You will never get a second chance to make a first impression, the saying goes, but it's not a theory the Beechworth Football Netball Club will have to put to the test.
Within minutes of walking into their packed club rooms, I've been seated and greeted like a lifelong friend and offered Thursday night dinner by at least half a dozen people who I've never met before.
The Bushrangers' welcome feels like a warm hug on a cold winter's evening and it speaks louder than words of the fact something special is happening at Baarmutha Park.
You would not believe this was a club which has experienced such lean years in both sports over the past decade and president Adam Fendyk explains why.
"The low times were pretty tough but we're more up and about now," the charismatic Fendyk said.
"If you have low times and you don't have a club, you've got nothing, but if you have low times and you've got a lot of people around, still willing and able to help, you've still got something going on.
"That's the nucleus of it, by people staying around, the rusted-on supporters of Beechworth through ups and downs, supporting us and willing to give, that's what's really helped us out.
"This club has been a place where I've grown up, socialised, met people, formed relationships, learned to participate and get the best out of myself.
"I never used to think about it as a player but one day it dawned on me that 'gee, people are doing all this work and I've never really acknowledged them or wondered who actually does that job.'
"To be able to play here and then give back as a committee person and volunteer has been, for me, quite fulfilling and then as president, twice around, it's been my goal to create a place that people want to be around.
"We have 54 jobs happening on Saturday just to run the footy games and they're an hour to two hours apiece.
"It's similar on the netball court as well.
"An incredible amount of volunteer time goes into this and we need everyone to be involved to help us along.
"We've got to make it a place people want to be at, participate in and be willing to give back to the community as well."
Fast-forward to Saturday and it feels like the whole community has turned out for Beechworth's inaugural Indigenous round against old rivals Chiltern.
After a cultural yarn with the club's Aboriginal players in midweek, we're about to gather for a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony, with every other person around me dressed in the Indigenous singlets especially designed for the occasion.
A-grade netballer Sarah Robinson has been central to the planning over several months.
"It's an amazing buzz," Robinson said.
"I was pretty uneducated before I started organising it and it's definitely been an insight.
"I think it goes to show my generation is very uneducated because it was brushed off at school as just a tick-box so we really need to yarn and get ourselves educated to benefit the next generation.
"We've got members at the club who were part of the Stolen Generation and if you don't know that, and the history behind it... we just associate people as Aboriginal or Indigenous and we don't know the actual defined meaning of that and what's involved."
Robinson's played here since she was eight and after picking up multiple wooden spoons, is now playing in a side with realistic finals hopes.
"I don't think we ever lacked players," Robinson admitted.
"It looked good on paper but for some reason, it never worked on court.
"We've worked really hard to get ourselves where we are. We've got a good group that care for each other and want to play for each other, which makes it really enjoyable."
Part of that side but also integral to the development of youth at Beechworth is Rachael Cavallin, who coaches the under-11s and within the NetSetGo program.
"My passion lies with keeping young girls engaged in sport, especially during those teenage years which can be a difficult time for girls to navigate," Cavallin said.
"The best part about being in a team sport is that you've always got the support of others around you, coaches and team-mates to keep you on track.
"It's a pretty special relationship. I remember my coaches, as a teenager, they were people I looked up to so I enjoy being a role model.
"In my under-11s team, I've got a lot of quiet girls and seeing them grow in confidence, that transfers to their netball skills and it just keeps building."
Cavallin, who turns 39 this year, is still relishing the physical challenge of A-grade netball having moved to the area with husband Mick three years ago.
"Being a bit older, we've been able to realise what country footy and netball means to people," Cavallin said.
"Having those couple of years with COVID, it really makes you think about how important it is to stay connected to people and to be active, doing something that's a positive, healthy outlet.
"A lot of people find it quite funny because I'm a fairly patient and quiet person but on the netball court, I can be a very different personality."
The love of playing is something Annika Knoth, the club's game day netball manager, can't wait to experience again after an injury-enforced layoff.
"I dislocated my knee and my C-grade coach put it back in," Knoth explained.
"It sucks but one good thing about the club is they rally. If you're injured, they get behind you and get you back on the court.
"I look forward to this every week. It's my life here. Our supporters, our members, the community, that's what makes it so special. We're a club full of young kids as well and to see an environment that's vibrant, with smiling faces, it doesn't matter if you win or lose.
"I've seen the club in dire straits where you put 50-something players through a team each year so to have our A-grade sitting seventh on the ladder and having three teams potentially look at finals is amazing.
"I hadn't seen our footy win in a long time so to come out, straight off the bat, and have multiple wins, the morale boost that has to a club is phenomenal."
The evidence of that is all around us, with a four-figure crowd building all the time as the first bounce approaches.
There are so many people queueing for the canteen it's impossible to access the walkway, a sure compliment to Sue Fendyk and her culinary crew.
"I've outsourced to all of our wonderful parents," Fendyk smiled.
"I've learnt a lot about the people in this club, people who were cooks in their previous lives.
"Running the canteen, I get to meet the parents from the under-12s and under-14s that I never would have got the opportunity to meet otherwise."
Hundreds of players, officials and supporters have just walked off the ground after forming a huge circle around Uncle 'Dozer' Darren Atkinson while he performed the Welcome to Country.
"It was humbling to be able to stand here and watch it," Fendyk reflected.
"We've all learnt about things I had no idea about. I didn't know women weren't allowed to play the didgeridoo. I loved the story about the singlets and how it involved everybody, our club, other clubs and the children.
"I've learned a lot in two days so imagine how much more we can learn if other people take this on."
Beechworth's progressive attitude has been matched by Chiltern's willingness to take a full part in the Indigenous round, with both sets of senior footballers and A-grade netballers having walked out behind Taylor Hampton, one of the Bushies' Aboriginal players, playing his didgeridoo.
But hostilities are about to commence, with brothers Brenton and Kayde Surrey once again lining up in their beloved blue and red having virtually exercised a monopoloy on the club's best and fairest with five wins apiece.
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Both played in the 2010 premiership; both have endured the drought of recent years.
"Last year, we played Yack and we didn't even score," Kayde recalled.
"That was the lowest point in my career. Days like that are pretty tough going.
"You definitely get phone calls (from other clubs) but I've been honest from the start and pretty much shut it down.
"It's just the way I've been brought up, playing cricket and footy in the town.
"I love my sport and I've always been around this club."
Football's cyclical nature means history has a habit of repeating itself and Brenton, three years older than his brother at 35, is still hoping to end his career on a high.
"2010 was very good, similar to what's happening at the moment," he said.
"It was built from the year before, 2008 was a low finish and then in 2009 we were runners-up.
"We had a heap of kids out of the thirds, they were exceptional and we had a mature group around 22 or 23 who were success-starved and willing to do anything.
"The bitter disappointment of 2009 fuelled the fire.
"We were 3-3 in 2010 and it could have gone either way but we didn't lose another game.
"By the end of it, we were super-confident and knew we were the best team."
Brenton, who's "coached a few and played too many" since making his senior debut as a schoolboy in 2004, is experiencing something of an Indian summer and the fire of competition still burns brightly in his eyes.
"At the start of the year I was on the bench and would have been happy in the reserves," he said.
"I had a pretty big foot injury the year before COVID so I hadn't played for two-and-a-half years, since round four in 2018, so it's nice to be running around again.
"The game against Barnawartha, which was a close game, they're the games you want to play in.
"You see the older supporters, the guys who were here in the seventies and eighties, they've been presidents in the nineties and haven't missed a weekend.
"When they've got the big beaming smile, you're thinking 'shit, this is a bit different compared to what it has been in the last decade.'
"That really hits home and it's great to see."
And some of those past players are among the most vociferous of all as the home crowd greets every goal with a roar in a final quarter to match anything the club has seen in recent memory.
The walls are shaking as the crammed changing-room reverberates to a raucous rendition of the team song, with the Bushies players forced to sit on the floor for their debrief as every bench is filled with exhilarated supporters.
"We're getting people back to the club I haven't seen here for a long time," 400-gamer Robert Gilchrist beamed.
"This year has been enormous. There's a buzz around the club I haven't seen for many years and I've been here all my life. I started playing when I was 14, finished when I was 42 and I've always done those little things people don't notice."
But it's impossible not to notice the huge team effort which is happening here.
The buzz is back and so are Beechworth.
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