IT'S been a long and frustrating road for district football clubs with coronavirus wiping out the 2020 season.
Today, The Border Mail starts a series looking at how each Tallangatta league club has fared during the break and what lies ahead.
Kiewa-Sandy Creek coach ADAM MUDRA kicks off the series, giving an insight into the Hawks' progress this year.
BRENT GODDE: What are some of the biggest issues clubs face after having 12 months off?
ADAM MUDRA: I think having 12 months off has given players a chance to reflect on what football means to them personally and in most cases it will go one of two ways. Some players will seriously consider their playing futures and realise football is a big commitment and they may now prefer to work on a Saturday, spend time with their family or pursue other hobbies. The other side of the coin is players missed playing and the social outlet of being involved in a football club and can't wait to get back into it.
BG: What have you got planned for the pre-season?
AM: We will start our pre-season on Monday. I know some of the players can't wait to get back to training but I'm really mindful of keeping the balance in peoples lives and their work and family commitments. We will do seven sessions before Christmas and then have a break until late January.
BG: The club was left devastated by the news in August that Ben Murphy suffered life threatening injuries after he fell from the roof of the Beechworth Secondary College redevelopment, hitting his head on concrete?
AM: Miraculously Ben is well on the road to recovery and back home with his family after spending an extended amount of time in intensive care at The Alfred Hospital.
IN OTHER NEWS
BG: Ben is not only one of your star players but also one of the most popular?
AM: Ben finished runner-up in the best and fairest last year, so he is going to leave a big hole in our midfield rotations. I'm hopeful Ben will stay involved with the club in some capacity and I'll discuss that with him in the coming months. Ben is a young man of outstanding character and can still play a major role off the field if that is what he choses.
BG: You signed talented Wodonga trio Josh Hicks, Nick Beattie and Chris Lewis over the summer. Are you confident of retaining the majority of your list?
AM: At this early stage everyone is keen to stick together and I see the list being no different to the start of the year with the exception of Ben.
BG: Would it be fair to say before the season was cancelled it was shaping as the most competitive for several years?
AM: I think an influx of former O&M players into most clubs has definitely evened out the competition.
BG: It's only early, but who shapes as the team to beat?
AM: I think Tallangatta will be the big improvers and have been able to attract some high-profile recruits and have some talented kids who won the thirds flag last year.