South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Cameron Murray admits he and his teammates weren't always sure what they were doing during a series of hybrid games with players from Port Adelaide AFL club, but it was a welcome break from their usual pre-season training routine.
After five weeks of fitness work, new Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold organised a joint training program on Thursday with a group of first- and second-year Power players, who travelled from Adelaide along with members of their coaching staff, led by head of football Aaron Greaves.
The coaching pair developed a relationship when Seibold was on the staff of the Melbourne Storm and Greaves was working for Melbourne Demons, and for the past five years they have been exchanging ideas.
Seibold even spent time in the Port Adelaide coaching box alongside Power mentor Ken Hinkley during a 2015 AFL match at the MCG against Carlton.
"It was quite an interesting experience to see how an AFL coach's box operates and to see the different roles of the assistant coaches," Seibold told NRL.com.
"As coaches we are always looking at ways to improve and this has been an ideal opportunity to learn off each other and share ideas. That is what this exchange is all about."
The benefits for the Rabbitohs players are they get to see how professional athletes from another sport prepare, while having the opportunity to learn or improve specific skills, such as kicking and catching during two sessions with their Power counterparts.
It was also a change from their regular training and while the players enjoyed having a ball in hand they actually worked harder, according to data collected from GPS vests they wore during the sessions.
"It has been pretty tough over the last five weeks so it was good to mix and mingle with players from another code," Murray said.
"We played an offside touch game and we were changing balls; one ball was an AFL ball and we could only do an AFL pass and then we'd play with the NRL ball so we'd go good for 90 seconds with the NRL ball and once we had to change balls and play with the AFL ball we'd struggle a bit."
A soccer-type drill in which the players had to make an AFL pass and move around a circle, receiving and passing, took some time before they got it right.
"I had no idea, I couldn't even tell you what we were doing," Murray said.
They also played a full-field hybrid game, which Seibold said he had learned during his playing days at Brisbane Broncos from the club's former strength and conditioning coach Steve Nance.
"We call it Nance-ball but it is effectively a hybrid game of both codes," Seibold said. "If you catch the ball on the full you get one tackle and if the ball goes on the floor it is like force-em-back. The GPS readings, in terms of metres [per minute], went through the roof for our guys."
Murray, South Sydney's 2017 rookie of the year and the NSW under 20s captain, added: "I think it was a new game to everyone so it took a while to figure out but it was all quite good fun."
Away from the training field, Rabbitohs captain Greg Inglis took Port Adelaide's indigenous players on a tour of the Redfern area, while players from both teams spent time together at a cafe.
"Some of the guys were really interested in The Block and learning about the history of Redfern so Greg showed them around the place," Seibold said. "Some of our other guys took some of their players out for a coffee and that social interaction has been brilliant."
The Rabbitohs will train for two more weeks before breaking over the Christmas-New Year period.
After their return, the majority of the squad will spend a week in camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, while Seibold will send some of his coaching staff and two players to Adelaide to spend time with the Power.
The Rabbitohs' first trial is on February 17 against Wigan at ANZ Stadium as part of a double-header in which the St George Illawarra Dragons will play Hull FC.
The two NRL clubs will then meet at Mudgee's Glenn Willow Regional Sports Stadium on February 24 in the annual Charity Shield, which is expected to be Inglis's first game back after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the opening game of last season.