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It was the final hurdle before the Christmas break that the players weren't expecting – a punishing series of runs up the towering sand dunes of Birubi Beach, Anna Bay.

The pre-Christmas training camp in Port Stephens was billed as an opportunity for team bonding and a chance to cap off the first block of pre-season with some fun and games, but that all went out the window when the team bus rolled up at the secluded Anna Bay beach.

“It's always a tough one, but it's good knowing you've done the work leading up into Christmas,” skipper Kurt Gidley said following the gruelling session. 

“We're up to seven weeks (of pre-season) now and we've gradually built into it.

“They don't get any easier, that's for sure, but we've had a great pre-season and everyone's been training really hard.”

While Dane Gagai missed several weeks earlier in the pre-season due to injury, he was glad for the opportunity to test himself on the dunes.

“It was a good way to finish, all the boys dug deep today,” he said.

“I really wanted to push myself and see where I was at, and I was happy with the way I went today.

“I'm looking forward to next year now, and having a bit of a break." 

The squad disbands for the Christmas break on Monday before resuming training on January 5.