RUSSELL Jarrett fits into a small minority of people in country football.
He is far too overqualified for his job.
Not his job as the owner of Infinity Gym in town, but his role as strength and conditioning coach at the Kyabram Bombers.
Jarrett’s sport and fitness journey began almost 30 years ago. He loved exercising and enjoyed driving and encouraging people to be better — it seemed like the perfect fit.
“I started out in Aussie Rules, in the TAC Cup system in Melbourne,” Jarrett said.
“From there I was able to land a spot helping out in the AFL Under 18 National Championships, and then I landed a job at St Kilda,” he said almost flippantly.
‘Russ’ spent three years at the Saints, molding the physiques of players such as Robert Harvey, Peter Everitt, Nicky Winmar and current Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge.
“I went from head of strength and conditioning there, across to the Melbourne Footy Club, and just spent the one year there,” he said.
After his stint at Melbourne, Jarrett went on to be involved with the Australian Institute of Sport’s golf and tennis programs, followed by time at the AIS AFL Academy, before he rested in a role at Cricket Australia with the Southern Stars.
A role he stayed in for seven years.
It’s strange to think a man with so much experience at the elite level would land in Kyabram’s lap.
Jarrett moved to Kyabram to run Infinity Gym, but knew he wanted to get his sporting club fix somehow.
“The pre season of 2010-11 I went to the club and said look, this is my background, this is what I can do and I’m here to help if you need it.
“It started as just a bit of casual advice and guidance from about 2012 until about 2015, then when Paul (Newman) became coach, he and I had a chat and he said to me, ‘I need someone to be in charge of the fitness stuff’.’’
Newman was playing for the Bombers when Jarrett was first introduced to the group, so the two already shared a strong relationship.
“We wanted to step away from the coach being the one person who says, ‘right you guys go for a run now’,’’ Jarrett said.
“So he was happy to formalise a role with me, so the fitness and conditioning had some real substance and meaning about it.
“He could basically hand it over and say ‘you make them fit, and I’ll make them play’, and it was as simple as that.”
It’s a combination that has proved unbeatable, quite literally unbeatable.
The Bombers went through the 2016 and 2017 seasons unbeaten in the Goulburn Valley Football League, brushing aside competitors along the way.
It’s clear the condition Jarrett has the players in has played a major role in the success.
Having been around strength and conditioning in sport for decades, Jarrett pointed to two main differences he has seen in the evolution of the art.
Professionalism and access.
“The amount of time and access that you get to players is amazing, honestly when I was at St Kilda, granted it was a long time ago now, but it was like Kyabram, you got to see the players two to three times a week and then game day, that was it.
“Everything increases because access to the player has increased, and then I think professionalism has increased due to more money being involved in every facet.”
Jarrett has enjoyed another pre-season of setting tasks for the players and watching them struggle through it, he knows, and they do too, the rewards are worth the hard work.
“Seeing guys play at their potential because they have been given some advice and direction with their fitness is the most enjoyable thing for me,’’ he said.
“Because prior to that, they were probably stagnant at a level and didn’t know if they could go any further.
“Showing guys that well, if you put a bit of time and effort into this, you’ll see the rewards, and they have.”
Russ is continuing to love his time at the Bombers, you can see that in the way he talks about the club — he applauded the players for always taking on the challenge.
“It has been another good solid pre season, the thing I have found with the Kyabram boys is for a country football organisation, they’re quite professional and dedicated.
“We are definitely on track physically, and we have attacked our pre-season slightly differently.
“We have done more running this year than we have in the previous two, it’s been a different style to suit our list and style of play which is a little different to the last few years.”
This pre-season Jarrett introduced a ‘new’ form of running for the players. Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS) training has had a sudden rise to popularity and he’s a big believer in it.
MAS running allows for different running blocks for each individual in the team based on their fitness capacity, a complete contrast to the old fashioned way of a team running together.
“I first got a handle on MAS running probably back in 2008, a while ago now but then it was in its very early stages.
“I remember looking at pre-season and the way it was conducted and thinking to myself, ‘that doesn’t match what was happening on the field’.
“I thought, football is a game of repeat effort and these guys are running 3km or 4km straight, just around in circles.
“So this MAS stuff I like, because it is higher intensity, it’s repeat effort, you have to stop, get short rests and go again, it just fits for footy.”
Jarrett is confident the players are ready to be pushed to the next level, despite all the recent success.
“You have to always be looking to improve, there is always an element of a player that you can look to get better.
“But at times I’ve got to remember to check myself and think, it is country football, these guys aren’t professional.
“You can only do so much before it becomes not fun anymore so that’s the balance you’ve got to find.
“And at the end of the day a player still has to go out there and get the football, it’s a balance of both.”
It’s something the Kyabram players love about Russ, his ability to be professional and drive the players, but also hold that country-football-feel.
Russ can’t wait for the season ahead — his seventh with the Bombers — there have been changes at the club, but as he said, “it just presents new challenges”.
“I’m mostly looking forward to the fact that we have a different group and a different set of opportunities,’’ he said.
“The last two years have been amazing, but I think this group has the ability to go, ‘well done, but what’s next’, and I think that’s the thing about this group, they are just driven.
“A really, really driven bunch of blokes.”