A rejuvenated Nigel Staniforth hasn't wasted any time in returning to Endeavour Oval as the 39-year-old Emus' legend is already two sessions down after his team was given the green light to train in groups of up to 10 by Rugby NSW on Thursday.
The skipper is coming off a pair of nasty knee injuries suffered in the post-season of 2019 and while rehab's often a harrowing process, Staniforth's enjoyed the benefits it's brought and says his endurance will be better off for it.
""I've been rehabbing which has been really fun and helped my fitness," he said.
"But now myself and the players just really want to get out there and play rugby."
Short and sweet will M.O. of this winter's Blowes Clothing Cup season as the six-team competition is set for an explosive, 10-round fixture before diving into the finals.
And while less footy would normally be bad news among playing groups, Orange Emus' skipper Nigel Staniforth thinks the shortened season will be a refreshing change-up to from the 15-week schedule in 2019.
"We played each other three times last year and but after two games you've felt the other teams out enough," Staniforth said.
"This year will be like the old Super Rugby when there was only 12 games... high quality and very intense."
2020 will be Staniforth's eighth in the Central West as the journeyman has won premierships with Sydney Uni in the Shute Shield and had the opportunity to lace up the boots in both Japan and New Zealand at a professional level.
What does all that mean? Staniforth's no stranger to meaningful rugby and thinks a ten-game season will put more urgency on Emus' backs because they know that a few, early-season losses could spell disaster down the track.
"You want to play good footy and you don't want to slip up too much... we've got to build throughout the season," he said.
As if there wasn't already enough excitement to get back into the paddock, Staniforth's men are dealing with the angst of a crushing, finale loss to Bulldogs last season and that - combined with his players' drive to be successful - makes the men in green a very keen outfit ahead of July.
"Losing the grand final last year leaves you pretty motivated," he said.
"I think the guys just want to play good footy and play to their potential. Winning grand finals is nice but there's nothing worse than walking off the field after not playing to your potential.
"We did get a bit complacent last year and there were areas where we were let down and that happens but this year the guys just want to do their best."
Emus men's and women's are already doing their best off-the-field as two training sessions are already in the books before Tuesday night's first, official club practice.
"NSW Rugby is allowing six groups of ten on the field so we'll have all the players and coaches down there," he said.
"Steve Fergus is going to have a sanitiser station set up and we're making sure everyone's downloaded the COVID safe app and is washing their hands."
For a lot of the players, Tuesday's session won't be their first since the pandemic struck as a few guys got together in groups when the outdoor restrictions began to ease.
"A few of the boys - about three or four weeks ago - starting forming a group and doing their own training," he said.
"We did one on Thursday and one on Saturday."
As for the tactics behind these first-up sessions? Cardio, cardio, and more cardio.
"We've just been doing brutal, 40-minute sessions of running," he said.
"We'll do that until around mid-June then look to get back into normal training."
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