LIKE most journalists who cover professional football teams, I've seen so many training sessions over the years that one tends to blur into the next.
Usually I can't wait for them to finish, so that I can complete my interviews and get back to the office.
But one has stuck in my mind now for the best part of seven months.
It was a couple of weeks before the 2019 NRL season kicked off, and I was making my way, on foot, from Central Station to the SCG for a Foxtel season launch.
As I crossed the overhead footbridge at Anzac Parade, I noticed a large number of young, fit-looking blokes arriving below at Moore Park, dressed in navy blue and red kit.
It was the Sydney Roosters, defending premiers, arriving for a pre-season hit-out.
With an hour or so to kill, I decided to watch for a while, and what an eye-opener it was.
The sheer professionalism of the session was quite mind-blowing. Players weren't just going through the motions, they were thoroughly focused on their own individual warm-up routines and preparing themselves for a day at work.
In particular, I noticed a handling drill where players would drop a footy ball from about shoulder height, and snatch it, one-handed from above, before it hit the turf. Amazing reflexes.
Just as noteworthy were the vast number of support staff. If there were 35 blokes training, it seemed as if there were just as many staff.
I watched them for at least 45 minutes and they were still limbering up. The main ball-work session was yet to start.
As I walked away, I couldn't help thinking that this was rugby league's state of the art. The Roosters are not only a club chock full of world-class players, but it's hard to believe any other club has such a high-performance environment.
They don't just rely on their talent, they train harder and smarter than their rivals. And they have been doing it for years, consistently, so it is ingrained in everyone within their organisation.
That's why on Sunday they will be playing in their second consecutive grand final, and are odds-on to become the first team since Brisbane in 1992-93 to retain their title in a full competition.
After proceeding towards the SCG, I bumped into the Canberra Times' league reporter, David Polkinghorne.
We stopped for a chat about how our respective teams were likely to perform in the season ahead.
I was supremely confident that the Knights, bolstered by key signings like David Klemmer, Tim Glasby, Edrick Lee, Jesse Ramien, Kurt Mann, Hymel Hunt and James Gavet, would be featuring in the play-offs.
"As for your boys, they've lost Shannon Boyd, Junior Paulo and Blake Austin and don't appear to have signed anyone to replace them," I told David.
"I reckon you could be in for a long year."
How wrong could I have been?
Canberra's remarkable surge into the grand final has been the feelgood story of 2019. Few would have predicted they were capable of such heroics.
Plenty of credit has to go to Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who has somehow transformed a team renowned for leaking points and losing close games into one of the most resilient outfits in the NRL.
Somehow Stuart has instilled in his players two vital qualities: belief and toughness.
I think he summed up the secret to their success after Canberra's 17-10 win against the Knights in round three.
Asked about the spectaular impact English import John Bateman was having, Stuart replied: "Some have to win. Some try."
As I compare Newcastle's season to Canberra's, that mindset strikes me as the difference.
The Knights tried to win games, and when the going was good mid-season, they racked up six in a row.
At the back end of the year, when they had to win to make the finals, it all became a bit too hard, and their thrashings by Wests Tigers (46-4) and Penrith (54-10) rank among the most embarrassing defeats in Newcastle's 32-season history.
Lining up the Raiders and Knights, on paper, I still believe that man for man Newcastle's roster compares favourably.
Canberra's players, however, got going when the going got tough, and shared a powerful synergy with their coach. The same can't be said of the Knights.
Hopefully for their sake, incoming coach Adam O'Brien, having served as an assistant at both Melbourne and the Roosters, will bring with him new ideas and techniques so that Newcastle's players are training and preparing at a level comparable to these two benchmark clubs.
With regards to the issue of willpower, they need look no further than the Raiders for an example of what can be achieved if you want something enough.
Without disregarding the physical talent of the players at Stuart's disposal, they've reached the last game of the year through mental toughness and desire.
As Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce said this week: "Why shouldn't we be taking some inspiration out of what they have been able to achieve ... above anything else, they really play for one another.
"Honestly, there is no reason why that can't be us next year if we knuckle down and give it a really good crack."
I couldn't agree more.