Cats face scorcher up north

FIGHTING THE HEAT: Tom Harley throws on a cool vest at quarter-time on Sunday. The Cats face intense heat and humidity when they head north to Cairns for Saturday night's Wizard Cup match against Brisbane. Photo: MIKE DUGDALE

Wednesday, Feb. 26

I'M hoping that the Cats trainers and conditioners are on the job this very minute because the players are in for shock at the end of the week.

Brisbane will be hideous enough at this time of the year, Cairns will be a nightmare in comparison.

When I went up to Brisbane in February, 1994, I really didn't think I was going to last there, after a couple of months I was ready to come home. In that first eight weeks I didn't see the sun as it rained continuously, but you could feel it trying to burn through the clouds. I'd walk outside in the morning, immediately break into a sweat and stayed wet all day. It is just plain draining.

The Bears players at the time were conditioned to the relentless heat and humidity and it appeared to me at training that they were able to cruise through the sessions. Not me, I was pretty much a shattered, perspiring wreck before training even began. I just had no idea how I was ever going to get through a full game of football.

I reckon it took a full 12 months before I felt acclimatised, and if not comfortable in those conditions, at least able to survive them.

Cairns is another matter entirely. It's worse. Even inside the air conditioned rooms you sweat, there is just no escape that far north.

The Geelong players will have to start the process of hydrating the day before they get on the plane in Melbourne. Their dieticians will no doubt be telling them what to put in their bodies and more importantly, what not to.

With the extra distance the aircraft environment itself is dehydrating. When they're in flight they have to avoid the temptation of caffeine, salts, extra sugars and drinks like coke and Pepsi and stick with belting down at least three litres of water on the trip.

I know this is something of a one-off and hopefully the players won't experience conditions like it again this year, but they are probably going to lose up to three litres of fluid during the game. Training with the Bears, the staff used to weigh us prior to, during and after training to assess any weight loss which indicated to us how much more water we should be drinking during our sessions.

Unless this hydration factor is understood and the correct steps taken the players will find that if they do dehydrate they'll lose up to 17 per cent of muscle efficiency towards the latter part of each quarter.

Playing Brisbane at the best of times is a big ask and giving them a start is the last thing Mark Thompson would want to do. The Lions are already prepared for those conditions, but even so, they won't be comfortable either.

This might be a bit cheeky but it would be remiss of me not to mention the value of ice vests. In a nutshell what they do is limit the perspiring process. As soon as the vest is put on it triggers the brain to stop the sweating by sending the blood back away from the periphery of the skin and returning it to the muscles. The players used them last weekend and feedback is they found them beneficial.

Naturally, I'm hoping for a Geelong win, but if they fail, go easy on them Mark.