Match fitness focus for Cats

GETTING SERIOUS: Gary Ablett junior warms up before a pre-season skills session yesterday. Photo: MIKE DUGDALE

Saturday, January 18

GEELONG'S pre-season stepped up a gear yesterday as the Cats prepared to start a gruelling four-week training regime ahead of next month's Wizard Home Loans Cup.

Fitness will be the focus for the squad before a four-day team camp in Newcastle ahead of the side's first Wizard Cup match against the Bulldogs in just 37 days.

Yesterday's skills session gave the Cats their first opportunity to stretch out over the full length of the field since their pre-season began almost three months ago.

Pacy mid-fielder David Clarke ran laps throughout the two-hour session, still nursing a strained achilles tendon back to full fitness.

Coach Mark Thompson said ``it was a good session, they trained well,'' and said the players had been keen to stretch their legs in the full field, 12-a-side game.

``It's the first time they've sort of used the whole field and played on an opponent,'' Thompson said.

``We want to step it up a little bit, skill-wise and intensity-wise and just put a bit of match conditioning into them.''

Thompson said the club's decision to include ball work in the training schedule from day one had paid off, with skills improving despite the initial focus on strength and fitness.

``They're kicking the ball well, that's why we've had them out,'' he said.

``If you're a good kicking side you don't give it back to the opposition, and that's what we've been working on that all summer. He said the side would build up its fitness program leading into the Newcastle camp.