St George Illawarra players were exhausted after completing a beep test and 1.2km run in scorching temperatures on their second day of pre-season training but new trainer Adrian Jimenez ensured there was no respite.
"We get penalised for someone putting their hands on their hips," prop Josh Kerr said. "This is my fourth pre-season and it is very different from the last three, it’s a lot harder."
The Dragons announced eight changes to their coaching and performance staff after an end-of-season review, including the appointment of Jimenez as strength and conditioning coach.
He was at Parramatta last season and previously spent 11 seasons at Melbourne Storm, while he has also worked with Penrith and the Kiwis.
Although he is renowned for his brutal training sessions, players don’t complain because Jimenez’s track record suggests he gets results.
"It is a whole different look and whole different discipline," Kerr said. "It’s tough and you hate it but in the long run you know it is going to be the best thing for you.
"He is tough but he has been in very successful systems and they [Dragons management] have obviously seen that and wanted to bring him, and you can tell why."
Kerr was too fatigued to know the identity of the teammate who was guilty of putting his hands on his hips but he said it was a test of each player's mental strength not to repeat the offence.
Five key match-ups of the Dragons' 2020 draw
"I was looking at the ground and I was legit dizzy so I was just in the robot zone so as soon you hear penalty I was just like ‘let’s get it done’," he said.
"We had to do a commando roll, where you get three people, one stays in the middle and you have to roll. I wouldn’t say it was military-like but it feels that way. They’re going to make it more like a drill camp, which is good because we are setting very high standards for ourselves."
Kerr is already fitter than in previous pre-seasons and recorded a personal best in the beep test but by the end of the session he was looking for an ice bath.
Back-rower Jackson Ford was among those to impress in the 1.2km run but some players were clearly struggling.
"It is a shock to the system, you train for the off-season because you want to make sure you are in good nick when you come back but pre-season is designed to break you down physically and mentally," Kerr said.
After earning selection for the Indigenous All Stars and making his NRL debut last season, Kerr is aiming to become a regular member of St George Illawarra’s first-grade squad in 2020 and took encouragement from his performance review with coach Paul McGregor.
Sims: The only way is up
"He even said ‘I would love for you to be a starting front-rower, if you keep progressing the way that you are and improving and doing all of the little things right you will get there," Kerr said.
"A lot of times I sat in front of the TV as a kid watching NRL and to be on TV and playing was a dream come true. A big thing for me and my family was to hear Ray Warren say my name, that was crazy.
"I was very grateful I was playing. I’d love to play every single game during the season."