TO BEAT Western Australia's border closure in the lead-up to Christmas, Gold Coast wingman Jeremy Sharp left his Suns teammates a week early to get home, hassle-free.
While it ensured some much-needed family time without having to quarantine, it also meant having to complete training on his own.
Within that week lay a virtual torture test for Sharp – a running session of 25 x 400m, all completed on a two-minute cycle.
For those unsure, that means if Sharp completes a 400 in 70 seconds, he gets 50 seconds recovery, if he completes it in 75 seconds, it's 45 seconds recovery, and so on. No matter how quickly you run them, it's a brutal session.
"It was more mentally challenging than physically, just knowing I had to run that distance," Sharp told AFL.com.au.
"It was a tough session.
"I was lucky enough to have 'Powelly' (Wil Powell, who was resting following concussion earlier in the month) there playing a few tunes and driving me through.
"Doing 25 of them is not easy, but I'm definitely seeing the rewards."
Since heading to the Suns via the 27th pick in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft, Sharp has been renowned for his terrific athleticism, a mixture of great endurance and eye-catching acceleration.
He played 11 games over his first two seasons and really came into his own during the back-end of 2021, playing the final nine rounds.
Now in his third pre-season Sharp has taken another noticeable step forward, not only a top-three performer in the club's 2km time trial, but consistently strong in match practice session as he vies for a wing spot with Rory Atkins alongside Brandon Ellis.
It's Ellis, the hard-nut two-time premiership player from Richmond, who has kept an eye on Sharp since they came to the club at the same time and lived with co-captain David Swallow in their initial months.
"He was probably a little bit immature when he came to the club, but he's come on in leaps and bounds the last couple of years and it's showing in his football," Ellis said.
"I think the biggest thing for him is he's really confident in his body now … he's put on a lot of size, he's really fit, he's really fast, he's really strong.
"He believes he belongs at AFL level now.
"He's one of the hardest workers in that young group."
That word "maturity" crops up a bit when talking to coaches and teammates at the Suns.
Sharp, like his best mate Powell, is happy-go-lucky and doesn't take himself too seriously.
The 20-year-old said a chat with head of development Rhyce Shaw midway through last season really helped.
"I felt like I wasn't trusted in the group," Sharp said.
"I said to him I wanted to get into the (ears of the) leaders and into the coaches and I just wanted to be trusted as a player, for them to know that when I'm at the club I'll be doing my job and doing the right thing.
"I was looking to be a bit more professional off-field and on-field, knowing that when I'm on, I'm on and when I'm off, I'm off.
"When I'm off I'm surfing and seeing my mates, but when I'm on the field I want to be the best version of myself, I want to be a professional and be vocal and be a bit of a leader.
"Midway through last season I saw a real change in my demeanour at the club and my professionalism and I got rewards for that at the back end of the season.
"I was doing vision every day, I was swimming, gymming, running. Having that routine put me in good stead for the rest of the season."
Sharp's athletic traits offer a point of difference in Gold Coast's team, not only with his running capacity but his penetrating right boot.
A Rising Star nomination for his 30 disposals against the Western Bulldogs in round 18 last year showed that, as did another 31 and one goal the following week against Brisbane.
Sharp says he's "desperate" to lock down a wing spot in 2022, and Ellis believes he's good enough.
"He's going to play a lot of football for a long time for this club," Ellis said.
"It's about making sure he's disciplined with his wing patterns and disciplined with setting up in the right spot. It's not all about getting the ball.
"All you want to do as a young kid is come out and get the ball and think you've done your job.
"At AFL level it's all about making sure you run the right patterns, and he's been really good in the last 18 months.
"He's probably learned what it takes to be an AFL footballer.
"This is just the start for Sharpy. I've got another couple of years with him and I can't wait to see him flourish."