Smoke grenades, 40+ hours with no sleep and a barrage of hurt is the type of preparation the Reds are hoping will help them build off their 2021 success ahead of Super Rugby Pacific.
With a large Wallaby contingent toughing it out in the UK, the rest of the Super Rugby AU-champion squad were battling their way through an intense three-day camp at the notorious Kokoda Army Barracks training facility at Canungra.
The site has become a favourite of coach Brad Thorn, adopting a similar approach in 2018 ahead of his rookie season.
As they sought to test their mental and physical fortitude, the experience saw a number of their young recruits step up and show leadership qualities beyond their years according to Corporal Wilson Purdue, headlined by highly-touted flyhalves Tom Lynagh and Spencer Jeans.
“We’ve seen some standout players, especially the new junior boys coming on in Spencer Jeans and Tommy Lynagh. They really stood out along with Seru Uru, really good composure throughout the 48 hours taking lead and charge,” Purdue told media last week.
“(Lawson) Creighton was also a standout, very good player…I was very surprised with some of the leadership aspects of the junior players, it was almost you’d expect them to be in a couple of years in a leadership role.
“…They started out unsure of what they were doing, a couple of guys had done stuff like this before so they knew what to expect. At the start, you see guys go a bit gung-ho because they are unsure of how long to expect but the middle and deep periods of the night is where we saw people start to show some of their true colours and attributes.
“Hearing all the guys go through the confidence course and get behind each other is a real team-building experience and I really hope they’ve taken a lot out of it."
The Reds late-game fight and toughness was a hallmark of their success last year.
In all three games against their main title rivals Brumbies, they would deep dig and find ways to steal victory with just seconds remaining, culminating with an after-the-siren victory during the Grand Final.
After a disappointing Trans-Tasman campaign, the players were eager to solidify their bond and fitness as they look to push for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific title.
“I think it’s going to draw us all together,” lock Ryan Smith said. “We were split into three different battalions and I had a few boys there that I hadn’t really spoken to but now that we’ve been chatting for three days, looking within to inspire each other to get through the hardships.
“(The experience) can do nothing but bring us tighter together. Even when you are tired, you got to push through and show up for your teammates. To pair the physical and mental side is massive (for us). When you have the 70th minute and a decision to throw a pass or hold it, you want to have mental clarity so to be able to practice things like that at this camp is going to be awesome for our Rugby."
“I think learning how to push when you think you have nothing left, we hadn’t slept for 40+ hours and you think at that point you out of trouble but when you get into the situation, you have to focus on your task and I think being task-orientated, we learnt plenty about when you might be hurting, shutting all that noise off and focusing on what’s to come,” fullback Mac Grealy added.
“When talking to officers, we’re able to translate that into our Rugby, doing obstacles where you don’t know how long it’s going to go so you just have to stay in the fight.”