Waratahs five-eighth Mack Mason says the side is looking to be fitter and stronger leading into the Super Rugby season after the disappointment of 2017.
The Tahs won just four games last season, finishing above only the lowly Rebels in the Australian conference. Mason said the players had focussed their pre-season efforts on making sure they were physically ready to compete throughout a gruelling season.
"This pre-season has probably had a lot more conditioning involved I'd say, we're a lot fitter team then we were this time last year," Mason said. "Strength wise, I'm pretty sure there's a lot of PBs being hit this year, especially throughout the whole playing team at the Waratahs."
Last year was a breakout for Mason as he made his Super Rugby debut for the Tahs, as well as joining the Wallabies as a development player. But after spending last year as Bernard Foley's understudy, making two Super Rugby appearances, Mason said he was ready to push the Wallabies star for the No.10 jersey.
"Last year was definitely a great learning curve for me, I got to play a couple of games and then moving onto this year, 2018, I really want to continue to push for his spot, and try to take over his spot eventually or even if it happens this year, if he goes down, be ready to take it as my own," Mason said.
The 22-year-old attended Brisbane rugby nursery Anglican Church Grammar School, but got his first taste of a professional outfit in league with the Melbourne Storm under 20s. However, Mason switched back to rugby because of the opportunities it afforded him - including the under-20 World Championship in England in 2016.
"I had the Australian 20s, which was a big drawcard for me, and then played pretty well in England when we went over to Manchester and then sort of kicked off from there," Mason said. "I thought I was a bit stuck in league, played it all my life and then I wanted something new and then I ended up coming to the Reds and Waratahs and I'm pretty happy here playing rugby now."
He said the Sydney heat had made pre-season training tough, but ultimately helped with the players' conditioning.
"It's been a bit hot the past couple of weeks but we've worked really hard on our conditioning and getting our bodies ready," Mason said.
The Waratahs face the Highlanders in Queenstown this weekend in their first pre-season game before the Brisbane 10s next weekend. The Tahs will return to Sydney to play the Melbourne Rebels at Brookvale Oval on Thursday, February 15.