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With the squad having returned from the 13-day Christmas break a little more than two weeks ago now, Knights TV sat down with Physical Performance Manager Tony Ayoub to see how the players returned and what is ahead.

Condition of the squad on return

“They all came back in really good shape,” Ayoub reported.

“There’s always that worry that during that Christmas break they might come back a little under done.”

Each player was given a training plan over the break, and Ayoub said it was always obvious when players hadn’t maintained their fitness.

The squad as a whole was in good shape though and didn’t lose the gains that had been made over the two months prior to Christmas.

“We sort of hit the ground running so we haven’t lost too much with the break,” he said.

What the team is focused on now

After Christmas there is usually a shift in focus from fitness and strength to football skills, and Ayoub says it was no different for the Knights this year.

“The coaches have certainly upped the ante with the contact and the skills-based sessions that we’re doing,” he said.

“The conditioning staff are still doing what they need to do, we just have less time to do it because the coaches are taking more drills.”

With more contact, recovery has been important.

“We encourage them to spend a lot more time in the ice baths now and do more stretching,” Ayoub added.

Trent Hodkinson’s on the track

The coaching staff are pleased with the pre-season management program for Hodkinson, and since the break he's made a successful return to the field.

“Trent’s been around for a lot of seasons and he’s really smart and experienced,” Ayoub said.

“He hasn’t missed a beat coming back to the field sessions.

“He’ll join the main group twice a week when the coaches want him.”

While it's still a modified program for Hodkinson compared to what the majority of the squad does, the altered forms of cardio should ensure that he starts the season very fresh.

“He continues to do all of his strength work and off-feet stuff in the pool and on the cardio equipment,” Ayoub said.

“He’s just a great individual to have around and the boys are really lifted when he’s out there.”

Auckland Nines in sight

In just two weeks time, the Auckland Nines tournament takes place at Eden Park.

The high tempo of play puts a completely different type of strain on the players' bodies, which the physical performance staff has started to account for.

“You’ve got to prepare for that differently because it’s certainly a higher speed game,” Ayoub said.

“We’re certainly trying to add that Nines-based perspective to our training two to three times a week.

“They’re still working out who’s going to play at the Nines, and then we’ll train them accordingly.”