THERE is a sense of deja vu among players and coaches at the Gippsland Power, with yet another COVID-19 lockdown grinding the region’s elite under 19 football club to a sudden halt.
Sitting 16th on the ladder with zero wins and a percentage of just 46.2, it has been a far from ideal start to the season, however the injection of some exciting underage players in recent weeks has
brought new life to the squad.
Now with uncertainty surrounding the rest of the season, coach Rhett McLennan said the club got on the front foot as soon as the lockdown was announced.
“We are pretty used (to the lockdown restrictions) by now, we have got a pretty good network of other teams we closely liaise with so as soon as it happened we were in a conference straight away to discuss how we would attack it,” he said.
“As a league, we have collectively put training programs out so that everyone is getting the same information, so we are probably a bit lucky in comparison to others because we are essentially not competing too much and all striving for the same result in looking after the players.”
As for the players, he said the reaction has been mixed as they brace for what could be an extended period on the side lines.
“I have been ringing the players and they are probably not as upbeat in comparison to the previous lockdowns,” he said.
“The really positive thing we have had from the AFL however is a commitment to 12 games this year, so there is going to be another eight games and we can relay that information onto the kids so
they at least know they will get some continuity in their football.”
McLennan explained how those remaining eight games might look.
“There isn’t any capacity for us to travel interstate for a hub-based season, so if we have to play just country teams I suppose that is a possibility,” he said.
“In any way, shape or form we will get eight games, it is a lopsided draw to begin with so we don’t have to worry too much about evenness, it is just about getting enough games in so the recruiters are feeling like they have enough breadth of information to take into the draft.”
With players and coaches unable to convene in person, McLennan said they are doing all they can to stay connected virtually through the lockdown.
“Within six hours of the lockdown happening we already had a training program mapped out for them and we also split our team up into tribes and each assistant coach and myself take care of one of eight tribes,” he said.
“We just do team-building stuff online, whether that is Zoom or messenger, we just want to make sure we are staying active and staying connected even though we can’t physically be together and
train during this period.”
Prior to these events, the Power returned to the field after a one-month break and put in a solid performance against a mature Sydney Swans academy side.
“We were really happy with the performance, we were in the game up and until late being one-point up deep into the third quarter, we unfortunately just weren’t good enough for long enough,” he said.
“Given the youth in our side it was to be expected, but there were definitely parts of that game where we had the upper hand, and our young guys showed a lot of promise which is really exciting.”
Sporting a new-look team for the match-up, McLennan had nothing but praise for the impact of the young debutants with 15 year-old Zane Duursma (brother of Port Adelaide’s Xavier) the stand-out,
kicking three goals.
“They were all excellent, the new boys we brought in from the lower age groups contributed really well and it shows we have a lot of talent coming through,” McLennan said.
“Through the rest of the year we will blood those guys who are playing good senior footy in other places that have been on our list before and even some who haven’t, we have always got our eyes peeled to find the region’s best young talent.”