ve got every opportunity to give them a good crack, and that’s what the boys are focussing on now. That’s why they’re probably more excited, the relief’s past now, we’ve got our last training session today, and then play tomorrow. So if anything, I think that the training on Tuesday, there was probably a bit more excitement in the air. The boys can’t wait to get it going. We probably haven’t played our best football yet and hopefully it’s yet to come. We’ll know tomorrow night.


Steve: Great, Mick. Who do you consider to be the fittest player or the player with the best power to weight ratio at the club?

Mick: Look, for your fittest player, you’re always going to look at your on-ball players, your Scott Pendlebury’s, Steele Sidebottom who breaks 6 minutes for 2k’s, even running players like Ben Johnson. He may not look like an athlete, but is actually quite explosive which is what you want these days in athletes, guys like Dane Swan, who has been in the media a bit for all the wrong reasons, but I must say, his explosiveness, his speed and his strength in the gym, I mean the guy can bench 147kg’s, just short of 150, he’s actually quite strong and quite explosive. Then there’s guys like Scott Pendlebury who is more of an endurance based athlete, it’s tough to tell. When you compare strength and you compare endurance, explosiveness I’ll say Dane Swan, endurance definitely Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom, Dayne Beams is another one too. Those guys will cover anywhere from 12-14k’s in a game.


Steve: Is there anything you do differently to manage injuries at this time of year?

Mick: We probably look deeper into it now. We’ve got a player diary system, which a lot of the clubs have got, which we go by how the players are feeling in the morning whether it be stress levels, range of movement, muscle soreness and fatigue, and at this time of the year everyone ticks those boxes and everyone’s feeling great. But we really need to monitor it more closely, they do go through their usual check with the doc and the physio’s in the morning, but we follow that in training. So we try to see if any of the guys are proppy, because everyone wants to get through and as much as they do put their hand up, we really need to assess every area to see where they’re at. A lot of it comes down to everyone working in the medical and conditioning department so you actually do watch the players quite intensely now to see if anyone’s pulled up looking proppy because understandably they’ll want to get through and they’ll all want to play, but at this time of year a lot of the players can be carrying some sort of niggle and we don’t want them going into a finals game, because the intensity goes up another 20% from what they’ve been playing. So we really monitor the load quite intensely now, we just try to keep reassuring the players that we’re looking at them and we just try to manage their load so they’re not going to be pushed over the limit, if anything we try to stimulate them more psychologically than physically, because if they’re not fit this time of year they’re never going to be.


Steve: What has been the highlight of your career so far at Collingwood?

Mick: Obviously winning the Grand Final was great. If I say ‘working’ at the football club, I’d definitely say that, also I really enjoyed the time getting a bit of kudos in the paper with Eddie, which was quite good. But, if I’m going to talk just about myself, selfishly, I’d say getting 2 degrees, getting my sports science degree and the business one, because it’s something I never thought I’d achieve. Physical things were never difficult for me to do, I’d always push myself to the boundaries, but that being an academic achievement, that’d have to be up there, purely because of my background, and I never thought it’d be possible.


Steve: What do you think is going to be the next big thing in strength and conditioning for players?

Mick: It’s a tough one, because there are a lot of gadgets and gismos that people are bringing out, I actually think that functional training will get bigger. Even though we are doing it at the moment, I think specific training where we actually replicate exactly what we’re trying to do on the ground, whether that be some sort of competitive training, whether we’re using functional weights which is what we do use a lot of now. But replicating what we do out on the ground is huge. So if we can get people that can push some form of training, obviously they have their bench press and their squats, but their needs to be a way to transfer what they’re doing in the gym out onto the ground. I think functional training is crucial now to any sort of sport.


Steve: You’ve got a boxing background, you’ve had the one professional fight...

Mick: I mainly fought in kick-boxing, but I did have the one boxing fight, yeh


Steve: Okay, well... which Collingwood player would you least like to spar with?

Mick: Geez, over the years... Probably a past player that I always sparred with and built him up quite well was Anthony Rocca. Initially when he started it was quite easy taking pot-shots at him and, even saying that I never really was that brutal with him, I’d give him a clip here and there, but I’ve copped mine too. But, now that he’s actually worked his way and just for the fact that he’s 6’6 and now that he’s retired he weighs about 150kgs, haha... nah, he’s not that heavy. But, yeh... I’d probably say Anthony, and just make sure I’m a little bit more cautions with him than with anyone else, cos he can not only hit, but he’s got that extra weight behind him too. You’ve gotta be careful with blokes like that.


Steve: Well, thanks Mick. That’s the end of our interview; I appreciate your time and all the best to Collingwood and yourself for the future.

Mick: No, that’s great. I really appreciate the opportunity, so thank you... I feel really good about doing the interview. So, Cheers!