A super-fit Maitland Pickers will be primed to make a winning start to the 2020 Newcastle RL season.
Pickers coach Matt Lantry says hard-work in the pre-season can be difference between winning and losing in the first month of the season.
"We've got a strength and condition guy on board called Oliver Moody and he's got one mandate and that's to get them fit," Lantry said ahead of the Pickers' return to the training track on Tuesday night.
"You win games initially within the first month based around fitness alone for me.
"If you can outlast teams and be good with the ball it goes a long way to securing two points each week for at least the first month.
"Our guys were really receptive towards the work required prior to Christmas.
"Admittedly they've had three weeks off which is not ideal but they understand the volume of work that is going to come for them from mid-January to at least the end of February.
"They will be working very hard physically over the next six weeks."
High-level execution of fundamental skills is the other key priority this pre-season.
"Simple things like your catch-pass, your tackle technique, execution of two v one, three v two and draw the man scenarios," Lantry said.
"They're the things that we really focus on between now and the end of February.
"We'll also look at some systems that help the guys understand certain scenarios that we want to see executed in a game, with or without the ball.
"At the end of February the focus changes to the sort of team-based stuff. Starting to prepare for trials and different things."
Maitland kick off their trials against Wyong on March 14, followed by Macquarie on March 28 and South Newcastle on April 4.
"The Wyong trial is still a month out from our competition but we want to get that trial in nice and early to see where the guys are at and give everyone a real opportunity for probably the 20 players who are going to compete in the second game which will be against Macquarie."
Lantry said he was delighted with the level of commitment, enthusiasm and numbers at the pre-Christmas training sessions.
"It was a bit of an icebreaker for us," he said.
"The pre-Christmas sessions were a really important period for us all to get together and meet everyone, particularly with a new group of coaches in as well.
"The attendance and the attitude was probably the most pleasing thing out of those six sessions we had.
"We even had a Saturday morning session down at King Edward Park in Newcastle at eight o'clock, mid-December, and the attendance was really good.
"It really shows these guys are really committed, they have embraced the direction we are trying to take the club in and it's going to hopefully hold us in good stead for a decent season."
While the seniors returned to the track on Tuesday, the focus on Thursday will be the juniors with the second under-16-17 development session from 5-6pm.
"All under-16 and 17 players are more than welcome to come down to our development session. We had a great roll-up at the first one and are hoping for a lot more," Lantry said.