The Collingwood Magpies practice at NAU

The Collingwood Magpies practice on the outdoor recreation fields on NAU’s south campus with snow-covered San Francisco Peaks in the background. Photo by Nick Hulett, courtesty of the Collingwood Magpies

Collingwood Magpies Public Practice Schedule

NAU Walkup Skydome

Monday, Nov. 28, 3 to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Friday, Dec. 2, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The team also will conduct skills training on the south campus recreation fields from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. Team activities are subject to change.

While most birds fly south for the winter, a particular Australian variety continues to flock back to Flagstaff.

The Collingwood Magpies, a Melbourne-based Australian Rules football club, has returned for a fifth year of high altitude training at Northern Arizona University to get ready for the upcoming season.

The yearly visit has made the Magpies regulars on campus, or “a bit like the furniture,” says David Buttifant, the club’s director of Sports Science. He is one of 20 staff members who accompanied the present 32-player squad for the two-week long visit.

The training in Arizona allows the team to maximize players’ performance, which Buttifant says, “increases the boys’ resilience.”

“The altitude is optimal and there’s nothing like this training facility in Australia or even in Europe,” he says.

The club’s visit includes practices in NAU’s Walkup Skydome, workouts in the Health and Learning Center, a trek up the snow-covered Mt. Humphreys and an annual hike into the Grand Canyon.

The Magpies are the third Australian Rules football club to visit NAU this fall. The Brisbane Lions currently have several players in Flagstaff and the Gold Coast Suns visited for the first two weeks of November.