Images via Instagram

A host of the AFL and AFLW's best are relying on the art of jiu-jitsu and grappling to help improve their own tackling techniques on the footy field.

Max Viney, the brother of Melbourne midfielder Jack, is a jiu-jitsu black belt and has begun working with some of the AFL's most high-profile footballers to aid their own tactics for the 2023 season.

The likes of Scott Pendlebury, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Tom Mitchell and Christian Petracca have all looked toward Viney for assistance in bettering their tackling techniques and strengths.

Working together the Viney brothers were able to develop a training program that has allowed Max to work one-on-one with AFL players, looking into similarities between martial arts and Aussie Rules.

Speaking to Zero Hanger TV, Viney said he'd been left impressed with how some of the AFL's top echelon of players were still willing to find new avenues to improve on their performance.

"A lot of those guys during their pre-season at the top level, the guys who stand out from the rest, they're always looking for something to set them apart from everyone else," Viney said.

"A lot of these teams have already had wrestling coaches and grappling coaches come in, so with them, wrestling isn't a new thing. But I felt through jiu-jitsu, from a technical standpoint, that I had a lot to offer.

"Jack and I did a few sessions together where we workshopped. We developed some positions and moves that shared similarities with what the AFL and AFLW guys do on the footy field.

Jiu-jitsu coach Max Viney with AFL players Jack Viney, Christian Petracca and Tom Mitchell. Image via Instagram

"From there I met Tom Mitchell and Christian Petracca through Jack, and I reached out to those guys and said: 'Look, during the pre-season I've been working with Jack. We've developed some training for you guys that we think would be beneficial and if you're keen come on in'.

"Those guys are pros and jumped at it, thinking 'If I can learn something, why not?'"

Relying on Greco-Roman wrestling and other forms of martial arts in conjunction with studying how AFL players approach tackling, Viney has begun to see promising results from the training.

While also preventing players from harming their opponents through sling or slamming actions, those working under Viney have learnt how to most effectively take hold of an opponent through the mechanics of tackling and grappling.

"Jiu-jitsu and grappling is a broad term. Jiu-jitsu is predominantly on the ground, one person is on their back, one person is standing, where wrestling is more both guys are standing," he said.

"So jiu-jitsu doesn't necessarily share a huge amount of similarities with football, it's more upper-body wrestling or Greco-Roman wrestling that I've been showing these guys.

"I'm not telling them how to tackle, they kind of take (wrestling techniques) and develop it in their own way. Learning anything when you're starting out is tricky, but once they start to get the technique and why things work, not because you're strong enough or hit someone hard enough, but the actual mechanics of why things work... I think they found some real benefit in it.

"During the season it's harder to keep that training up, but for the most part those guys have enjoyed it in the pre-season leading up to the main season.

"We try and keep it as game-specific as possible. AFL players are so talented, even when they're getting tackled they still get the ball off to their teammate with a handball or on the boot. So it's finding that balance between taping arms up while you're grappling someone or tackling someone.

"That's where I've tried to come in asking 'how do we use our hips or weight distribution to effectively or efficiently get someone that's off-balance to the ground so that they can't dispose of the footy?' and in a way where they're not slinging or slamming (opponents) to the ground.

"It's definitely something I've been keeping in mind whilst training these guys."

Among his students of AFL players, two Magpies have stood out from the rest, with Pendlebury and AFLW midfielder Mikala Cann able to take on Viney's advice quickly.

In-form North Melbourne star Luke Davies-Uniacke was also a highlight for Viney, with the explosive onballer proving to be more than capable of holding his own in the gym from a strict jiu-jitsu perspective.

"From the guys that have done a little bit (of wrestling) at their respective clubs in the past, I would say Scott Pendlebury. He's a pretty unreal athlete," Viney said.

"Everyone always says he's got that basketball background, but he does just pick up stuff pretty quickly.

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"...When he came in he said: 'I wanna get my black belt when I retire'.

"Another one that comes to mind from the AFLW is Mikala Cann. She is a real in-and-under midfielder and she has picked up a lot really, really quick.

"All of them have struggled in some regard, but once they do get it and understand the way they can implement it is really impressive.

"Luke Davies-Uniacke, who enjoys the jiu-jitsu side of things as well. So if we're talking purely jiu-jitsu, he's really talented and he's picking it up super quick.

Viney trains at Dominance Jiu Jitsu in Abbotsford, with his services found here.