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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Trainer who supplemented his Dons with a speedball

Trainer who supplemented his Dons with a speedball

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Only just found this article that appeared in the Age last month.

Trainer who supplemented his Dons with a speedball

Peter Hanlon
Senior sports writer for The Age
June 27, 2013

Jim Bradley had his own 'weapon' at Essendon in 1972.

Jim Bradley back at Windy Hill: 'Proper training, dead simple.'
Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

In 1972, 40 years before the big mistake, Essendon was looking for a physical edge. A radical training regime was adopted. Players were sceptical; some thought it was madness.

New coach Des Tuddenham appointed a fitness adviser who was fresh off a plane from Edinburgh, a Scotsman who hadn't seen a single game of Australian football. He introduced himself not as ''The Weapon'', but plain Jim. He cleared the weights out of the gym, attached a dozen speedballs to the ceiling and went to work.

They're called the Jim Bradley Speedball now, and those footballers - now in their 60s - still swear by them. Their patron is 92, warm and sprightly, sitting in his light-filled room at an Essendon retirement home. If the Hird Stand grew a little, he could see Windy Hill out the window.

Snapshots of his time in sport swim around his head, more vivid now than what happened yesterday. His mind dances from running tracks near and far to football grounds and change rooms. Stories of working hard, properly, naturally.

Of Ricky Dunbar back in Scotland, the mechanic of whom Bradley was told, ''Jim, don't waste your time, all he's interested in is women.'' Bradley coached him to win Edinburgh's Powderhall Sprint, the first of five men he sooled to victory in the famous race. Winners of every major footrace in Australia followed, including two Stawell Gift champions.

Of Andy Wilson at Essendon, the rover who was about to head home to the farm when Bradley said his problem was he couldn't run, that he'd teach him how. The next year, Wilson won the best and fairest.

Of the infamous Windy Hill brawl, when Bradley had his jaw broken by a Richmond official after he was pushed and slipped on the wet turf.

''My hands went back to stop me falling down, and he leaned over and belted me. So that was pretty brave, I thought.''

And of Ron Barassi at North Melbourne, where Barry Davis lured him in 1975, and the coach told him that if his methods didn't work, he'd soon know about it. Allen Aylett asked, ''What will you say if Jim's right, Ron?'' Barassi replied, ''Wait and see.'' Bradley laughs hard, says he's still waiting.

North Melbourne didn't suffer a single hamstring injury that season, and won its first premiership.

He says speedball training is ''anything and everything'', likens it a baby crawling - the action of the left working the right, then switching. A square stance is its bedrock. ''You're punching a ball, and now you're going to kick a ball, you do the same thing.''

Where the modern-day Dons lined up to be jabbed, Bradley's Bombers lined up for six three-minute rounds hitting a bladder encased in leather, with a minute's break in between. Then they went outside and ran - wind sprints of 60 metres flat out, 20 metres eased up, another 60 at full tilt. Jog back to the start, repeat 12 times.

Peter Hickmott was among them, and runs Bradley's company now. He loves him dearly, remembers a disciplinarian whose method was pure, and before its time.

''All of his training was based on effort, recovery, effort, recovery, which is today's football,'' Hickmott says.

Bradley's long life didn't have an easy start. His father left his mother with five children in a single-room flat. Jim served through the six years of World War II, mostly in the Middle East. He is straightforward and loyal; when two Essendon board members once asked him to tell another committeeman his time was up, he told them, ''You've come to the wrong man.''

Years ago, he and Hickmott came across Allan Hird sitting in the Windy Hill dugout watching a blond boy kicking a ball. ''That's my young grandson, he'll play for Essendon one day.'' Bradley thought he looked like a smart footballer.

He finds it hard to believe James Hird knew what was going on, was party to it. ''But seemingly he's got no excuse.''

If this had happened in his day, he knows what he would have done. ''I'd shop it right away. You're cheating.'' If they're guilty, he says, they must pay. ''I agree with the bossman, Demetriou, 100 per cent - fines, they'll be banned, and if you've got a Brownlow Medal that'll be taken off you.''

Bradley can't understand it. To his mind, if you've got athletes who want to be the best, your job is easy. ''Proper training, dead simple. That's all you need, you don't need anything else.''



I found this article on the internet earlier today. Merv Neagle was a very good footballer who played with Essendon in the 70's & 80's, also representing Victoria several times. He played in Essendon's 1984 premiership team and unfortunately got injured just before the 1985 grand final and missed out on a second consecutive premiership.

Tragically Neagle died in a truck accident last year. The comments below were  part of an interview Merv Neagle did with David Rhy-Jones on SEN in 2009, and re-published after Neagle died in August 2012.

In 1980 Neagle had a brilliant season, running 2nd in the Brownlow medal. At the end of 1979 - a season when Neagle was very ordinary, Essendon coach Barry Davis organised Jim Bradley to look after Neagle's 1980 pre-season. Neagle was only 21 at the time, turning 22 in the 1980 season.  Neagle's comment below shows what happens if you are prepared to do the work and have the right bloke 'on your back'.

RHYS: You ran second in the Brownlow in just your fourth year. In the long run was that a good thing for you or not? Did you get more attention because of it.

NEAGLE: Anyone could do it, there was no way I was a Brownlow Medallist, but I had an outstanding year. I was nearly sacked the year before when the coach at the time Barry Davis told me to pull my head in or else. Jimmy Bradley, our fitness guy got hold of me and said he could turn me into a player but I had to do exactly what he said. I spent a full summer with Bradley and he introduced me to the speedball. I had five nights a week training with him until the club started training after Christmas , It was sprinting, speedball, push-ups, sit ups, chin to the bar. I kept saying to him that I needed to run distance, because I’ve got to run for two hours in the centre or on ball, he said “I’ll tell you one thing laddie – a distance runner can’t sprint, but a sprinter can run distance. So I did what he asked me to do. I was building fences at the time and sometimes when I got home I didn’t feel like doing it when it was 40 degrees. I remember one night saying to the girl I was living with that I wasn’t going to do it, but then at eight o’clock Bradley knocked at my door and he talked me into doing it. It was dark and I can remember we turned on the car lights in the park – his car at the start line and mine at the finish line. He kept on my back and when it came to Round 1 I could have played a fifth quarter – I was that fit. All of a sudden I was doing things I didn’t know I could do. Jim Bradley and then Kevin Sheedy helped turn my career around. I was a late maturer and by the time I went to Sydney I had knuckled down and football was the No.1 thing.

Full interview at:

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