Tigers use camp to flush out the negatives
This is traditionally the time of the year when us normal folk start shredding to develop the perfect 'beach bod', but for Wests Tigers players, the start of winter has signalled a detox of a different kind as they try to resurrect what has so far been a disastrous season on and off the field.
The Tigers have had as many coaches as wins in 2017 and boast the worst attacking record after 12 rounds, but a mid-season camp up on Sydney's northern beaches could be what the doctor ordered to turn things around.
There have been flashes of brilliance this year with solid wins over the Bulldogs and Cowboys, but the highlights have been few and far between; the lowlight a 36-0 loss to the Broncos before last week's bye.
Off-field speculation surrounding contracts was an unwelcome distraction that was made worse by the mid-season departure of Mitch Moses to the Eels, while stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods are set to leave the club at season's end.
The easy option for new coach Ivan Cleary would be to give up on 2017 and start planning ahead for next year, but according to the players, the 15th-placed side has what it takes to play finals footy this season.
Any lingering issues were addressed at a three-day camp during last week's bye where players slogged it out on the sand and bonded like never before in a bid to turn their season around.
"I think it was kind of like a flush camp where we just flushed out everything bad from our season," Tigers utility Michael Chee-Kam told NRL.com.
"We've had a lot of negative stuff talked about in the media about contracts and all that sort of stuff so we needed to flush that all out and restart our season.
"I think Ivan wanted to make the point that things will be alright during the tough times if you stay together.
"We had two big team meetings where we talked about what we had to do moving forward but we also spent plenty of time getting to know one another because we've had heaps of new guys come in and a new coach so Ivan wanted to learn more about the players."
The team may have been written off by many but Chee-Kam believes the camp has the Tigers primed for this weekend's game against the high-flying Dragons where they have the chance to get their season back on track at ANZ Stadium.
"I think it's something that we really needed because it's still pretty early in the year and I think we can still make a good push for the top eight if we really focus and stay positive," he said.
"I think this will be a good test because the Dragons are a quality team. All the boys are keen to go out there and prove everyone wrong this weekend. Our backs are against the wall but this is a great opportunity to make a statement as a team."
According to Wests Tigers lock Elijah Taylor, mid-season bonding camps are nothing new under coach Cleary who employed similar tactics at the Warriors and Panthers.
"It was really good for the team culture and what we're trying to build. I think it's going to pay off for us because we did a lot of hard work on the field and we set some goals that we needed to achieve to make this season a success," Taylor told NRL.com.
"It's been a very distracting year off the field so it's been a bit like a rollercoaster because you don't really know what's going on. What I took away from it is the direction we're heading in and what we believe in as a team.
"We got ourselves in this position so it's our job to fix it.
"Defensively we're not up to standard at the moment so hopefully that week cleaned it all out."