RHYCE Shaw couldn't understand what he was seeing.
North Melbourne's top draft pick from 2017, Luke Davies-Uniacke, set new personal marks in the 2km time trial and Yo-Yo test but those results weren't translating to training.
Shaw's frustration boiled over in one post-Christmas session, and he barked at Davies-Uniacke to work harder.
It was a bitter pill for the 21-year-old to swallow, because he was trying to do what his coach wanted – he simply couldn't.
Subsequent scans revealed Davies-Uniacke was dealing with pubic overload and bone bruising, which had zapped his acceleration.
The pain, which he initially brushed off as tightness, became too much and it felt like he was being stabbed in his groin when he tried to run.
"Shawry was giving me a kick in the arse for not running hard enough and it just didn't make sense to them," Davies-Uniacke told AFL.com.au on Wednesday.
"They were frustrated, in that sense, and I was frustrated myself, because I was like, 'Here we go, another injury, bloody hell'."
Davies-Uniacke's 2019 season ended early, because he needed a right shoulder reconstruction, but it meant he returned before most of his teammates.
Shaw had challenged him in his exit meeting to improve his fitness.
The 21-gamer, the No.4 selection in 2017 – behind Cam Rayner, Andrew Brayshaw and Paddy Dow and ahead of Adam Cerra and Jaidyn Stephenson – did just that and was as fit as ever.
What was supposed to be his breakout season, just like teammate Jy Simpkin in his corresponding campaign last year, instead became a nightmare.
Davies-Uniacke was aiming to return in a low-key practice match against Melbourne on February 28 at Arden St.
Instead, he missed that game, then the Roos announced days later he was stopping running altogether and would remain out indefinitely.
"It just plateaued – it didn't get any better or worse but was just hanging around," Davies-Uniacke said.
The season shutdown period worked in his favour and enabled him to back off then slowly build up again without missing matches.
Davies-Uniacke's been back running for more than two months, and has multiple weeks of training under his belt – firstly with recovering duo Nick Larkey and Kayne Turner, and now with the entire group.
He will make his long-awaited return in a scratch match against Essendon's reserves on the Gold Coast on Saturday and hopes to contend for senior selection in the coming weeks.
Davies-Uniacke is already plotting a centre-bounce combination with the in-form Simpkin in the "near future".
"Speaking to the rehab coaches, it looks like I'll be playing some minutes this weekend, which will be bloody fantastic, because I've been really toey to get out there," Davies-Uniacke said.
"It's been about six months that the groin's put me out. If it wasn't for the break during the 'iso' period, then I probably would have went a bit crazy."