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Hornsby takes the reins

Tom Morris  October 21, 2015 11:31 AM

Matt Hornsby is St Kilda's new High Performance Manager.

Matt Hornsby is St Kilda's new High Performance Manager.

My philosophy is looking at a rally car versus a Formula One car.

NEW St Kilda High Performance Manager Matt Hornsby grew up loving sport but knew he would never reach the elite level as a player.

Instead, he decided to do the next best thing – make it as a fitness coach.

Twelve seasons at Richmond – first as a strength and conditioning coach under Danny Frawley then as a High Performance Manager- fulfilled his initial ambition of working in a professional sporting environment.

But after three years away from the AFL system building up his business Sano Health, Hornsby jumped at the chance to join the Saints in a role that is seen by many as one of the most important in the club.

“What I love doing is working with elite athletes and helping them develop confidence in their preparation by conditioning the guys for the most physically demanding sport in the world,” Hornsby, who turned 40 in July, told recently.

“It’s a difficult sport to prepare for because there are so many different components to being successful.”

RELATED: Saints appoint new High Performance Manager

Being a self-confessed sporting fanatic, the father of three is familiar with a number of sports across the world.

He has shared the same dressing room with names such as Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis and Muttiah Muralidaran when the best cricketers in the world descended on Melbourne for the Tsunami relief match in 2005.

He worked closely with former Australian female tennis player and aspiring cricketer Ash Barty, while his stints at Geelong, Collingwood, Port Adelaide and most recently Richmond have given him a rounded perspective on what is required to mould a footballer to compete week in, week out.

“Every single player needs to be a good kick and able to run,” he says philosophically.

“It’s not position specific like the NFL where some players never touch the ball. It’s a challenge to fit all of the requirements into a program and I enjoy catering for the different needs of the individuals.”

When quizzed about his fundamental exercise science beliefs, Hornsby compared AFL players to race cars.

“As an analogy, my philosophy is looking at a rally car versus a Formula One car,” he said.

“An F1 car has great speed, power and is really dynamic, but it’s very temperamental. You’re looking for the nth degree and that can cause issues in terms of durability.

“A rally car needs excellent power, speed, agility and endurance, but they have to be extremely durable. They have to be able to cop hits and absorb punishment. That’s the sort of athlete we’re out to mould. Using that as a foundation, it means I will have a strong focus on endurance and repeat speed efforts.”

Hornsby appreciates the velocity at which football is played – all the more reason to create athletes that can withstand the extreme demands the sport, he explains.

The High Performance department is a small one at St Kilda, but as tightknit as any. Strength and Conditioning Manager Josh Low is effectively Hornsby’s second in charge, while Sports Science Manager Simon Kearney looks after the all-important GPS data, player wellbeing and innovation. Marcus Krygger, who last season doubled as the runner for Sandringham in the VFL, focuses on player rehabilitation from injury and physical conditioning in the gym with Low.

“I really value the work in the gym, particularly with a young group,” Hornsby said.

“One of the best areas to get durability is with a good gym program. We have a really experienced team within the conditioning department with Josh Low, Simon Kearney and Marcus Krygger.”

“Then we will have Steve Forcone come on board to work part-time with the guys in the gym. They are all really good operators as are the medical team.”

St Kilda’s first to fourth year players, including the newly acquired Nathan Freeman, will return to Linen House Centre on November 9. A fortnight later, the rest of the playing group will join them as pre-season steps up a gear.

“We’ve set up every day up until Christmas, including the training camp that we’ll go on late in November and early December,” Hornsby said.

“It’s a really strong program that will test the group physically and mentally.”

Matt Hornsby’s career timeline

1997-98: Collingwood (Part-time)

1999: Geelong (Part-time)

2000: Port Adelaide

2001-05: Richmond (Strength and Conditioning coach)

2006-12: Richmond (High Performance Manager)

2013-15: Sano Health (Health and injury prevention business)