Don’t bother asking Hawthorne's Chad Wingard who he thinks might tag him on game day. Chances are he won’t have a clue. Indeed, he may not even have heard of the player.
That’s not because he takes his opposition lightly; he just prefers to geek out on the NBA rather than the AFL – it helps him avoid the hype and hoopla that surrounds the game in the footy-mad southern states. He doesn’t read the papers, doesn’t know the big names and, as a result, doesn’t fear them either.
“It definitely helps me in my football,” says Wingard. “I’m not playing blindly but I don’t have to get worried about who’s tagging me, or what they’ve done the previous week. I’m completely focused on the task at hand.”
The irony is that as Wingard’s career takes off, you can bet opposition players and coaches know exactly who they’re up against and are busy making plans to combat him.
Good luck with that. Already one of the league’s best small forwards, he’s now set his sights on the midfield. “You’ve constantly got to challenge yourself and not get complacent with where you’re at,” says Wingard. “You’ve got to find that next thing to achieve. Being single-minded can really bring out your best performance.”
There’s a lot to be learned from a man on a mission. Use Wingard’s training secrets to make your mark.
OVERHAUL YOUR ENGINE
As a forward, Wingard is able to use his speed to blast out of stoppages and run down defenders attempting clearances.
“The running I’m used to is the spurt running, the quick sprint, rest, then sprint again,” he says.
But if he wants to play midfield, he’s going to need to work on his engine. Wingard’s three-kilometre PB is 10:50. Port’s best midfielders, such as Travis Boak, run it in under 10:25. Wingard has that time squarely in his crosshairs and expects to knock it off in the 2017 pre-season.
“It’s all about attacking your weaknesses,” he says. It’s simple stuff, but if you truly want to get better, there’s no other way. Run the rule across your physical output, advises Wingard. Where are you coming up short? Where’s the benchmark? Now go out there and get it.
SHORE UP YOUR CORE
A titanic engine is only one part of the equation when it comes to excelling in the midfield.
In the helter-skelter of stoppages and ground contests, you also need to be strong enough through your core and upper body to break tackles and keep your feet.
“I don’t want to be this small playing midfield,” admits Wingard, who weighs 83 kilos but would like to get to 85.
He’ll put the weight on with upper-body lifts like the bench and shoulder press.
To strengthen his core, Wingard relies on band work. “We do a lot of marking with someone pulling you from different directions,” he says.
To improve core stability in the gym, try medicine-ball throws with a mate, catching and releasing the ball with your weight on alternate feet.
HANDLE THE HEAT
Port’s renowned running game is one forged in the heat and honed on the hills.
As much a mental battle as a physical one, the key to managing heat, hills, or both, Wingard says, is to quit worrying about yourself.
“Having your hands on your knees is not acceptable. Bending over is not acceptable, because that’s about you and your pain,” says Wingard. “Our focus as a group is to get out of your own pain and worry about how the guy next to you is doing.”
Slogging though a set of burpees? Your mate’s pain is your priority.
LAUNCH AN AERIAL ASSAULT
Wingard has made a name for himself taking hangers, most notably the grab over St Kilda’s Sean Dempster to claim mark of the year in 2014.
He attributes his spectacular leaping ability to his background shooting hoops, where despite being a 181cm point guard, he had no problems dunking.
“I was a bit shorter than most guys so I had to really launch into my lay-ups,” he says.
To reach such rarified heights you need to build explosive power in your pins.
Try combinations of full and half squats, Wingard recommends, lowering the bar slowly before exploding back up.
Add plyometric exercises like the box jump and step-ups to extend your hang time.
RUN AND GUN
Use Wingard’s workouts to build speed, endurance and explosive power:
80m x 10 with jog recovery
3km time trial
Run it twice a week, aiming to improve your time each session. Under 11 minutes is excellent. Port Adelaide’s best runner, Sam Colquhoun, runs 9:20.
Full squat x 3
Half squat x 3
Box jump x 5
Step-ups x 10 on each leg