Warrnambool runs an AFLX competition as part of its pre-season training program

New Blues coach Matt O’Brien said three teams contested the short-style format which places an emphasis on running.

“We followed the AFLX rules on a similar sized ground,” he said.

“The ground at Emmanuel College is about 100 metres long and we had three teams play a round robin. Each team would have 10 minutes’ rest while the other two teams played.

“Players got 40 minutes and there was a 10-minute grand final at the end.”

O’Brien labelled the format “really positive” with key forward Sam Cowling and new recruit Luke Cody among the players to take part.

“Everyone was surprised how physical it was – after the first 10 minutes, people were coming off puffing,” he said.

“It’s not physical as in a man-on-man sense but there is a lot of running. It’s good footy training because it’s sprint, then stop stuff.”

The Blues’ younger players impressed the first-year mentor.

“The standout was Aussie Steere because it’s a game for fast people and Ben Fleming was terrific and got a lot of the ball,” O’Brien said.

“Angus Robertson bobbed up as a potential forward this year. He had a good day out.”

Warrnambool will play Geelong league club Bell Park in a practice match on March 24.

It will kickoff its Hampden league season against Portland at Hanlon Park on April 14.

O’Brien said he was relishing the chance to lead the success-laden club.

“I am loving it. It’s really positive at the moment,” he said.

“I have to keep in mind it’s the honeymoon period – the sun is shining, the weather’s great, everyone’s improving and we haven’t lost a game yet.”

O’Brien will have new assistant Ben Parkinson alongside him on the bench in 2018.

“He has a lot of experience in the game and has been around different clubs as well,” he said.

“He’s been assistant to different coaches, so he’ll bring fresh ideas.”

Key defender Will Jacobs is carrying an injury but the Blues’ list, which was injury-laden last season, is otherwise healthy.

O’Brien said premiership backman Jacobs had a “knee issue we haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of”.

“He’s trained on and off but hasn’t trained now for three weeks,” he said.