The ACT Brumbies' Wallabies stars have returned to pre-season training with a fire in the belly after a disastrous international campaign.
Onlookers at Brumbies HQ have been greeted with an unfamiliar sight throughout the past few weeks, a host of big names running around the paddock before Christmas.
It's a training block usually reserved for rookies and consistent veterans as the Wallabies complete long international campaigns before enjoying a well-deserved rest in December.
This year, however, is different after a messy year on and off the field.
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones snubbed a host of Brumbies stars, with the likes of Tom Wright, Lachlan Lonergan and Len Ikitau missing the World Cup.
Those who were selected started their holidays early after Australia's disastrous campaign.
As a result, the big names have been filtering back into pre-season training throughout the last couple of weeks, well ahead of their usual return.
Noah Lolesio, who enjoyed a stint in France, and Ryan Lonergan were back this week, with Tom Hooper and Rob Valetini among the final crop of players to return next week.
The only exception is James Slipper, the veteran granted an extended break as he prepares for his 15th year of Super Rugby.
The Brumbies coaching staff have made the most of additional time with their top stars and assistant coach Ben Mowen said many have returned to Canberra with a fire in their belly.
"It's the earliest we've ever had these guys back," Mowen said. "It's very unusual to have Wallaby players pre-Christmas. There's an advantage in that, we've just got to make sure we turn it into one."
Lolesio's French adventure
Overlooked by Jones at the start of the international campaign, Lolesio signed a short-term deal with French giant Toulon to provide cover during the World Cup.
The flyhalf won four of the six games he payed and grew throughout his time with the club.
While his future beyond 2024 remains unclear, the Brumbies are optimistic Lolesio will commit to the ACT long term.
Mowen and Lolesio played vastly different positions but there are many similarities about their experiences as players.
Mowen was repeatedly overlooked by Wallabies coaches before he was a shock selection as captain for the 2013 spring tour.
A lengthy stint in France followed from 2014 until his retirement in 2019 and the assistant coach said he can already see the impact playing in the Top 14 has had on Lolesio.
"He looks extremely confident," Mowen said. "He played six really good games for Toulon. He had an amazing win against Clermont away in his last game there.
"That sort of confidence he's brought back will breed through the group."
Big shoes to fill
Mowen is completing his first pre-season as an assistant coach at the Brumbies after replacing club legend Laurie Fisher.
The duo's relationship stretches back more than a decade, Mowen coached by Fisher when he was a player.
The former Brumbies captain also had the chance to learn directly from the former coach throughout the second half of the Super Rugby season.
Mowen views it as both a privilege and a challenge to replace Fisher and takes comfort from knowing the club legend is just a phone call away.
"They're huge shoes to fill," Mowen said. "It's one of those nice responsibilities in life where it's a lot to live up to but that's what drives your work ethic each day and makes sure your details are high.
"I owe a lot to Laurie for the work he put in. His coaching was exceptional, he's a great human being and I don't mind that it's a big mountain to climb and you've got to find a way to chase it."