These sand dunes are notorious. They are etched in NRL pre-season folklore. They are feared.
They can be found just north of Cronulla, at Wanda Beach.
It is here where more than 300 of Wests Tigers best up-and-coming young players will gather at sunrise on Saturday when the club holds its annual pathways ‘get-together’.
Mind you, it will be no picnic.
Rather, a sweat-sapping, leg-burning, painful reminder of the hard work required to make it in the greatest game of all.
Anyone who has ever played with an NRL club in Sydney will have done at least one session on these dreaded dunes.
In fact, elite athletes from many sports have taken their bodies to near breaking point at this coastal landscape, where lactic acid builds, and energy reserves are depleted.
Most will tell you the best thing about Wanda is the road out of there.
Shannon Gallant played the last of his three seasons at Wests Tigers in 2009 and knows Wanda well.
These days he’s doing a terrific job in his role as Pathways and Junior Recruitment Manager and he’ll be one of the many voices barking orders on Saturday.
As he explains, the club has been bringing its junior rep squads together as one group for several years.
“We get all the squads to one joint session at the start of summer and I think it’s really important,” said Gallant.
Although these players and coaches are at different stages, different ages, even different regions, we are all Wests Tigers.Shannon Gallant
“We are very different to most clubs with three broad catchment areas, so I think that makes it even more important that we do this kind of thing.”
But why these sandhills?
“No-one likes coming here and I certainly didn’t in my playing days either,” he admitted.
It won’t be easy and it will take these young men and women out of their comfort zones.Shannon Gallant
“It’s one of those tough experiences that they will go through together, they will feel it together, and it’s a great team-building exercise.”
“We begin trials next weekend so this is an ideal lead-in to those matches.”
This will be the first time Wests Tigers female pathways players have joined in the ‘fun’, following on from the club’s inaugural NRLW season.
There will be a large group of girls at Wanda on Saturday including players from Wests Tigers Roar Academy, Lisa Fiaola (Under 17s) and Tarsha Gale (Under 19s) teams.