Pre-season training. Ask any of the Newcastle Knights and they’ll say it’s been a hard slog.
But to the Club’s strength and conditioning coach Mark Andrews, every minute has been worth it from the overall improvement he’s seen in the team.
From arduous hill and shuttle runs to testing gym and wrestle sessions, the Knights’ pre-season program has pushed the players to their limits.
“What we’re trying to do is prepare them for what they’re going to go into,” Andrews told Knights TV.
"We want to give them a base, then there’s a lot of game specific conditioning to try to get them up to speed so when we transition to full playing, it’s not too big a step.
“Everyone has had really good discipline so far and have bought into what we’re trying to do. Hopefully we show that on the field.”
While overall Andrews sees growth in every player, a number of Knights have emerged as frontrunners in the fitness department.
“Guys like Jake Mamo is very fit and good at what he does. Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger are also very good,” he said.
“The impressing thing for us is there are guys who have improved a lot like Danny Levi who has gotten a lot better. We want him to play bigger minutes.
“Tyler Randell is a very impressive athlete and does everything very well.
"As a whole, the players are buying in, improving and it’s all looking very good."
“Jake Mamo is pretty quick, in short spaces,” he said.
“Game specific, Dane Gagai is very impressive, he has very good feet, is hard to control and if you give him room, you wouldn’t want to defend him.”
“Jake Mamo," Andrews nominates again.
"The impressive thing with Jake is he’s very quick as well as being very fit. It’s rare that you get both of those. Usually you’ve either got a power athlete or endurance. He blends the two together which is impressive.”
“Tyler Randell is also very fit and goes quite well.”
“Korbin Sims in the lower limbs is very strong," Andrews said.
"Every time we’re doing squats and deadlifts, he’s very impressive.”
"The Saifiti twins Daniel and Jacob are very impressive whole body.
“For young guys, they are are going to go a long way if they keep progressing the way they are."
Andrews also gives a wrap to the young rookies undertaking the full-time NRL pre-season for the first time who have not only excelled physically but who have shown exceptional attitude and application. “They have all handled it really well."
With just more than three weeks until the Knights’ fitness will be tested in the Auckland Nines Tournament on February 6 and 7, the focus has shifted to incorporate drills and exercises to prepare players for their return to the field.
“A lot of the stuff (coach) Nathan (Brown) likes to do is game specific. Realistically, with our conditioning on field, we try to get a base into them and then it’s game specific stuff,” he added.
“We’ve transitioned them to that within the first few weeks. We have the Nines which we have to prepare for so we are doing more top end speed. Once we get that out of the way, we’ll try to make it more game specific.”