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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Few men have worked harder to pull on an AFL jumper than Sydney Swans midfielder Jake Lloyd

Few men have worked harder to pull on an AFL jumper than Sydney Swans midfielder Jake Lloyd

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I saw this article in the Herald Sun on Friday; it was repeated in the early edition of the Adelaide Advertiser today (Tuesday 23rd September).

Fascinating insight to the making of Jake Lloyd. I don't know who 'Jimmy' is but he sounds like someone who once trained with Jim Bradley. The training regime is straight out of the Jim Bradley 'text book'.

Few men have worked harder to pull on an AFL jumper than Sydney Swans midfielder Jake Lloyd
• Mark Robinson
• Herald Sun
• September 18, 2014

IT’S 3am and Jimmy opens the back door at the Horsham house.

The home is familiar but foreboding in the shadowy silence. Jimmy walks through the family room, which is just off the kitchen, into the hallway, past the bathroom and into the bedroom of 13-year-old Jake Lloyd.

Jimmy taps him awake, Jake rolls out of bed and they go to the shed.

Jimmy is a family friend of the Lloyds. He’s also a fitness guru, a specialist if you like, whose profession is not allowed to be known. Neither is his surname. Let’s say they are classified.

Tony Lloyd, Jake’s father, lets Jimmy come and go — be it at 3am, 10am, or 9pm.

“He’s the strongest and hardest man I’ve ever seen. He’s super special,’’ Tony says.

In the shed — “don’t call it a gym, it’s the shed,’’ Tony says — Jake starts a rigorous one-hour floor and boxing circuit. He’ll do it twice a day for 20 consecutive days with Jimmy pricking him with commands and encouragement.

It’s part of the making of Jake Lloyd, the Swan who will play in tonight’s preliminary final.

Jimmy’s job, and Tony’s, was to get Jake prepared for the AFL. It was about pushing the body and the boundaries of pain threshold. It was about squats and push-ups and burpees and sit-ups and fists on the speed ball and doing it again and again. It was about blanking out the agony and fatigue, while keeping the motor skills. It was about sprints and circuits on land at the back of the house. It was about running up nearby Mount Arapiles. It was about eating right, sleeping well and never saying no.

Some people will call it maniacal, perhaps spartan.

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle,’’ Jimmy says.

But not once did Jake ever say no. “God no. He knew what it would take to become an AFL player and that’s to be a great athlete,’’ Jimmy says.

“The mentality is be comfortable with being uncomfortable. There are many, many stepping stones to get to that, but it’s about getting to a mentality where you get comfortable with what normal people call pain and a threshold and a barrier.

“You just have to push yourself to be harder, faster, stronger and fitter. A lot of it is emotional fitness. The body is the weakest thing in mankind. It’s always going to take the easy option. If your legs get sore you sit down. If you’re tired you sleep. If you’re hungry you eat. If you can say, ‘No, I’m tired, but I’m going to train today and push myself’, you’re going to get mentally stronger.

“I’ve spoken many times to Jake about this. That’s why I said, ‘God no’. He knows what I’m like. He wouldn’t say no to me. I’m not being arrogant, but I know his capabilities and I would not put up with him saying no. He never said no when I woke him up. He never said, ‘I’m done, Jimmy’.

“Out the back on the lawn, there’s probably burn marks from all the vomit. I’d have him on his hands and knees every session, dry retching, vomiting. And if I told him to get up, he’d get up.’’

He never refused?

“He wouldn’t bother. If he’s got energy to whinge, he’s got energy to push.’’

Jake is now 20 and will play game No. 20 tonight, against North Melbourne.

When you watch him tonight, watch his work ethic. Watch him run and make second and third efforts. Ask yourself why Jake Lloyd is getting a game when Tom Mitchell cannot. And ask yourself if it was all worthwhile for the 13-year-old to get out of bed at 3am and hit the speed ball.

TONY Lloyd was a decent footballer. He was recruited to Essendon from Goroke, near Horsham, and played under-19s and reserves with Mark Thompson, Mark Harvey and Paul Salmon from 1979-81.

Hampered by knee injuries, he never made the big time. He learned lessons, though, including during one year under Kevin Sheedy.

Tony speaks with a country drawl and a matter of factness. He’s 50, with of a dose of self-confidence and a double dose of wisdom.

“I got to Melbourne from a small country town and didn’t know you had to be fit, be strong, be in the gym, I never had any of that in the country town,’’ he said.

He vowed that if any of his boys were good enough to play AFL and wanted it enough, he would prepare them.

Jake is Tony and wife Wendy’s eldest boy. There’s also daughter, Paige, 19, and younger brothers, Billy, 17, and Matthew, 14.

Jake was a pipsqueak as a kid. He played mainly basketball before footy, playing at national level in the under-14s, under-16s and under-17s. “It was for the eye-hand (coordination), but he was always doing the push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and burpees, regardless,’’ Tony says.

For the boys, the shed was as much a part of life as the classroom and the footy oval.

“It’s got no mirrors and no bullshit,” Tony says. “It’s water bottle and a towel. You sweat and wipe it off and drink plenty of water. It’s called hard work.’’

When Jake was 13, Tony would build the sessions gradually and let Jimmy take over at Christmas.

“You start with light stuff, in the ring with a bit of boxing,’’ Tony says. “When they’re young you bring them in and I chuck them back out, a little bit like a horse — bring them in for a month or two, don’t bore them, get them back out for a month or two and then bring them back in.’’

A typical session was a set of 25 pull-ups, 25 dips, 50 sit-ups, 50 push-ups, 25 burpees and six three-minute rounds on a speed ball.

“And a minute’s rest in between,’’ Tony says.

Most sessions were after school.

“But sometimes before school ... depends if they need a little extra to get them going when they’re a bit lazy,’’ Tony says. “Sometimes they were twice daily if you want to get them a little bit faster, in a fitness zone.’’

He laughs when he says that, prompting a question an hour in the asking.

Are you a hard bastard?

“Hard but fair. I love my kids, that’s how it is,’’ he says. “It gives you strength when you’re going through a young age. Kids can get off track a bit. It’s good to come home and have a program, give them a little push. They handle it well. I’m not ruthless. I look after them. They are fed well, they sleep well, they eat well.

“We have the five Ps here. Preparation prevents piss-poor performance. Just be prepared in today’s sport. I wasn’t prepared for Essendon.’’

Jimmy’s 20-day, two-sessions-a-day regimen is reserved for Christmas, when Jake returns to Horsham.

“Jimmy gives the extra that’s needed,’’ Tony says. “It will be hard, but when they go to AFL clubs they can do the running, and repeat it the following day, and repeat it the following day after that. It’s mental toughness. Sheedy used to judge your mental toughness.’’

JAKE was a gun basketballer. A point guard who played at state and national level. He was too small, a lot of the rep coaches said, but Jake would never give in. So he played footy and, because of his basketball, he was confident in traffic.

He was a gun footballer, too. And fortunate. For the seven of the past eight seasons, he has played in a premiership team, including one as a 15-year-old for Horsham seniors in 2009.

A stupid question, but was Jake ready to play with men at 15?

“He was definitely ready,’’ Tony says. “He’d done a lot of work, done a lot of preparation. I told him to keep his feet and the senior players would look after him. And they did. He wasn’t frightened. He has good awareness, Jake. He was small, but he was a strong kid because of all the work he had done in the shed. He had huge self-belief, he was mentally strong. All the preparation has helped him. He’s on time, always there early, never late.’’

Every clock in the Lloyd house, save for the master bedroom, is set half an hour forward of time.

“It’s so the boys are always ready on time,’’ Tony says.

Before Jimmy got hold of Jake — and Jimmy now works with Billy and Matthew — Tony would have the boys running up Mount Arapiles at 6am.

“You’ve got to get out of your comfort zones sometimes. There are times when you’ve got to do things when you don’t want to do them. If you are going to be a professional sportsman, you’ve got to do it.”

He admits his regimen is not the norm: “It’s a little it different. They do it because they want to do it. It’s not pushed on the boys. They saw me do it at a younger age. I was always out in the shed and I took them out with me. On the bags, get them on the floor, have a bit of fun. I always had a kick of the footy with them afterwards.’’

JAKE made his debut with the Swans in Round 4 against Fremantle. He had only three kicks and a handball. Two weeks later against Brisbane, he had 15 kicks, eight marks and 14 handballs. The Swans had a keeper.

It took him time to get there.

Jake nominated for the 2011 national draft and sat in the family room and watched it unfold. His name was not called out.

“I remember, he shook his head, got up, went out to the shed and smashed a work-out and came back in wringing wet,’’ Tony says. “He said, ‘They won’t beat me, I’ll do it next year’.’’

In 2012, Jake moved to Ballarat to focus full-time with the Ballarat Rebels. He was full tilt. He got up at 5am every day and worked at a laundry full-time so he could train and play with the Rebels.

He nominated for the 2012 national draft and again was overlooked. “I can remember that day too,’’ Tony says. “He was angry, he went straight out to the shed and smashed it again.’’

Six weeks later, after Essendon interviewed him and Adelaide visited him, Sydney selected him in the rookie draft with selection No. 16.

“In between the draft and the rookie draft, there was four to six weeks and he went berserk for a month, every day,’’ Tony says.

Clearly, Tony is proud of the boy and pays no mind to the small talk in Horsham that he’s a touch eccentric, if not crazy.

“People do say it, but they don’t understand what you’re actually doing for your children. It’s not just about footy, it’s general life,’’ he says.

“If you want to get through hurdles in life, you push yourself a bit further than the next person. Jake did it. The kids are doing it. Jake’s still doing it. To me, it’s a great family thing. We’re humble about it, we keep it simple.

“And Jake is living his dream.’’

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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