Roar hardening up with Chopper

Queensland Roar are hoping that enlisting the services of fitness expert and former champion boxer Mark 'Chopper' Burgess for pre-season training will pay dividends well beyond the start of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season.

Queensland Roar are hoping that enlisting the services of fitness expert and former champion boxer Mark 'Chopper' Burgess for pre-season training will pay dividends well beyond the start of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season.

Burgess, who has helped out with such outfits as the Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Lions and Queensland Reds to name a few, has been putting the Roar squad through an intense fitness program.

It culminates with the players having to enter the boxing ring to take on the former Australia Super Heavyweight Title holder next week.

Roar Director of athletic performance Tony Ganter said the move was as much about physical fitness as it was mental strength.

Ganter was optimistic that Burgess' efforts could help the Roar improve a forgettable finals record that has seen the club twice bundled out at the final hurdle before the Grand Final.

"His operation is to come in and get players out of their comfort zone, challenge them mentally probably more than physically," Ganter said.

"There are a lot of them that aren't too keen to jump into the ring to spar with him next Thursday, so they're going to have to deal with that mentally, go and do something they don't particularly want to do."

"Really that's just a precursor of going away, so far we've gone to two Preliminary Finals in hostile environments and come away with zip."

Ganter, who has previously employed similar exercises such as army combat training to toughen up the Roar squad, was optimistic the training could improve the Roar's finals record.

"This is just a way of working with the psychologists within the club and the coaching staff to get players mentally challenged to do something they don-t particularly want to do," he said.

"Hopefully they'll learn something from that as a mental process and that will carry them forward into helping with their football when we have away travel and finals football."

Young Roar defender Luke DeVere was not quite looking forward to exchanging blows with Burgess, but could see the potential benefits from such training.

"It'll be a bit of challenge, but it'll be good, something different, and something we are not use to," DeVere said.

"It'll get us out of our comfort zone a bit."

"It's always a tough session with Chopper, he gets you doing a lot of different things, exercises we aren't really use to."

DeVere was also optimistic his side could put an end to the Preliminary Final hoodoo.

"Obviously we're a bit disappointed with the way that we've been knocked out," he said.

"The psychological thing does come into it, everyone is trying to make sure we're strong mentally as well as physically for the season ahead."