CHARLES Gaylard admits it will be a “bit strange” returning to Albury Sportsground as coach of Heidelberg against Albury on Saturday.
Gaylard last played at the ground in 2013 before joining the Northern Football League club in Melbourne.
He spent 2014 and 2015 as a player at Heidelberg before coaching the Tigers to a thrilling premiership last year.
“It will be good to see all the old Albury boys again,” Gaylard said.
“It will be different playing against them though.
“Even though there is always a turnover of players at footy clubs, I‘ve stayed in touch with blokes like ‘Hydey’ (Chris Hyde), Joel Mackie, the Dalys and Daniel Maher.
“It will be good fun.”
Heidelberg is expected to provide formidable opposition for Albury after defeating Macleod by 15 points in last year’s grand final.
Former Wangaratta defender Ben Cosgriff and Wangaratta Rovers midfielder Ryan Stone play under Gaylard while Jarrod Hodgkin was a member of Heidelberg’s premiership side before returning to Wodonga this year.
Gaylard, 29, said coaching came out of the blue.
“It was one of those things that just happened,” he said.
“One thing led to another.
“It’s good fun seeing the players improve.
“I played under a few playing and non-playing coaches at Albury and that’s given me a good perspective.”
Gaylard spent time under Stuart Hodgson, Luke Carroll, Paul Spargo, Daniel Maher, Danny Stevens and Chris Hyde during his time at Albury.
“I have a new found respect for the guys who do it,” he laughed.
Albury defeated Wangaratta in its opening practice match before suffering a hefty loss to Canberra.
The Tigers will be raising funds for Nick Dempsey at the match after the Jindera player suffered a severe spinal cord injury when he dived into a pool at his 21st birthday party in January.
Dempsey recently began the next stage of his treatment at Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, Kew, where he’s expected to stay about six months.
Albury co-coach Shaun Daly urged people to get behind the fund-raiser.
“A lot of our players know Nick and it would be good to raise some funds for him,” Daly said.
Albury and Heidelberg will play senior and reserve grade matches with the Tigers and Wodonga kicking off the day with a thirds clash at 10am.
Buckets will be at the sportsground gates and around the ground with a kiosk and bar open during the day.
Raffles will also be held.
Meanwhile, Lavington and Wodonga Raiders will play under lights at Lavington Oval from 6.30pm on Friday night.
Interestingly, both clubs also have pre-season matches next weekend.
Wodonga take on Mulwala at Mulwala.
On Saturday, Myrtleford host Corowa-Rutherglen, North Albury take on Aberfeldie at Howlong, Wangaratta play West Preston in Melbourne, Wangaratta Rovers do battle with Shepparton United at Rumbalara and Yarrawonga meet Melton South at J.C. Lowe Oval.