November is flying past us, cricket season is in full swing and festive celebrations are just around the corner.
But this time of year also brings with it the oft-dreaded (for me anyway) start of pre-season training for clubs across the country.
Time trials, hill sprints, burpies and oceans of sweat await those not faking hamstring injuries or currently traversing Europe two or three times a week from now until basically Christmas Eve.
The point of these few weeks is to make sure the fun between December 24 and early January is off-set before it begins, but it also allows us to assess how each team — in this case in the Murray Football League — has approached the start of a new campaign.
Before I kick into it though I must make mention of Numurkah’s Chris O’Dwyer and Lucas White.
I misquoted the former when he was speaking about the latter and made it seem as if Whitey had let his figure go in the early stages of the off-season.
In fact, O’Dwyer was actually trying to say that his co-coach and great mate is one of the hardest-working men on and off the football field that he has come across, and that if he wanted to step back and take a break, it would be thoroughly deserved.
While we’re on the Blues, let’s start with them.
The reason I was discussing O’Dwyer and White is that the Blues have had a change at the top of the tree.
Jye Warren will step into White’s playing-coach role for next season, combining once more with O’Dwyer on the sidelines.
This year’s runner-up will be burning to go one step further, but will have to do so without the services of key defender Tom Buzza, who has moved on to Katamatite.
No major signings have been announced yet, while pre-season training begins on November 22.
The reigning champion has lured a favourite son back to the club in the form of four-time premiership Purple Drew Barnes.
Craig Kellow and Brett Vallender will again assume the coach and assistant coach roles respectively, while young star Reni Hicks made headlines last month when she was drafted to Carlton’s AFL Women’s side.
A few players could retire or fly the coop before next season, but it is more likely that all will hang around in an attempt to achieve even more history with another flag.
The Hawks were left wondering where it all went wrong in the preliminary final this season, but have already added to the war chest with the signing of Cam Sudholz from Rennie.
Co-coaches James Hazelman and Tyrone Downie ran the quinella in the club’s best-and-fairest count and have recommitted for next season, while Shaun Robbins is the only man out to speak of at this stage ahead of pre-season training beginning on November 28.
The club has also debuted a new logo, with a front on Hawk spreading its wings replacing the old emblem.
The Magpies will focus on retaining their horde of rising stars by the looks of things, with not much public movement to this stage. With a number of experienced players missing large chunks of this year though it will be like the club has a fresh batch of players anyway.
Mark Lloyd will again coach the border team.
The Lions have also welcomed back a favourite son, with former player Tim Doyle returning to Lonsdale Reserve for the first time since 2013.
Another team with bundles of youthful exuberance, Michael Tout’s job will be to harness that enthusiasm and bridge the gap between his side’s best and worst football.
One of the keener teams to get back into the swing of things, the Eagles sweated it out for the first time last night.
Guy Campbell will return to the helm for another season, and like a number of other coaches will be looking mostly for improvement from within after a huge recruiting drive ahead of this year.
The Tigers have lost one of their co-coaches, Tim Garlick, but have replaced him with some key signings.
Former junior Cadeyn Williams returns to the club after a stint on Richmond’s rookie list and in the VFL, while midfielders Jack Wilson and Adam Decicco will give Josh Noonan plenty of firepower to rotate through the coalface.
Todd Gallagher has stepped up to take on the senior coaching role after club legend Gary Parsons stepped down, and has already been busy at the recruiting table.
Ash Morris, the 2013 O’Dwyer medallist, will return to the field for the Rams after spending a couple of seasons with Richmond’s VFL side and then having this year off to rest his back, and Gallagher hopes the marquee signing will entice more players to the club.
Nathan Lovett-Murray has left Mercury Dve, but midfield superstar Kane Atkinson will step up to coach the side he leads on the field already.
Tim Kelly will pull on the boots for Rumba after crossing from Shepparton, bringing with him Levi Power.
The duo will co-coach the under-17s, but Power is yet to commit to playing himself.
Tongala will look to build on a strong foundation of youth next season, with a plethora of future stars tasting senior action this year under Travis Edwards.
The Blues will still look to add a few experienced heads, but also had a large injury ward that should be cleared in time for round one.
The Road have been undoubtedly the most vocal recruiters in the off-season, with plenty to crow about already.
New head coach David Gee will have fresh faces BJ Squire, Jack Threlfall, Josh Chapman, Dion Gleeson, Steve Devlin and Aaron Egan among his group, bringing a mountain of experience from the surrounding leagues back to Congupna.
Rivalling The Road for best-on-ground honours to this point in recruiting for 2018 are the Cats.
Rob Daniel’s commitment to another season in charge has resulted in a large influx of new and returning players, including Ed Barlow, Tim McKenzie, Marc Shaw and Mitch Ryan, who will all suit up for the first pre-season training on November 28.