THE East Gambier Football Club will become the second Western Border side to recommence official training tonight at McDonald Park.
The Bulldogs will return to the “Kennel” for the first time since coronavirus took over the world, with stage two of the SANFL’s return to play scheme still in effect.
East coach Matt Willson said the first steps back on the field will be a significant moment on the path to normality after a challenging period.
“It has been tough being apart from everybody,” he said.
“Not having the ability to see each other face to face or share the team bond you usually feel leading up to a season has made things difficult.
“But looking at the bigger picture, it has been a lot harder for so many people outside of football and I guess training will employ a little bit of normality to a lot of our lives.”
The Bulldogs’ first session since the break will be monitored by strict guidelines from the SANFL.
With players forced to remain apart in three separate zones, Willson said he will not be alone marshalling the troops.
“I am fortunate enough to have some really good people around me such as Travis Younghusband, Mark Rumbelow and Derek Ferguson who are helping me out on the coaching side of things,” he said.
“I have full confidence they will implement a high-quality training.”
Willson is actually more concerned about how the players will cope being forced to avoid natural parts of football.
He said his group will have to adapt, but is confident they will overcome the challenges.
“It raises some difficulties for players more than anything because you love to celebrate things,” Willson said.
“Maintaining the 1.5m distance and not being able to touch each other has its own little challenges.
“But I think the senior guys will help settle the group through their maturity.”
The Bulldogs have not just worried about matters on the field, but they have also catered for those on the sidelines.
The clubrooms will be open for supporters who wish to attend with a maximum of 10 people allowed inside and outside the McDonald Park facility.
Willson said the initiative was thought of to ensure as many people in the club can experience the unique night.
“A football club is not just about the 20 or 40 blokes who run around on a Saturday, it is about the community, families, past players and members,” he said.
“So to be able to give people something to do on a Thursday night, catch up with their mates and watch footy again is really important.”
Despite a return date yet to be locked in, Willson looks forward to the opportunity to kick footballs with his mates again.
“I guess the suspense and build up over the last couple months makes it a little bit more exciting,” he said.
“It will just be a bit of fun to get the boys back together again, enjoy each other’s company and be back on a football field for what it is.”