VIDEO, GALLERY: Knights in first hit-out of 2013 

THERE was no easing into 2013 for Newcastle Knights players this morning as their fitness was tested with a string of lung-busting running drills.

In their first hit-out since their Christmas-new year break, the Knights trained for just over an hour at Uni No.3 Oval under the watchful eye of coach Wayne Bennett and instruction of high performance manager Jeremy Hickmans.

As usual, Knights skipper Kurt Gidley led the way in the fitness stakes but others showed the strain of the demanding workout.

Three-time Dally M winger of the year Aku Uate pushed himself to the point of being sick, while Kevin Naiqama battled through the session with the encouragement of teammates.

Gidley, who is on the comeback trail from a shoulder reconstruction which all but wiped out his 2012 campaign, said excitement in the squad was building with trial games on the horizon.

‘‘It’s always the tough stuff before Christmas, but from day one of the new year things are starting to heat up and you’re playing games in six or seven weeks,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘It’s going to start ramping up from now.’’

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