Having recently returned from the USA after a two-week training camp, Collingwood AFLW trio Jordy Allen, Sarah Rowe and Muireann Atkinson are itching to get into pre-season starting in June.

The three were part of an eight-strong crew that travelled to Phoenix, Arizona for  a high-performance training block at Exos Sports as part of their off-season program.

A seminal moment in the Club’s AFLW program, the group was the first to head overseas in the off-season in a direct enhancement of their high performance.

Now equipped with even more techniques and confidence around their training, nutrition and recovery, the program is building nicely under new coach Sam Wright.

Allen and Rowe - as experienced members of the squad - are determined to implement high standards and new regimes to the group, while it was an invaluable experience for new Irish rookie Muireann Atkinson who arrived at the Club late last year.

Now almost a month out from the official start of training with the full group, Allen, Rowe and Atkinson sat down to reflect on their experience.

What was your favourite part of the trip?

JA: The routine of it all - we were living a full-time athlete’s dream from the moment we woke up. The structure of our days allowed us to strike a really healthy balance between work and play, and we were supported by a full suite of recovery modalities as well as individualised meals and shakes to help us get up for the next session! 

SR: The level of detail and focus in every single movement we did. The learnings around nutrition, mental preparation, around activations and breathwork and breathing through difficult situations.

MA: The attention detail in every aspect of high performance - from physical to preparation, to nutrition and recovery.

What was the most challenging part? 

MA: I suppose changing and adapting your running style even if only slightly. It comes with a mental challenge as every rep you’re resetting and really focusing on those new cues by the coaches.

JA: The core exercises they prescribed!

SR: Probably realising we are not where we want to be and the frustration around basic movement as any weakness we had were exposed. But all in the same  breath that was what the exciting part, because we believe we benefitted massively and will take learnings with us that will help for the rest of our careers and left Exos better for it.

What aspect of the training surprised you most?

SR: Probably how you fall into bad habits around movement when you essentially learn how to run from a young age but also the amazing results you can have in a short period of time with a lot of coaching attention on us. Small changes that led to remarkable results.

JA: The mobility exercises they incorporate into their strength sessions. They were really creative and challenging. 

MA: They really emphasised quality movement and training over quantity, this meant taking your focus in each session to a new level to make sure the execution of each movement was at full intent.

How different were the conditions to Australia?

JA: The heat was sneakily dry, meaning we had to be more conscious of our hydration levels than we anticipated.  

MA: It was hot, but I came from Ireland after spending a three-week stint back home in the cold and wet so I for one wasn’t giving out about the heat.

SR: They have a strong focus on power and speed and less on the endurance side of what our game requires, so we had some differing views on that.

It was hot like Australia, but the facilities and resources were something to aspire too.

Which teammate did you see grow the most?

JA: Muireann - being a new player to our list, we saw her really come out of herself by the end of the trip. A ripper human who knows how to work hard and have a laugh while she’s at it.

SR: Sarah Sansonetti - a very intelligent footballer of ours, but to see her grow athletically was so great to watch. 

MA: Being a new member to the team it was a massive chance to get to know the girls. As a whole, the group thrived in the environment and soaked up everything they could. Stand out for me was Sarah Sansonetti - ‘The Zing’ last day testing she made huge progressions in was class to see.

What’s one thing you will be bringing back to implement in the group?

JA: The efficiency of the sessions - they challenged us to get in and get out. We will also encourage the others to rest and recover by prioritising balance between work and play. 

SR: The mentality of being so intentional with every rep. Mobility & partner stretching as well and focussing on nutrition and how much we need to eat to recover more effectively.

MA: We came home with a bucket load of mobility routines and how to implement them into gym sessions to utilise rest times more productively.

What was your favourite non-training moment?

JA: Our weekend in Sedona and the Grand Canyon which was not only an opportunity to take a break from training, but also doubled as a  character-building exercise after some accommodation troubles on the first night! 

MA: The road trip to the Grand Canyon was brilliant. Great company, hilarious craic and the final view we got wasn’t bad either!

SR: The ice hockey, competitive, high energy and electric crowd.

Describe the trip in one sentence/word.

JA: An unforgettable experience that has reshaped my approach to life as an athlete!

SR: Invaluable.

MA: Fascinating.