“Hook was old school. We’d do 2.5km time trials, which doesn’t sound much, but when you’re doing four of them … we’d push up around 9km to 10km.
“That type of training felt like Groundhog Day. This year, something’s different, it’s exciting, and there’s been no complaining.”
Cleary gave Campbell-Gillard his NRL debut in 2015 and is as happy as anyone the coach has returned to the foot of the mountains.
“I was pretty devastated Ivan left in the first place,” Campbell-Gillard said.
“To have him back in Penrith is very good for us.
“Ivan was in the process of fixing [Penrith] before he left. He said he went away, learned a few things about himself and the way he wants to coach.
“He went to the Tigers, came back here, he’s here the next five years, so is Nath [Nathan Cleary], and the combination and relationships within the group will only get stronger.”
Campbell-Gillard will need to take on extra responsibility without good mate Trent Merrin no longer out west. He played Origin in 2018 and was included in the Kangaroos’ Test squad at the end of the year, which makes the 25-year-old one of the club’s most experienced campaigners.
While Campbell-Gillard will take the fight to the Eels up front, Dylan Edwards is keen for him and wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Josh Mansour to combine as a back three.
Injuries at different times restricted the trio to just two games together at the back last year.
All three are capable of chalking up big metres, which is sure to give Penrith every chance to start their attacking sets against Parramatta on Sunday afternoon in good field position.
Edwards, whose season was cut short by a shoulder injury last season, said of returning to the No. 1 jersey, and beating out ‘DWZ’ for the custodian role: “I enjoyed how Dallin played [last season], he’s my mate, but I was keen to get back out there myself and show what I can do.
“The three of us didn’t play many together last year. We’ve been training well, Dal has been back a couple of weeks, he’s a smart footballer, and so is ‘Sauce’ [Mansour].”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.