Rugby Union

ACT Brumbies throw balls away as Stephen Larkham sends them on Thredbo Amazing Race

Smash down a couple of sausage sandwiches, guzzle almost two litres of water, scale a wall and then wade through Thredbo's icy water. It might sound like a school holiday camp, but this is ACT Brumbies pre-season training with a twist.

As the Brumbies take their first steps towards what they hope will be a drought-breaking Super Rugby title, coach Stephen Larkham told players to pack a backpack, put away their boots and prepare for the unexpected.

That's exactly what they got around Thredbo Village on Tuesday as Larkham transformed from head coach to 'Amazing Race' quizmaster in a team building session that had a bit of everything.

Coaching staff hijacked a car to get an early advantage before the squad faced unique challenges and unexpected hurdles.

The only rugby balls in sight were the ones players used to knock over empty drink bottles before being sent up the mountain.

On a dreary day south of Canberra, there was a golf putting stage, a gym session, a swim leg, a mountain trek, rock climbing and a sausage-eating contest.

Advertisement

The tester came when players had to make their way across the river carrying weights while also trying to figure out a brain teaser.

"It's just a little bit of fun ... it's a great race, like The Amazing Race to balance out training," Larkham said.

"There's a little bit of 'getting on with the job', having the ability to overcome any situation here. We're not putting them in a difficult situation, it's just purely some fun and coming together for the first time, starting to create that really strong bond.

"It's to get away from everything else, stay as a group. It was interesting to see the different approaches and how they deal with things." 

The Brumbies are back on duty for their 2016 season preparation, with the squad's Wallabies' World Cup representatives returning to training after a brief off-season.

The club is being tipped as a championship contender this year, potentially boasting 12 internationals in their starting XV and a host of established players waiting for their opportunities. 

But away from contract speculation about their stars and growing expectation, Larkham put them on a bus to an unknown destination after the morning rugby-related training session.

The driver took the players deeper into the Snowy Mountains when all of a sudden he turned around and went back closer to the hotel and dropped them off on the main highway.

"Our group just took on board what Bern [Larkham] said about accountability and getting on with stuff," said fullback Robbie Coleman.

"When the bus was going the wrong way I was thinking, 'what's going on here'. But we were ready to just get on with it."

From there they were split into groups as they walked down the hill, with Larkham waiting in the lobby to deliver envelopes with the tasks they needed to complete.

"Adaptability" was the buzz word, with players told to suck it up and deal with what's in front of them as the wind and rain pelted down.

"You spend 10 months of the year focusing on rugby, it's good to spend time bonding and doing things like this," said prop Scott Sio.

"[Larkham] sent us up Mt Kosciuszko and a few of the boys found it pretty hard, so this time we were prepared for something.

"We were in the dark, it was a case of preparing for the best and expecting the worst. Every coach has their methods to push their team, to see how to get to the next level physically and mentally.

"One of our big points is adaptability - we want to take that from here and build it on to the field. We've got to work as a squad and take that into our season."

The Brumbies will train in Thredbo on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to Canberra. Their first trial is against the NSW Waratahs in Wagga on February 6, with their season-opener against the Wellington Hurricanes on February 26.

Advertisement