TRAINING right now is about hope.
Amid the slightest easing in Victorian COVID restrictions gyms remain firmly shut and you might be lucky to be part of a small group in a pub.
But sporting teams can train outdoors.
This might feel pointless to many, especially with many winter sports declaring themselves done, or a handy option for summer sports to ensure they are ready for action - whenever that might be.
For Greater Western Victoria Rebels, the chance for the boys to train as a squad is absolutely vital.
There is still a chance the AFL under-18 boys talent program might be able to play games at the pointy end of the season.
This time of the year is always a delicate balancing act for Rebels. Most players are preparing for final year school exams, now compounded by home-learning, and the potential to be drafted to an AFL club.
All experience long travel in the game to some degree, coming from the Wimmera, Ararat, Ballarat, Warrnambool and across the south-west for the state-based competition that, in pre-COVID years, could often have interstate travel.
This is an elite competition and for a second consecutive year this cohort has been starved of match play and the chance to train together and challenge each other.
There is no denying young Victorian talent has been at a disadvantage when it comes to the AFL Draft compared to footballing peers in South Australia or Western Australia due to lockdowns. Even more so this year.
Two seasons on few elite games means recruiters will be heavily relying on reputation - a fact delivering a greater handicap to late football developers.
The Rebels pull together the best emerging talent across western Victoria and, while the chance to be drafted might be small, there is always a chance to push for spots on lists that can take their game to a higher level.
Many will take the skills, football and leadership, the develop with the Rebels back into add depth in our grassroots clubs. This point is crucial.
Our country clubs are hurting from another season with little play and most have pulled finals.
The Warrnambool-based Hampden league was the latest to scrap senior finals on Friday. Even eased restrictions to train became a moot point.
For a few, such as the Central Highlands and Maryborough Castlemaine District leagues, the chance to train is a chance to hang on to the season a little longer.
Either way, to play or not to play, all clubs across the region face big hurdles to bouncing back from pandemic impacts.
Whatever experience the Rebels boys can garnish from even a few extra training sessions together, is helping to develop football leaders for the region to move forward.
The Rebels have been working to re-start training on Tuesday night and to bring in the regional boys for a Thursday night session. A key part of this is to talk with them, re-energise their training and reinforce a safe environment for them, on and off the field.
These are small steps, but these are really important steps for whatever might come next. But sport is like that, training builds skills and confidence to face whatever might play out.
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