Super League Champions Wigan Warriors are already in preparation to defend their title with help from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan.)
After beating rivals St Helens in October's Grand Final, the Warriors players are back in training and have been put through their paces during fitness testing in UCLan's sports performance laboratories.
Several first team players, including new signings Ryan Hoffman, Jeff Lima and Brett Finch along with Logan Tomkins who will join older brothers Joel and Sam in the squad, worked with staff and students from UCLan's Centre for Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CASES.)
The CASES team assessed the players' fitness levels at the start of pre-season training and will repeat the exercise just before the start of the 2011 season to measure any changes.
Mark Bitcon, the Head of Sports Science at Wigan Warriors, said the tests contributed towards the players' reaching their optimum fitness levels.
"We came to UCLan for pre-season fitness tests last year and it enabled us to move to a high level of physical preparation that carried us through a very successful season. We are aiming to repeat that this year and the scientists at UCLan have tested the players on a range of physiological and biomechanical checks using their superb laboratory facilities and expertise. I hope we can continue to build on our relationship with the University."
The test day enabled MSc Sports Science students to gain practitioner experience with high-level athletes and to gain insight into the practical developments of elite sports players.
Ellen Barden, a sports and exercise science postgraduate student, worked on several tests with the players.
She said: "It's such a great opportunity to work closely with professional athletes who are at the top of their game. I wouldn't get this chance anywhere else and when it comes to getting a job after University, having solid practical experience will be invaluable."
The ongoing collaborative tests were directed by Dr Steve Atkins, Academic Lead for CASES. He said: "The key thing we emphasise with our students is employability. Allowing them to directly engage with professional sports people from a variety of backgrounds provides essential knowledge and experience that they can take into industry."
The fitness tests are part of an ongoing sponsorship deal that UCLan has as the ‘official university' of the Super League champions, which sees the Warriors also benefit with video analysis support from UCLan and a number of University degree places for its accelerate squad players and staff. Currently five players are currently studying for the BSc(Hons) Strength and Conditioning course; with coaching staff Mick Turner also engaged in academic study at UCLan.
Warriors' player Chris Tuson will join his team mates on the course this year. He said: "I'm really looking forward to it and I'm glad I can take advantage of the club's partnership with UCLan. The fitness analysis we've done today is a great way of improving our training sessions are very beneficial to the coaches to see where we are and where we need to be."