HUDDERSFIELD Giants players are fitter and stronger than ever.
That's the verdict of first-team conditioner Jason Davidson after watching the Giants' Super League squad rip Castleford Tigers to bits.
Apart from the broken leg suffered by Paul White, all those in action in the McAlpine pre-season clash emerged injury-free.
And Davidson knows that hasn't happened by chance. He knows it's due to hard work and the condition of the players under his command.
"All the coaching staff were encouraged by the way the boys were shaping up in training," he said.
"But we knew the acid test would come in that first hit-out against Castleford.
"Clearly some work still needs to be done, but overall we were all delighted by the results.
"You could tell the boys were looking good after the first 10 to 15 minutes.
"By that stage some of the Cas players already had their heads down and were breathing very heavily. Our boys weren't even like that at the end.
"For example, the forwards were still putting in the big hits in the 80th minute, which speaks volumes.
"We've been stressing throughout pre-season that if you don't put in the effort, you won't get the rewards. I think it's something everyone is now appreciating.
"But we certainly won't be getting too carried away.
"We're probably at the right stage for this time of the season, and I'd probably say 95% of the boys are on schedule fitness-wise.
"But to make sure we're on fire for the start of Super League we all have to keep working.
"That win last Friday has given us the platform."
Davidson was particularly pleased with the way the forwards knuckled down to the task, with the props leading by example.
"Our `big units' really did take some stopping," he added.
"Every time one of them took the ball up, it needed three or four Cas men to stop them. They were just too big and too strong.
"For instance, we've been working on Jim Gannon's leg drives during the winter and he's come on tremendously since last season.
"And Ben Roarty has put a lot of size on him, something which was reflected with his performance in the front row.
"Unfortunately, however, I'm copping a fair bit of stick off the lads because they've all bulked up from last year.
"It means a lot of them can't fit in to their clothes from last season, and I'm being held responsible!
"But it's not just in the forwards where they're looking in better shape than last season.
"The backs have also been putting in the effort.
"Ben Cooper demonstrated a good turn of pace for his try, which was down to his excellent attitude in training, and Sean Penkywicz is looking a lot leaner than when he first joined us.
"All in all, things are going as well as we could have hoped at this stage."
Davidson believes a reason for the fitness success is the variety of training the squad has undertaken.
Besides the usual fitness work, the players have been getting into shape in the boxing ring and on the karate mat, and also had their week away with the army.
"Variety is the key," he added.
"They would already be stale if we did nothing but weights.
"We've mixed things up to keep them interested, and I have to say that it's so far, so good."