Former Liverpool conditioning manager Darren Burgess says fitness coaches face a bigger challenge in the AFL than English Premier League.
Burgess recently stepped down after two years as head of fitness and conditioning at the Reds before joining Australian Rules club Port Adelaide as their high performance manager, a role he previously occupied before turning his attention to the round-ball code.
He told SEN while he understood many would question his move from the most-watched football league in the world back to the Australian Football League (AFL), he was relishing the prospect.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that for somewhere like the Premier League, the role of the fitness coach is a little bit different to what it is in the AFL,” Burgess said.
“In the Premier League they play so many games that you’re more or less restricted to warming up and trying to keep the reserves fit because the games take care of the senior players.
“Whereas back in the AFL, purely from a job point of view – I won’t even go into the lifestyle differences between Liverpool and Australia – there’s a lot more riding on the fitness coaches.
“It was an outstanding period of my life to go over there and live the dream and work with a Premier League club. But the AFL’s a little more challenging.”
Burgess also leapt to the defence of Liverpool star Luis Suarez, who has come under criticism for going to ground too easily.
“Luis is very misunderstood,” Burgess said.
“He is an absolute champion off the pitch and on the pitch. He’s a family man, loyal to a fault and an absolute star.
“I’ve never seen any other player in any other sport that I’ve worked with bring (his intensity) every day at training. He’s unbelievable.
“He has to win whether you’re playing cards, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or a five-a-side. He just has to win and will do anything to win.
“I know on the pitch he gets some criticism and you can decide whether that’s deserved or not, but I’d certainly rather have him on my team than against.”