Newcastle Eagles have employed a dietician in a bid to keep player-coach Fab Flournoy fit and firing into the New Year.
Flournoy has battled a variety of viruses and bugs for two successive Decembers and it has had a massive impact on his Eagles career. The Eagles chief was hospitalised with gastroenteritis last year and battled with a nasty strain of pneumonia in 2011, both of which made him more susceptible to the muscle injuries that have plagued him over the last couple of years.
This year Flournoy is intending to do things differently in a bid to maintain his current clean bill of health, which he estimates is the first time since December that he has felt fully fit.
“I feel great at the moment. I feel healthy and in all honesty I haven’t been healthy since the start of January last year,” he said.
“I had gastroenteritis and I was in bed for two-and-a-half weeks. I didn’t eat for two-and-a-half weeks but when I came back into training – and I was only supposed to be training from a coaching point-of-view – Damon (Huffman) got injured. So I played against Durham and tore my hamstring, which was the start of my fitness problems last year.
“I then re-pulled the hamstring and when I came back for the end of the season I was really still re-habbing. But that’s not what people saw when I was playing, they just felt that I had lost a step, that I was coming up to my 40th birthday and that the years were catching up with me.
“In all honesty, that had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t fully fit and this is really the first time this year I would consider myself in any way fully fit. So the important thing now for me is that I continue along that path for as long as possible.”
The Eagles have coped with Flournoy only playing limited minutes so far this season but he does add a dash of defensive intensity when he is fit and able to play.
That will be particularly important this season given that Leicester have made a habit of keeping teams down to low scores. That was always one of the Eagles happy characteristics but they seem to have focused on offensive intent in their recruitment this season, which makes keeping Flournoy on the court all-the-more-important. Creating an environment to ensure Flournoy stays fit for an important stretch of games has been the cause of much debate behind-the-scenes.
“At the moment, I’m taking about eight tablets before I go to bed,” Flournoy said.
“I don’t eat red meat so we have talked about what I can do and the club has employed a dietician because December to January I seem to be more susceptible to whatever is going around. I am drinking a protein shake before bed and I will be pumping myself full of multi-vitamins because it is not something that I want to go through again. Paul (Blake) has also agreed to reduce my schedule around that time so I am giving myself enough time to recover. These are really important things for me because I don’t want to have a repeat of what happened. I want to be able to play as healthy as I feel I am at the moment.”
Flournoy’s health problems last year saw him drop from 195lbs to 175lbs, a change that affected his balance and ability on the court. His response has been to hit the gym over the summer – he even spent his 40th birthday lifting weights – but an unfortunate injury when he tried to chase Paul Gause left him on the sidelines again.
“Everyone was probably saying that I’m injury-prone but it was just one of those things,” he said.
“I had a good summer, I got my strength up and I am in better shape than I have ever been. I feel strong and I feel that I can bring something to this team so it is important that I follow the advice that I’m given on this one.”