The Hawthorn Football Club will travel to Queenstown today to embark on a gruelling pre-season trip that fitness boss Andrew Russell hopes will test the Hawks both mentally and physically.
The club has abandoned its usual pre-season training trip to the Sunshine Coast in favour of a New Zealand South Island jaunt that will see players train before heading to the bush to be pushed to their limits.
“We’re combining our high-performance training camp with a good old fashioned ‘get out in the bush and do some hard work’,” Russell said.
“We’ll have five days in Queenstown … for a heavy-skills, heavy-run program. Then, we’re going to go out into the Rangitata River region (between Queenstown and Christchurch) and walk some mountains, ride bikes, go down rapids, do high-ropes courses and have some quality time together but work hard.
Russell forecast extensive periods of pressure to draw the group — new players and staff included — closer.
“We’ll spend 10 to 12 hours a day out in the mountains in a fatigued state, under stress,” he said.
“There’s no better way to learn about people than how they respond to a stressful situation.”
After missing this year’s finals series — finishing 12th on the ladder — Hawthorn was one of the first AFL clubs to return to pre-season training.
Russell said he has noticed a particular “edge” to the group in recent weeks as it looks to avenge the disappointment of falling short.
“Just about every AFL club — at this time of year — would be thinking they’re in a pretty good spot,” he said.
“Motivation is typically high when the players come back, and they’re fresh psychologically.
“We’re similar, but this year I think there’s an extra edge. The players are really motivated and I’ve noticed there’s a difference from the last couple of years.
“Our last few years haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go. The players have come back in very, very good shape.
“We had every single player reach every level that we set for them. We’re in a good spot, but we need to continue on and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next few months.”
Hawthorn’s New Zealand star, Kurt Heatherley will be travelling with the group and it is expected they ill be training at the Queenstown Events Centre.