The email invite was succinct, precise and to the point: “…be there ready to start at 8am, not arrive for 8am. Regards, Paul Anderson.”
For your writer, that meant an 05.00 start and braving the freezing cold; nothing compared to what the Huddersfield Giants squad had been put through over the two days prior. Snow had greeted them as they arrived in Catterick, North Yorkshire, to be put through a variety of military exercises, endure sleep deprivation and live off food rations in a replica of army life.
I filled my time on the journey reading players’ tweets, bemoaning anything from lack of beds, to the inclement temperature and basic food; the toughest were being shown tough. Having filed the necessary paperwork and been pointed in the right direction of the gym, we eventually pulled up at the same time as a truck arrived containing the weary looking Giants squad.
While they were kitted out, I was shown down to the assault course, where bang on 08.00 and flanked by military personnel, they came jogging up the hill. Our escort wore a wry smile, revealing he had been out very early to crack the ice on the water obstacles, just to ensure they played a part.
Despite looking tired, cold, hungry and in some cases ready for home, with the cry of ‘grenade’ the players were crawling on the frozen terrain - a new kind of warm-up.
“It’s ridiculous, we haven’t eaten for 12 hours so we’re certainly feeling it now,” said Danny Brough, remarkably chipper in the circumstances. “We knew they wanted to take us out of our comfort zone and
The Army game
JAMES COLDMAN watched Huddersfield Giants under assault in Catterick
Cold comfort: Giants coach Paul Anderson they’ve done that alright. It has been a case of us all digging in and we’re glad to have got through it. It would be nicer to go abroad but we don’t have that luxury. I’ve found it difficult with no sleeping bag, two pairs of trainers and no boots. Cold feet are cold feet but as much as it hurts, you can’t be the one to say I can’t do it.”
A full-on assault course clearly took its toll, some using the brief break in activities to nap on the floor of the gymnasium entrance and others displaying a new-found obsession with putting ‘t’ wood in t’ hole’. Luke Robinson, fresh from the relatively sedate afternoon activity of handling grenade launchers and rifles, said: “It has been really physical. It’s been draining and a lot of shouting has been done, so I’ve lost my voice. It has been tough, rolling around on the deck and wading through puddles. Regardless, it’s a worthwhile experience. We’ve done obstacle courses, team bonding, carrying logs and running with stretchers. The most draining thing has been the ration packs. A few of the bigger lads were swapping their socks for food at one point.
“Sleep deprivation has probably been the most difficult aspect. I normally get ten hours sleep, but they’ve been waking us up at 10.00, 12.00, 2.00, 5.30, throwing smoke bombs into the tent. Setting mortars off and making us run round. We even had a crack on the machine guns.”
Coach Anderson relishes the prospect of unleashing ‘his’ team in Super League - his first full season at the helm - and so wanted yours truly to experience a little more of what his team had been going through in camp. A visit to the ‘fob’ - or team digs was next on the agenda. One big tent housed the players, while Anderson and the rest of the coaching staff were in a smaller one. Two electric heaters, camping beds and sleeping bags were all that could count as furniture.
As a fire was lit outside, MOD standard ration packs of Polos, Tabasco, tea and boilin-the-bag food were dispensed; containing enough calories to last troops 24 hours, but not rugby players it seems. Handing over a
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