Pain, suffering, already for the Hurricanes
Shirts off, sunscreen on, heart monitors in over-drive and big men like prop Eric Sione suffering like never before.
It is, of course, early December, which means pain and suffering for the Hurricanes, who were put through their paces at Rongotai College yesterday.
Based on this showing they'll do all right in 2013.
Sione, who tips the scales at 122kg according to this year's NPC media guide, didn't stop once during two hours of conditioning and skill work.
Neither did anyone else, though a few looked as though they wanted to as the legs and lungs started to burn.
Lingering students barely blinked as former alumni Motu Matu'u ran himself into the ground on his old first XV turf and, in truth, they might not have recognised many of the Hurricanes present.
There were plenty of new faces on show with the All Blacks and their Maori equivalents due to return on January 30 and January 7 respectively.
Halfback TJ Perenara was a picture of fitness, the large scar up his left ankle the only sign of the awful injury that ended his season in Brisbane in June.
Loose forwards Brad Shields and Jack Lam were restricted to the exercise bike after their respective off-season knee surgeries.
Some new recruits stood out.
Utility back James Marshall was confident and encouraging and big halfback Samisoni Fisilau looked more like a muscle-bound hooker.
It was the final training in a day that had already included a speed session, weights and a classroom lesson on moves and terminology.
Last Sunday was the closest thing the squad have had to a full get-together and coach Mark Hammett was thrilled when captain Conrad Smith fronted up a couple of days after hopping off the plane from Europe.
"Once again that's the quality of the guy [Smith] and those other guys that were there," Hammett said as prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen heaved a medicine ball into the rock hard turf behind him.
Hammett has lectured his new squad on the history of the Hurricanes, his vision and the standards he expects up to and after the season kicks off next February.
Hammett and assistant Alama Ieremia spent time yesterday on terminology and calls and on encouraging the new players to speak up.
But mostly they left it to the sun and the trainers to test their players mental and physical strength.
"There is this theory that you try and do all your fitness training with a ball and . . . that's a nice way to train," Hammett said. "But for me in this period there is a certain amount of mental fitness training as well."
The Dominion Post