Send 42 rugby players into the rugged Wollemi National Park, tell them to take tips from a mix of reality TV shows such as Survivor, The Amazing Race and America’s Next Top Model and what do you get? A boot camp for players and supporters from the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club over the long weekend.

The three-day extreme event was a return to basics for the Convicts who pitched tents at the Newnes camp ground, 47km north of Lithgow, where the only flowing water came from a creek and a long drop was the closest they got to home comforts.

Event organiser Steve Thorne said the boot camp was designed to foster a team spirit and kick off the club’s 2008 rugby season, which will culminate in the Bingham Cup between 13 and 15 June in Dublin, where the Convicts intend to defend their cup and plate world titles.

“We’d talked about holding a boot camp for ages. It’s a Bingham Cup year so we wanted to get it in everyone’s head space and get the guys pumped,” he said.

“There is so much work to do this year we know we need everyone to be focused and ready to go. The more work we do now, the more fun we will have over there in Ireland.”

The boot camp included two eight-kilometre canyon ascents, the first a round trip to the Glow Worm Tunnel, part of an old railway which once serviced shale mines in the area. But the toughest challenge lay in climbing the Glen Davis Track to the top of the Pipeline Canyon, towering more than 250m over a park and regarded as one of the best for canyoning in NSW.

Of course, the weekend was not without its lighter moments. A red-carpet stroll in drag on the first night for some players provided inspiration, while a bout of egg-throwing tested the catching skills of others.

The Convicts will hold an open day for all interested players at Centennial Park (on top of the reservoirs) at 3.30pm on Sunday 3 February. Training takes place every Thursday at 6.30pm at Woollahra Colleagues’ grounds at Blue Giant Park at the end of Manion Avenue, Rose Bay. Details: www.sydneyconvicts.org.

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