Pre-season is well and truly underway for the Canberra Raiders 2015 squad.
Year in, year out, every NRL player will tell you how tough this time of the year is and how mentally and physically challenging certain team-building exercises are.
Whilst the whole squad will tell you that every week of this pre-season has been difficult, the general consensus amongst the players is that the hardest event that they have had to endure has been the training day with the Australian Federal Police.
The bus departed Raiders HQ at 4:00am sharp and the players did not return until 7:30pm at night.
In the midst of those hours, the players were pushed to their absolute limits physically and mentally.
They entered the day as teammates still getting to know one another but they departed as brothers and with a resolve steeled by the day’s hardship.
“It was a very tough day for the players and it was intended to be that way,” Coach Ricky Stuart said.
“Outside of how physically challenging it was it was also mentally challenging as well. The outcomes I was looking for were was to see what type of leadership we’ve got when faced with a little bit of duress. It says a lot about people when they are under incredible physical duress and they are then forced to make decisions which will affect their teammates.”
Aside from garnering a gauge on how certain players react in certain situations, Stuart also wanted to forge a strong bond within the squad, especially with the number of new recruits and talented youngsters pushing through for their first or second pre-season.
On top of that aspect, Stuart wanted to see the player’s leadership capabilities and mental toughness exposed and in turn enhanced.
Throughout the different activities there was plenty of competition however finishing first meant little if a member of your group came last; digging deep during fatigue, teamwork and helping your mate out were the orders of the day.
“Something that we’re really trying to build upon is our leadership here at the club,” Stuart said. “And that’s not just restricted to our senior players; we’ve got to have younger players emerging as leaders too.
“The activities were about bringing your mate along and not letting anybody fail; we succeed or fail together as a team. You couldn’t finish the drill or get to your target without everybody on board.
“I was really impressed with our new recruits, especially in regards to their leadership. Their character is very strong. It’s incredible what you find out about people’s personalities when they're faced with a bit of pressure from people.
“We also wanted to create that bond and camaraderie within the squad. There’s no better way to create a strong mateship or team spirit then when a group is faced with hardship.
“The end of the day was a lot different to the start and that’s what we were looking for.”
Punishments were handed out frequently during the day by the AFP staff for errors during activities. The punishments ranged anywhere from failing to clearly remember an instruction from an AFP Officer to not knowing a fact from the Raiders’ prestigious history.
“It’s something that we’ve been pushing very hard here,” Stuart said. “Everybody needs to know more about the history of the club that they’re representing and about the people who have been here before us.
“We’ve got a job to do for the Canberra Raiders, for our ex-players, for our sponsors and of course our members and fans. We need every player to understand the importance in who they are representing.
“The players value that because they see that it’s not just about the immediate playing group. There’s a lot to be proud of at this club and if you’re not proud to be here then there’s no point being here.
"All in all, it was a very successful day."
*The Raiders would like to thank the Australian Federal Police for their wonderful efforts on the day and we look forward to continuing our relationship with you into the forthcoming years.