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Boot put in to bring out Manly of steel

Date

Watching the Sea Eagles in summer training is like an episode of Man vs Wild, writes Daniel Lane.

No pain, no game ... veteran prop Brent Kite, with tractor tyre, shows his younger Manly teammates the way at a training camp on the central coast during the week.

No pain, no game ... veteran prop Brent Kite, with tractor tyre, shows his younger Manly teammates the way at a training camp on the central coast during the week. Photo: Anthony Johnson

There was a method to the madness as Manly's top 25 players exhausted the last of their energy reserves in the maddening heat and humidity by continually squatting and then, in one explosive movement, turning tractor tyres end over end or whipping ropes so thick they could secure a battleship to a wharf.

The Sea Eagles, like the NRL's other 15 clubs, are slaving to build the foundation for the fitness that will sustain their players throughout next year. The pursuit for the perfect off-season is relentless and everyone, from superstars to fringe first-graders, have left puddles of perspiration and massacred countless calories via the challenges which have included assaulting the Kurnell sandhills or being conscripted to military-style boot camps.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey, considered perhaps the toughest individual to have worn his club's colours, described summer as a crucial time because it set the foundation for the next premiership campaign. "At this time of year the point is to get the players' fitness up," he said. "We build a base, get their skills up too and get their bodies into shape for the season proper because once it kicks off you only have [a minimal amount of ] time to tweak them along the way. They maintain [during the season] what they're building now." And that was why the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran, Anthony Watmough and George Rose were huffing and puffing at the Competitive Edge training camp in the landmark old milking shed at Wyong.

It seemed, at first, such a serene place with forests of tall trees, the pristine Wyong Creek where a colony of wild platypuses thrive and the cackle of kookaburras. However, within minutes of being exposed to some old-fashioned drills, this setting straight out of a Banjo Paterson ballad, resembled an abattoir as the players were engulfed by the dreaded red mist as fatigue and stress gripped them. It was exactly what the Sea Eagles' strength and fitness coach, Don Singe, wanted. As someone who learnt the meaning of discipline in the New Zealand military he watched to see how the class of 2013 reacted to being pushed into a mental state he described as "dark and hairy".

"We know what everyone is physically capable of," he said of the club's roster. "But they're doing drills designed to take the players' systems by surprise and the test quickly becomes how they deal with that little window of stress. That's what we look for; what we want to see. It's actually the beauty of doing those things."

And it is a serious business because as Singe pointed out, the experiences each players gained from being placed in a distressed state helped to ensure they could conquer the tough times they'd face during a match.

"Rugby league is essentially about an unwavering line of men defending ground that has to be covered," he said. "It means you can't have gaps or variations in the line. You just want a straight line and the ability to keep that line straight comes down to every player's ability to move explosively and powerfully off it [and together]. Mentally and physically it's 80 minutes of absolute focus, and that's what this training provides. As opposed to conventional weight training or field training the type of drills we did with [Competitive Edge's] Hayden Knowles and Tapu Opetaia, and then an obstacle course, led the players into a dark, hairy place real quick.

''I think the beauty of the relationship with football is how an individual deals with that situation, how he handles it amongst his team members and how he comes out of it the other end. The younger guys are exceptional. They really are fit and strong individuals. The difference is you really can see, and it's not a negative, how the more campaigned players' experience comes through. They know what it's like to go to these dark places and they know they can come out the other end. The younger guys give you everything, they're the guys who'll drop to the ground because they want to give you everything they've got, but they're just not sure of the threshold. The more experienced guys push themselves to the limit but they're smart enough to realise they're no good to the [defensive] line if they're on the ground face-down - they use their experience to keep the other guys up and keep the strength of that line."

Toovey, who couldn't stifle an ''aaarghh'' when asked for his thoughts on his rookie year as a top-grade coach, said he hoped the pain of his team's inglorious departure from the grand final race - courtesy of a ramrod Melbourne in the preliminary final - and the challenges from Wyong would galvanise the squad to overcome similar situations.

"It was a good year for us, 2012," he said. "I know some might say to not win the premiership means it wasn't successful … but under the circumstances [which included 2011 grand final winning coach Des Hasler leaving for Canterbury] it was a good effort by our players. We finished one win away from the grand final and in that sense it was good, but to finish the way we did [crushed 40-12 in a mistake-riddled effort against Melbourne], it took the wind out of our sails. We had a debrief to work out what happened and no one could put their finger on it … we had no major injury problems, the build-up to the game was perfect. I think the boys would like to forget it.

"But, I think that'll be good for us this year; knowing if you don't turn up to play you'll get your pants pulled down."

Singe said something that he and the club's coaching staff wanted to instil in the younger players was an understanding of their importance as links in what needed to be an unbreakable chain. "My time in the military instilled the value that an individual's effort leads to the team effort," he said. "As corny as it sounds it was simply a case to be at your very best because if you're not we're all in the crap … I do some mentoring and consulting to the NSW Police and they have the same attitude there, the SWAT guys, they thrive on excellence. I've always been impressed by the absolute respect between the armed forces, the elite police units and the NRL teams because while they have different outcomes they all know what "it" is. Once men and women share that you feel an affinity."

And, as in any field, Singe said the NRL has benchmarks and he cited Melbourne's ability to master stress and fatigue as peerless. ''In the NRL the teams are all as strong and as fit and fast and powerful as each other," he said. "The difference is, and the Melbourne Storm is the perfect example, who can hold their mental focus together longest? They're one team that do and I admire that. I make no bones about it, that's the mental benchmark I will strive to have my men reach. There is no embarrassment in saying that, they're a great side and a great example of mental fortitude when the going gets tough. But, make no bones about this: Geoff will bring that to Manly. He's such a competitor, such an honest person and he won't settle for anything less than that.

"He wants speed, power and impact from the players because that's what he's about. He's a tough taskmaster but he's respected … his one rule is 'do your job'. Don't do your job and he will visit you … " Toovey described the time at the camp as an eye-opener that gave a true indication of how his team was travelling.

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16 vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16 vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12 vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6 vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22 vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16 vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32 vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10 vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31 vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32 vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22 vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18 vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14 vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28 vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24 vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10 vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28 vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26 vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22 vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8 vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36 vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56 vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16 vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23 vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30 vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10 vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16 vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10 vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31 vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13 vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22 vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16 vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32 vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10 vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 34 vs CBY 41 Stats
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 18 vs BRI 31 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs WST 19:45BO
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs SYD 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
MAN vs BRI 00:00TBA
WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Melbourne Storm 10 7 3 0 16
Brisbane Broncos 11 8 3 0 16
St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 7 3 0 16
North Queensland Cowboys 11 8 3 0 16
Sydney Roosters 10 5 5 0 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 11 6 5 0 12
Warriors 10 5 5 0 12
Penrith Panthers 10 5 5 0 12
View all
 
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