As most of their mates slept in and lounged on the beach in the school holidays, a dedicated bunch of rugby-mad teenagers sweated it out on the training field in preparation for this month's Junior Gold Cup.
Illawarra will be represented by two teams in the under-15 and under-17 divisions.
The nationwide tournament features 48 sides from 24 regions and showcases the next generation of Wallabies.
Illawarra host Sydney North Harbour in both age groups in round one on February 16 at WIN Stadium.
"The boys have been ripping into preseason training since November and they're really looking forward to pulling on the jersey for that first game on home soil," Illawarra under-17 team coach Jay Tregonning said.
"We're under no illusions that the tournament will be a tough exercise for our boys, but there's a real sense of excitement among the players. They are very much looking forward to the opportunity.''
Illawarra have drawn Sydney West and Western NSW in rounds two and three. They host Victoria in round four at Woonona's Ocean Park and take on Central Coast a fortnight later at Camden Rugby Park.
Illawarra rep co-ordinator Ron Wood said a positive start to the tournament is crucial.
"Everybody involved - the coaching and support staff, the players and the very supportive parent group - realises just what a wonderful concept this program is," Wood said.
"It's the start of what we all hope to see become a real career path for young rugby players in our region. The high level of interest means all 24 regions are ready to go.''
For full details of the Junior Gold Cup, visit illawarrarugby.com.au.