Surge Sunday-1

Entering the Playground of Legends,, Michael McGill, Michael McGill

“What does it take to be an LFL athlete? Is it as hard as it looks? Surely it can’t be that demanding. After all, they are only girls. It can’t be that difficult.”

Last Sunday I stepped onto the field with the New South Wales Surge to take part in their three-hour training session. How wrong I was!

As the girls arrived and greeted one another, I pondered what fate befell me. For the past few months my fitness regime has included 6 kilometre bike rides three times a week, one-hour step climb sessions twice a week, and half-hour kettlebell sessions five days a week. So I thought I was ready for a stroll in the park.

Again, how wrong I was!

Co-Captain Amanda ‘AJ’ Janes started us all off with a warm up session that started with jogging and medium-pace runs and ended with full on sprints combined with high knee running, crab side stepping and step lunges. Looking to my left, Bonnie ‘lil nug’ Gillespie was all smiles and seemed to be enjoying it all. Pity I wasn’t feeling so joyful in the 30 degree C heat. My heart rate was up to 144 beats a minute after just ten minutes. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I first thought.

The first thing you notice with the Surge is the real comradery amongst the squad. There are no egos here. They support and encourage one another. No one is bigger than the team.

After a quick break to grab a drink, it was on to two and a half hours of gridiron training.

First up were reps of the full passing tree. Short, medium, and deep routes were practiced with every girl taking turns to run the play. Little tips were passed on to me about how to stand and start, where to run to, and how to hold your hands when taking a bullet pass. Jade ‘Hot-Rod’ Green stood next to me in line. She later told me, “You took on board the feedback after each rep and nailed it in the next one. Great Work.” Even though I was an outsider I was made to feel like part of the team.

At one stage I sprinted 30 yards down field and took a pass from Coach Jason Gaffey. A round of applause was heard as I continued to run the ball down the field, to the make believe end zone in my mind. Thoughts of Jerry Rice flashed in front of me while I held the ball up high and kissed it.

By this stage, the legs were really starting to burn, and the calves didn’t know what all this running meant. Standing back in line, I caught my breath while watching the girls as they caught pass after pass with very few balls being dropped. Charmaine ‘Bruiser’ Pavelka made it look so easy. Kelly ‘Popeye’ Goodwin was so quick that I needed an action replay screen to watch her again.

Blocking techniques were up next. This is when the fun really started. I have been sworn to secrecy about the specifics of the Surge’s blocking scheme, as we don’t want to give any of the other Aussie teams a leg up, but let’s just say it got physical as we were put through our paces by the coaches.

Standing in front of Surge assistant coach Teren Tan is pretty intimidating considering the guy is a mountain of a man. When he is running at you at full speed, you find out quickly what kind of ticker you have in your chest. At one stage, coach Gaffey turned up the heat on me and planted his rather large palm firmly on my chest as I tried to block him. It didn’t work out how I expected. The bruise is now carried as a badge of honour. A sore badge, but a badge none the less.

The high fives and back slapping the Surge girls give each other during the course of the day is very inspiring. The Surge have a heart that beats as one. They are there for one another and that is what really stands out the most during training sessions.

Later in the day, Alison ‘Prancer’ Laws said, “We are being positively coached. It is really bringing us together. There is definitely something special about a group of women working together to maim the opposition.”

I am just lucky that they were on my side today and treated me as a teammate, rather than a member of the Brigade, Maidens or Angels!

At the completion of gridiron technique training, we all had a quick drinks break then it was straight into conditioning training. That’s when the body started to tell me I was nowhere near the fitness level of these superior athletes.

We were partnered up and ready for battle. My teammate was defensive co-captain Shari “Amazon” Onley. Her nickname comes from her days on the TV show Gladiators. Why I was paired with such a supreme athletic specimen is beyond me. I knew I had to dig deep and find that extra energy to survive this next session.

The drill had us five yards apart from each other and starting flat on our stomachs. When the whistle was blown you had to get straight up, sprint the 5 yards to the other line where your partner had been, and then drop down flat on your stomach again. Then it was straight back up and sprint to where you began. We kept repeating this for one minute at full pace until I met my partner in the middle and wrestled her for 30 seconds flat strap! This was done for six repetitions!

After the third rep, the legs turned to jelly and the mind started to waver. I thought I was someone else. It was like an out of body experience. By this stage, Shari had caught me and was now lapping me! I could hear voices shouting at me, “Pick it up McGill! Get up faster! Run faster! Put in the effort!”

I remember, during the week leading up to my Surge training day, Shari sent me an email saying that when you think your legs can’t move any more, move your arms and the legs will follow. This advice popped into my head, and I pumped those arms for all they were worth! Naturally the legs didn’t listen, and I was forced to invent a new term called the “run-stumble-knee-crawl.” It got me there, but it wasn’t very pretty.

After six rounds of this we were given a one minute long break. One minute! Are you serious? I needed one week. Looking around everyone was sucking in the big breaths, yet they were all still standing and looking for more. Me? I was looking for the exit.

However I was now a Surge squad member, and the Surge don’t quit. It’s like having two minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter. That is when your true test of character is called to arms and you over power the opposition. So I lined back up with my teammates and got ready for the next phase of torture to commence.

If the first phase wasn’t pretty, then this one was down right ugly. Are these girls machines? How do they do this and call it fun? We had to sprint 200 metres and then go straight into wrestling mode again at full pace for one minute. And what’s worse, we had to do it three times.

My lungs were ready to burst. Just imagine for a minute the position I was in. I was trying to suck in giant gasps for air while wrestling a super fit athlete who’s well chiselled shoulder was pushing into my chest! There was no air coming in! Still the voices could be heard, “Get lower McGill! Use your hips! Keep moving your feet! Push harder!”

Once the final whistle was blown, I think I fell into Shari. She propped me up and helped me walk off the field. I remember her saying, “Well done mate. You did well.” I’m pretty sure she said a few more kind words as she threw her arm around me, however I was lost in a sea of delirium after almost being drowned by the Surge. Was I actually here? Was I taking part in all of this? When I made it back to the bench my heart rate was still at 176 bpm. I had survived a Sunday session of Surge training and learned all too well that this sort of thing is not for the faint hearted.

As I sit here two days later writing this article I am still in pain. The muscles are sore to the touch. My left thumb is swollen. The badge of honour on my chest is now a big black bruise. My calves and thighs are tight and sore. I am walking like an 80-year old man, and every joint in the body is crying in pain.

Was it worth it? Bloody Oath!

I have the greatest of respect for my NSW Surge teammates and for every woman who plays in the LFL. It is hard work. It is a tough sport, and they deserve every positive accolade given to them.