OUTGOING Melbourne high performance manager Darren Burgess has revealed the biggest challenge he faced when walking into the Demons two years ago.
Speaking on his Brukie and Burgo podcast, Burgess said he had to teach Melbourne's list "physical resilience".
When he walked into the club following a 17th-placed 2019 season, Burgess was confronted with a squad that had seen almost half of its players undergoing off-season surgeries.
Given complete freedom by coach Simon Goodwin to do things his own way, the man who has forged a stellar international reputation after stints with Port Adelaide and English Premier League giants Liverpool and Arsenal, went about changing mindsets.
"My biggest thing was to try and implement some physical resilience in the playing group," Burgess said.
"There's two ways to go about injury prevention, I think.
"If someone has niggles you give them a rest so they complete as many sessions as possible, cut the sessions short if someone's a bit sore, or you can build them up and push them through those periods where they're a little sore, a little bit tender and a little bit fatigued … to provide them with that robustness to get through."
Burgess said he used to subscribe to the former theory before evolving to the latter in recent years.
After an improved 2020, Melbourne won the 2021 premiership partly off the back of player availability, and the work of Burgess and his team.
Nine men played in all 25 games, another four missed just one, and 16 played 20 games or more.
"Providing that physical resilience was about turning up, day after day, with training intensity at a super high level," he said.
"It's really tempting for medical, performance people to say 'we train from November to March and then we play games. And in January when it's a bit hot and someone rolled their ankle slightly, it's tempting to say just have this session off, it's just January, it doesn't matter if you miss one session'. But it does.
"Those little habits build up and it matters massively."
Burgess is joining Adelaide for the upcoming season, leaving Melbourne in the hands of Selwyn Griffith, who he nurtured through the past 12 months after he headed south from Brisbane.
Griffith was part of a Lions' medical team that had terrific success with not only keeping players on the field, but implementing aggressive rehabilitation practises to ensure they returned quickly following injury.