JAKE Hawkins remembers sleeping in the bush and being woken up every 30 minutes to guard camp.
It was all part of a torturous pre-season test of mental toughness eight years ago as he pursued a career in the National Rugby League.
He described his three-year stint at the Melbourne Storm as both the best and the worst three years of his life.
And now, Port Macquarie Sharks hope his experience in the southern capital can transfer to Group 3 next season.
“My greatest memory at the Storm is a mental toughness camp we went on which was torture pretty much the whole time,” he said.
“We had 10-kilometre walks and runs where we’d carry our bags and a metal stake as a fake gun.
“We’d then have to keep a journal.”
We’d sleep in the bush and get woken up every 30 minutes to guard camp, then have to keep a journal for three days.Port Macquarie Sharks 2018 coach Jake Hawkins
If that wasn’t hard enough, they had to walk at the beach fully clothed in water up to their shoulders, carrying their bags above their heads.
“That was so the rest of our clothes wouldn’t get wet; it separated the men from the boys,” he said.
“I lost five kilos in three days as we hardly ate.”
It has taken five years – and stints at the Storm, Cronulla and then St George Illawarra – but Hawkins and good mate Joey Cudmore will renew acquaintances at Regional Stadium next year.
The duo spent time at South Newcastle in the Newcastle Rugby League in 2012 after Hawkins left the Storm.
He won a Toyota Cup (under-20) premiership with Melbourne in 2010 and will now lead Port Macquarie in their 2018 campaign.
The Melbourne Storm have Slater and Smith, but the Sharks will have their own answer in Hawkins and Cudmore as they aim to end a three-year premiership drought.
I lost five kilos in three days as we hardly ate.Jake Hawkins
“Myself and Joey have been mates for quite a few years now and we’ve kept in touch through footy and I said I was looking for a captain-coach role,” Hawkins said.
“He said that the Port Sharks might be looking at something like that and here I am.”
Hawkins admitted he wouldn’t be Cudmore’s wife Laura’s favourite, but the chance to wind the clock back to their days at Townsend Oval was too good to refuse.
“I’m good mates with Laura, so hopefully she forgives me for getting Joey to play one more year,” he said.
The experience the 27-year-old gained from spending three years at the Storm will benefit the Sharks young brigade.
“Craig Bellamy was highly involved down there and in the second year of the 20s I was lucky to get a part-time train-on deal with first grade,” Hawkins said.
“I did heaps of work with Cameron Smith, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Rory Kostjasyn at the time.
The club wants to win a premiership and hopefully I can do that.Jake Hawkins
“Being around Craig, Cooper, Smithy and Billy … you don’t get those opportunities every day so it definitely helped me become a better player.”
He was hopeful it would be the missing ingredient that would help return the Sharks to the top after they were bundled out in the second week of last year’s finals.
“I’m still young enough to play so I’ll use my experience as a player and then look to lead the boys on the field, not just through words,” Hawkins said.
“The club wants to win a premiership and hopefully I can help do that.”
The Sharks will hold its annual annual general meeting at Town Green Inn from 5.30pm on October 23.
All committee positions are open.