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Saints survive brutal beach session

Josh Bruce declared the intense, one hour long session to be one of the hardest he's ever done. Josh Bruce declared the intense, one hour long session to be "one of the hardest I've done in my time in footy".

“It’s not a time for jokes.”

It was an unusual response from a typically jovial Nathan Brown.

Watching Brown and livewire Jack Lonie descend the steps to Portsea Back Beach struck me as odd given the hour-long wrestling session that awaited.

“Wrestling partners?” I quizzed, acknowledging the enormous size difference between the pair.

When Brown – one of the hardest trainers at the club – answered grimly, I realised this was no ordinary training session.

WATCH: Saints slog it out in soft sand

Waiting on the beach was renowned tackling coach and mixed martial arts expert John Donohue, a regular figure at the club over the off-season, as the Saints search for the ferocious edge that was so often missing last season.

His sessions are brutal, not just for the incredible physical effort required, but for the commitment and selflessness he demands.

It’s all about building a steely resilience and trust in each other that the young Saints can carry with them onto the field.

“Stay in the soft sand,” Donohue yelled as the players dispersed from a pre-session chat and launched straight into one-on-one grappling.

It looked intense, but in reality, it was the calm before the storm.

Over the next hour, the players were slowly dragged to the point of exhaustion.

Covered in sand, they rotated through wrestling, tackling and countless other energy- and mind- sapping drills.

The body flips looked the worst – an exercise where one player braces themselves on all fours, before his partner flips forwards over him, before flipping back to the starting position.

The three-man weave was another that had to be seen to be believed.

For minutes on end, the players leapt over one another, while another rolled underneath in some sort of cruel dance.

I stood watching Josh Battle, Dean Kent and Jack Sinclair push themselves to the point where falling became the new leaping.

But after a five second break, another two-minute block began.

“Reset!” Sinclair yelled as the trio staggered to their feet.

READ: Brutal honest the way forward

Donohue regularly interjected, calling on the players to lift their voice and refuse to give their teammate an inch.

Blake Acres and Jack Steele ripped into a tackling drill like there were only seconds remaining in a final, while Nick Hind fronted up to a wrestling battle with Josh Bruce without complaint.

With push-ups, burpies, and runs into the water inserted, it was a session most players labelled the toughest of their careers.

But amongst the carnage, scratch marks and looks of exasperation, was an undeniable sense of camaraderie and purpose.

Jack Lonie yelled across at teammates, making sure they followed Donohue’s rules and avoided punishment burpies, while Dan McKenzie refused to let Lewis Pearce drop a relentless pace.

The biggest cheer was saved for category B rookie Sam Alabakis, with the group crowding around to support the budding ruckman complete his 20 flips.

It was uncompromising and seemingly endless.

I, like most onlookers, was relieved when the session was finally called to a halt.

Brown was right, this wasn’t a morning for jokes.