The Ovens and Murray Football League starts in just under 10 weeks and is one of the most eagerly anticipated in years, given the expected tightness of the competition and the passion for the game's return after COVID-19 wiped out last year. Adding to the excitement is the number of recruits and in the countdown to the season, The Border Mail will catch up with some of the profile players.
Wangaratta Rovers' Todd Grayson expects to be back to his best after a broken ankle forced him to miss more than 18 months.
The 29-year-old, who spent two years on the Gold Coast Suns' list in their formative years of 2009-2010, suffered the injury playing for Palm Beach Currumbin on the Gold Coast in 2019 and elected not to play in the shortened 2020 season.
"That's why I had that year off, to get my body right because I'm the type of player that if I can't give 100 percent, I don't want to be there at all," he offered.
It will be the half-back's second stint in the O and M after bolting in Wodonga Raiders' best and fairest in 2015 and he will again play under Daryn Cresswell.
"'(I'm coming back) because of 'Crezza', 'Crezza' and I have a good relationship, he got me down to Wodonga Raiders and I did my apprenticeship through 'Crezza' as well," he explained.
"'Crezza's' a great coach and that's why I wanted to play under him, he finds ways to free me up and play the best footy I can.
"He's just extremely smart and even when other coaches challenge him, he's always got something up his sleeve, he's very handy to play under."
The 187cm defender will play at 85kgs, which is around five lighter than his time at Raiders after making a conscious effort to ease the strain on his body after breaking the ankle.
Grayson was part of a star-studded Rovers' list which attended the club's first training session last Saturday.
Fellow recruits Tyson Hartwig, Jamason Daniels and Tyler Cornish were there, while former Collingwood defender Sam Murray, a close friend of Cresswell, and ex-Richmond (AFL) defender Steve Morris also trained.
Rovers will be out to break a seven-year finals drought.
Cresswell led the new-look outfit to the verge of finals in 2019, but missed out on percentage to Raiders.
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Given the quality of its recruiting over the past 18 months, there's no reason the club shouldn't play finals.
And the first month should hand the Hawks an early indication of their standing as they face the top three after the last regular season in eventual premiers Lavington, Albury and Wangaratta, with the latter two, in particular, looking stronger.
The Lavington clash is a standalone Sunday fixture.