“Got enough D3?”
“Should do. Spray plasters and Elastoplast too.”
“Yeah, full esky.”
Harry Stemp and Olivia Ellis are doing their final Thursday night stocktake at Bundoora Oval. Come Saturday’s matches against North Brunswick, the two sports trainers of the Academy will be ready to assess and treat any aches, pains and injuries the Redbacks endure.
The pair are both RMIT students – Harry is in his fourth year of osteopathy specialising in player injury treatment and rehabilitation and Olivia in her third year of health science and applied science and osteopathy.
“We get along really well,” says Olivia, who was guided to the Academy by Eliza Goulding. “We have a really honest relationship, we get along well with each other.”
“I got my sports trainer certificate a bit over a year ago and I just went straight into looking for sport’s training work,” says Harry, who also works in the RMIT Bundoora Indoor Sports Centre. “I knew Sally from Uni Games and she said there was an opportunity coming up.”
Harry breaks to strap Lily Baker’s knee before the tall forward goes out to training – “just a little fix-up job”. If a player hurts herself at training, he will assess the injury and provide them with the necessary treatment. He will then liaise his assessment with Mitch Lower and Gezim Zeneli – which leads into his other role at training…
During the week, Harry coordinates the treatment schedule of the Redbacks with the Academy’s sports medical team. Across the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, players will schedule times and reasons for appointments. Harry keeps the spreadsheets to form a database for the player treatment chain that includes High-Performance Manager Vince Atkinson and Strength & Conditioning pair Matt Newbold and Riley Box as well as the sports medical therapy team.
In the rooms before the first bounce on game day, Harry and Olivia are in high demand. Late strapping, a quick rub-down to relieve a sudden twinge from the warm-up or a final inspection of a recurring injury … at a moment’s notice, they’ll be there.
If a player goes down with an injury – from either the Redbacks or the opposition because, as Olivia puts it, “you don’t like seeing athletes hurt … we know we can treat them” – Harry and Olivia will stride out to safely whisk them out of the fray. Initial assessments will vary depending on the nature of the injury: any player with a head knock will undergo a concussion test and there is a strict zero-tolerance policy on returning to the field at any sign of concussion – headache, loss of consciousness, confusion, dizziness or ringing in the ears.
Thankfully, concussion cases have been rare in the Academy’s first season with Harry and Olivia ruling just two players out of taking any further part in the match. The most common match-day ailment assessments are joint or soft tissue injuries. Many Redbacks are in their first seasons of Australian Rules and the aches and pains of the high-speed contact sport take their bodies by surprise.
At quarter time of the Seniors’ match against North Brunswick, Emily Balaburov quietly tells Olivia that her right ankle, which has stubbornly refused to heal over the last six weeks, is giving her grief. Olivia unfurls a stretch of tape and as Emily sits on the bench with her leg propped up, she carefully wraps a support between her foot and lower calf. Upon the completion of her art, she tells Emily to test her ankle out. Tentatively at first, then putting on more and more weight until she is standing normally, Emily gives a thanks and a thumbs-up and runs freely off to the huddle.
Olivia tosses her hair with her over-the-top bravura.
“All in a day’s work, mate,” she sighs exaggeratedly.
Olivia stands out for her effervescence as much as her work (she freely refers to herself as ‘The GOAT’) but it’s that infectious personality that has helped her gain the trust of her players. Any Redback will readily check in with her before training or match day.
“I love that. I want them to keep having that openness. I think the girls are very comfortable talking to me – they see me as someone that’s easy to talk to. They’re more likely to open up about their injuries.
“Making someone feel ready to play is really good – for example, Lily Baker comes to me to get her knee taped and felt so much more confident. Being able to do that for people, making them feel better and more comfortable to get a better performance.”