East Gambier coach believes rigorous preseason built solid base for senior team

Matt Willson Dsc 1216  TBW Newsgroup
HOPEFUL: East Gambier coach Matt Willson hopes the empty McDonald Park venue will be full of people when Western Border football returns after the current suspension. Picture: THOMAS MILES

Matt Willson Dsc 1216 TBW Newsgroup
HOPEFUL: East Gambier coach Matt Willson hopes the empty McDonald Park venue will be full of people when Western Border football returns after the current suspension. Picture: THOMAS MILES

EAST Gambier A Grade coach Matt Willson is confident his club can fight through the tough period until football returns.

The anticipated 2020 Western Border football season has been suspended until at least May 31 due to COVID-19 and the lack of action leaves teams in a challenging position with no games or events allowed to go ahead.

Willson said everyone at the ‘kennel’ is doing their best to keep the club barking.

“It is obviously a really difficult and unprecedented time, so working out the right way to go about has been tough,” he said.

“The club itself is going to take a bit of a hit like most others financially, without sponsors, home games, gate takings, BBQs and everything else.

“It is going to be a real battle for the club and country football in general.”

The break will also be a major concern for the playing group itself, being a significant interruption to the pre-season schedule.

After making progress towards the expected first bounce on April 18, teams must reshuffle their programs to accommodate the delay and comply with government protocols.

Willson said it was frustrating to thoroughly plan each step towards round one, only to start the process all over again.

“I think as any coach will tell you, a lot of time and effort goes into planing a pre-season,” he said.

“The timing of everything you do goes backwards from the start of the season, so to have it pushed back by 12 weeks does make it really difficult.”

But Willson also sees the unprecedented times as a new challenge for his team to overcome.

“It is now about being able to adapt to a new schedule I guess,” he said.

“We must generate something over the next few weeks that is going to get our guys ready to go.

“I feel like we have got footballers who are mature enough with their experience to adapt and prepare the best we can.”

That confidence comes from a rigorous pre-season, which included a recent trial match victory over Naracoorte.

Willson said he was impressed with how his men were tracking and how the six new faces – Dylan Williams, Matt McCallum, Toby Case, Jake Harrop, Matt Dempsey and Nick Walters – have settled into the group.

“We were really excited with how everything was building,” he said.

“We put a big emphasis on integrating the new guys in as quickly as we can, while getting to know their personal and football sides.

“They have had a positive impact on what we have been doing.

“The list is in good shape, everyone is fit and healthy, so the momentum is there and now it is about us harnessing that when we do start again.”

After pushing the boundaries in recent months, the Bulldogs have taken the opportunity to use this unexpected break as a chance to recharge the batteries.

Willson said he has not implemented any specific goals for his players just yet, but expects them to maintain their fitness.

“There are no strict schedules,” he said.

“We have got some running and conditioning programs for the boys to do.

“It is just about keeping the guys fit and ready to go when we start again.

“We are battling a a fairly lengthy pre-season, so it is really important to have a rest period when we can.”

The closure of football should not make an impact on Willson’s personal ambitions either.

This year looms as an important season for the stylish left-footer, with the chance to break into the Adelaide Crows SANFL team.

Despite the road bumps, Willson said nothing has changed on his journey.

“Nothing has changed on that front,” he said.

“I will play up there if or when I can and fulfil my commitment to East Gambier.

“The Crows have been really good in supporting all of their players through a pretty interesting time for everybody.”

Although many people are suffering during this challenging period, Willson can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

He said the community could expect an exciting season when football returns.

“I think football in general will be pretty hungry when it comes back,” Willson said.

“It is going to be a short, sharp season, so you can not afford to have any off weeks.

“It makes for a really exciting year and having that extra time away might generate more excitement from supporters.

“I know every football player out there is going to be really pumped and we are already looking forward to it.”