JARED Polec might have wanted to return home to Adelaide to resurrect his playing career, but it would be in Dubai where his transformation into an elite player finally took place.
After being traded from Brisbane, where he had spent a tumultuous three years, the 21-year-old had failed to impress his new club, Port Adelaide, during the early stages of pre-season training last November.
The Power had built a reputation of having the fittest playing group in the league during its resurgence last season and any new recruit was quickly going to be brought up to speed.
"Coming into the pre-season and seeing how hard they worked, I'd never seen anything like it, to be honest," he told APN this week.
"The first session was a massive eye-opener for me with a 3km time trial ... I didn't perform that well, being struck down with sickness."
Polec had finished mid-pack in the parklands of North Adelaide, well behind players such as veteran Kane Cornes, 10 years his senior, and though he was suffering from tonsillitis, he was pulled aside by coach Ken Hinkley and told to do more.
The heat would really come, however, when the Power ventured to the UAE for an intensive pre-Christmas training camp under the watchful eye of Port fitness coach Darren Burgess.
"Those nine days in Dubai, literally training every day, that was the hardest thing I've ever done," Polec said. "(But) I think that was a major factor in turning my career around."
Coming away fitter and stronger Polec did not look back and appeared to fit seamlessly into the free-flowing
Power outfit in a round-one win over Carlton, with his eye-catching run and carry on the wing.
"Just the monitoring I had over the pre-season (really helped) to get my body right and be able to be pushed to the limit and have my body not break down," he said.
Arguably the recruit of the year, he has played all nine games and averages 23 disposals for the side, which held off Hawthorn in a top-of-the-table clash at the Adelaide Oval last Saturday night.
Polec has displayed the type of performances Brisbane hoped it would get after selecting him at No.5 in the 2010 National Draft.
From a close-knit Polish family, Polec was unable to settle into Brisbane, however, the city or the club. In particular, he failed to deal with form and fitness issues, resulting in him playing just 16 games and averaging 12 touches.
"For the first six months I was in love with the place," he recalled. "I was so up and about. I played early on (in 2011), then unfortunately I had my first knee injury.
"In the end, if I had stayed there I would've continued the same way, I wouldn't have changed as player and I wouldn't have matured. Coming back home, I've matured and I've started becoming a professional footballer, which I wasn't at Brisbane... and that wasn't Brisbane's fault."
As one of five first or second-round draft picks wanting out of Brisbane last year, Polec came under criticism, ex-teammate Pearce Hanley even labelling the group "mummies' boys".
"I didn't really pay attention to it," Polec said. "It was more where you think you're going to play your best footy."
Polec went for the Power over the Crows as his club of choice after a meeting with Hinkley.
"Kenny was just brutally honest and he promised to really knuckle me down and work me harder than I ever have before. And he has done that," Polec said. "And it was always the team I barracked for as well."
JARED POLEC ON ...
POWER COACH KEN HINKLEY:
"What he says, everyone just wants to do. Everyone knows it's his way and it's the right way."
LIVING WITH PARENTS IRENE AND STAN:
"Mum loves cooking for me again and washing my clothes, so I don't have to worry about that anymore. She wanted me back, so she's back to her old ways."
"They've made the Adelaide Oval such a hostile environment for other teams. It gives us such a thrill and gets us over the line. I've never heard anything like it."