Kiwis doing all they can to acclimatise to heat
CHRIS BARCLAY IN TOWNSVILLE
Bikram yoga, coconut water and ice baths - the Kiwis are going to extremes to beat the heat - and the Kangaroos - in tomorrow night's trans-Tasman test in tropical Townsville.
Acclimatising in Cairns for the start of the build-up is among several precautionary measures taken by the New Zealand Rugby League to ensure their marquee players are physically prepared for a season-ending fixture in North Queensland - about as far as you can get climatically from the South Pole.
Players who were not involved in the NRL Grand Final have been preparing for an intense 80 minutes by taking classes or stretching in Bikram or "sweaty" yoga venues to prep themselves for temperatures likely to be hovering in the mid to late-20s when the match kicks off at 6.45pm.
Medical staff have also incorporated coconut water into the squad's dietary regimen for the first time in a bid to aid their performance in a humid atmosphere.
Team doctor Simon Mayhew's prime concern was the curtain raiser between the Junior Kiwis and their Kangaroos counterparts - an afternoon kick-off avoided the midday sun but there was still potential danger.
"It could be 29-30 degrees with a nice bit of humidity creeping in so the effect on those guys in terms of keeping cool ... if muscles start to overheat you're getting into some serious problems," he said.
Dr Mayhew said he would be looking for symptoms usually associated with young males in a bar precinct during the early hours.
"If they look as though they're drunk or have had a head injury, they're simple signs of heat stress and heat illness."
Players taken from the field would have their temperatures taken and ice baths will be accessible in the dressing rooms.
Water will also be sprayed through fans situated near the sidelines to give players relief.
Dr Mayhew said a key was encouraging the team to supplement their water intake with electrolyte replacements and extra salt on their food.
"I'd normally say, GP to patient, avoid table salt because it's not so good for you but when guys are exercising in this heat they actually need more salt."
He said coconut water was being provided for the first time because it was high in salt and low fat.
"We've got to be smart. We've done a lot of research from different countries with similar environments (to Townsville)," he said.
Water carriers are in for a busy night while there is also scope for drinks breaks to be built in and an extended halftime break - although the Kangaroos are likely to refuse in a bid to gain a psychological advantage on Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Australian team doctor Dave Givney said only extreme weather conditions would prompt the hosts to accede to any request from World Cup holders.
"We'd be keen for the extra (third) drinks trainer but not the 20-minute break, depending on the conditions of course."
The Kiwis had yesterday off and have a light captain's run today to wrap up their preparations - Simon Mannering was the only player not to take part throughout the week but he has recovered from a bout of food poisoning.
Kevin Proctor, who spends his winter's at the appropriately named Melbourne Storm, was taken aback when he arrived in Cairns for the first time.
"It's hot as. I had a hoody and everything on and as soon as I got off the plane I was boiling."
Recalled Bulldogs wing Sam Perrett was at least forewarned about the furnace-like conditions after playing the North Queensland Cowboys in Darwin in April when he was still with the Sydney Roosters - a blunder by the Bondi-based club as they were thrashed 50-12.
"That was a bit of a shock, we got there a couple of days before the game so at least this time we've had a week to acclimatise."
- © Fairfax NZ News