How Old Collegian AFL star Tom McDonald is coping with isolation

May 21, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, competitive sport has come to a standstill.

We have had a lot of disappointed boys who are missing out on playing sport for both St Patrick’s College and their community clubs.

Likewise, Old Collegians playing sport at a professional level have also had their seasons and competitions heavily impacted.

So, this week we asked Students and Old Collegians how COVID-19 has impacted their sport and what they are doing to stay motivated during this time.

Tom McDonald (SPC 2010) provides the following insight into how the disease has affected the life of an AFL star.

Tom McDonald

What sport do you play?


What team do you currently play for?

Melbourne Demons

Did you have any sport events cancelled or postponed due to Covid19?

The AFL season was suspended indefinitely after round one, meaning we had no access to football clubs, staff or teammates. We have currently had almost 2 months since our last game and have been training in pairs with a fitness program designed by our high-performance staff. We are due to come back and play on June 11th currently.

What has changed with your sport with COVID-19?

There has been a huge amount of change for the game ranging from salary cuts to all players and staff involved in the game to rule changes to the sport itself and changes to how the game will be watched,

There will be a lot less staff involved in football when we return which will have unknown impacts on the game and players.

How has your training been impacted/changed?

We have been training in pairs since the shutdown. I initially trained for a month with a good friend and North Melbourne player Dom Tyson and recently with my brother Oscar (SPC 2011-13).

We have been restricted to 2 just like everyone else with no contact. Essentially, we can do some skills and conditioning, much like our off-season training.

This has been one of the benefits I have enjoyed as I have been able to work on different aspects of my physical training. I have worked on agility and speed drills with cones, lots of different types of kicks and lots of goal kicking. With almost unlimited time it has been fun to play around on the field.

Tom’s home gym set-up

Typically, in a week we would have 3 or 4 running sessions prescribed and 4 weights sessions a week. Running sessions would usually be between 7-10km total with mostly repeat effort running such as 50 to 200m runs and lots of skill/kicking drills.

For weights, each player was able to grab some basics from the gym before we left so I have a few dumbbells and a bench to get a basic weights session done at home. There is still plenty to do with minimal equipment.

I bought a boxing bag and hung it up in the backyard, but I must admit it has gone mostly unused after the first week!

What creative/different training techniques have you implemented whilst in isolation?

To be honest I have to keep it pretty basic in terms of training. I like to run and do weights. I don’t really get into cycling, swimming or other forms of cross training. I find it boring and doesn’t really add to being a good footy player. I would rather get bang for your buck with training and do it really well.

Then I can focus on other things during the day such as family, university and work experience.

What goals have you set yourself recently?

For football my goal has been to find different ways to improve from this training. For me this has been things like my footwork, goal kicking and injury prevention for when we get back.

Lots of intense football like movements can help prevent an injury when I get back. I think some guys like to focus on getting fit in a running sense over this period, rather than training for what a match is like on the body.

I have tried to do lots of sprint, change of direction and jumping movements to prevent those injuries when coming back. But nothing can fully prepare you for what a game demands.

A separate goal has been to use the time wisely away from football. I have started an internship with a company, working on marketing for their business which has been really enjoyable and a good learning experience.

Has your motivation to train been impacted? What have you done to stay motivated?

I certainly had a period in the middle of the shutdown where my motivation was severely down. I did my training, but it was a slog to get there and get it done. I think this was when I was most doubtful football would come back and the feeling was, what is the point of training so hard?

To get out of this mindset I started to see the training as a chance to be out of the house and have some fun. It was a chance to see a friend and run around and that actually helped a lot. On top of the good news in the community in terms of the virus in Australia and the movement to get the game back on.

What are you most looking forward to when your sport returns?

I can’t wait to see my teammates and have a bigger group of people to just talk to and hang out with!