Dragons pre-season training with Nathan Pickworth

Article | Josh Scully

Nathan Pickworth is the Head of Athletic Performance at St George Illawarra Dragons. Nathan talked about the pre-season challenges for the demands of a game.

Hey Nathan, thanks for taking the time. What does an average training week look like for Dragons players?

“For a normal week of pre-season, we train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday. Within those days there are four field sessions, four strength sessions, and one “individual needs session”, which is based on what each player needs to improve athletically, according to their position and body type.

How many hours is there in a day of training?

The players arrive at training approximately 7.15am and will leave at approximately 4pm on the training days.  

What does a field session involve?

Depending on the day of the week and training phase, any field session encompasses all things technical, tactical and physical. This can be anything from fitness and speed drills right through to team and individual skills training.

What does a strength session involve?

A normal strength session covers a variety of different exercises and activities. The majority of strength training comprises compound lifting of multi-joint movements that reflect activities of Rugby League. The variety of exercises are aimed at facilitation of athletic development across all aspects of the individual athlete. 

What about the individual needs session?

We design a session based on each player’s position, body type, athletics strengths and athletic weaknesses – that could involve anything from players swimming, doing cardio training, strength sessions and/or gymnastics training. 

What do you do to get players to train at a match level?

We take a variety of information that we have regarding the game of Rugby League and the demands each players goes through for an NRL game. We then design preseason training to overload a game. Preseason is designed to be really hard so that in season is less physically demanding relative to what they have been prepared for over preseason.

Is there any particular movement/exercise that you think all players should be doing?

Every player is unique, I don’t believe there is any one exercise that everyone absolutely has to do. Rugby League is  a multi-directional collision sport therefore there is a huge range of competencies every player is required to do once on the field. So we design our gym program to reflect the variety of movements and demands a player will experience in a game.

What are some of the equipment that make up your gym?

Our gym is a fairly typical performance gym, we rely a lot on our barbells and dumbbells. We also use sleds, GHD, cable machines, boxes, medicine balls and slam balls.