The first torches were turned on at about 2.45am. Brumbies players unzipped their tents and started a title journey while their rivals were sleeping.
By sunrise they were sitting at the Porcupine Rocks looking out at the Kosciuszko National Park, spread along a ridge and writing on individual notepads about what it meant to be a Brumby.
The location of the brumby animal culling debate in the Australian Capital Territory is the same place the Brumbies were reborn as Super Rugby title contenders.
The pre-season camp is a world away from the hostile reception they'll get in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning.
But the players say leaving rugby balls, boots and tackle bags at home has been the foundation their charge to be one win away from a grand final berth.
"I'm big on relationships in rugby. Every team works in the gym or do their fitness work," Lachlan McCaffrey says. "The successful teams, they're close as a group. They're a family. That's what gets you from a good team to a great team. We want to create memories together and hopefully there are a few special things to come."
The Brumbies will play the Jaguares in a semi-final this weekend, with the winner to advance to the grand final.
The Brumbies are riding a wave of momentum, winning their past seven games in a row to set a record for the longest single-season winning streak in the club's history.
The path to the finals, though, hasn't been smooth. Most teams would have wilted under the pressure of winning just two of the first seven games of the season.
The Brumbies stuck together and went from the cellar to Australian conference champions.
The successful teams, they're close as a group. They're a family. That's what gets you from a good team to a great team.
How did they do it? Ask any of the players and coaches and they'll tell you the bonds formed at a Snowy Mountains getaway gave them the belief to turn it around.
It wasn't just the regular pre-season camp of army-style drills, fitness sessions and complete mental and physical exhaustion. The Brumbies went down a different path three days before their first trial match.
Coach Dan McKellar put his players in tents, gave them shovels to dig a hole for a fire, woke the squad for a pre-dawn hike, organised a yoga session, and sat them around a campfire to share their stories.
"We didn't take a football and we weren't living off rations … it was just a few days of living around the campfire," McKellar said.
The players didn't forget the exercise either. They decided to bring the campfire into their changeroom in the form of an esky gifted to them on the trip. Players wrote messages on the esky about their goals and motivations and it became the "campfire after games".
"Results go your way and sometimes they don't. Even after a loss you have to sit down and grab a beer together or a soft drink, whatever you want," McKellar said. "Those special moments as a team probably helped us get through some rough times this year. We stuck together instead of pointing fingers or looking for excuses.
"Now we've put ourselves in a position where we caRead More – Source