A GRUELLING eight-month preseason for a football year that ended in tatters has taken its toll – physically and mentally – on VFL standalone clubs.
Beginning way back in November, Jack Murphy – who lists Seymour as his second club – battled his way through trainings three nights a week with Coburg at Piranha Park.
Then COVID-19 hit and Murphy was left going through the motions on his own.
Sessions ramped up again as restrictions started to ease, first with a teammate and then groups of 10 before the club was back training in separate groups of 20.
But with a new lockdown, the proposed seven-team season, set to launch next month, has been abandoned.
Made up mostly of standalone clubs after AFL-affiliated teams had already pulled the plug, Murphy said many around the league felt both deflated and relieved following the season-ending call.
“I think what’s forgotten is how much we prepare. From the food we eat, the recovery, to learning our game style or that a call to play could have come at any moment,” Murphy said.
“It’s been an extra-long preseason so there was a massive workload, but it was also mentally taxing with all the uncertainty.
“I reckon the uncertainty was the hardest to deal with.”
Murphy wasn’t the only Seymour player in the VFL – there was also Footscray captain Josh Prudden. And teenagers Sam Durham, Hudson Kaak and Dylan Cook were all vying to take the step up after spending time at Richmond.
With standalone clubs considered the backbone of the competition, Murphy said it had been good news to see those clubs band together to get a season going after the initial postponement.
“The AFL has the money and infrastructure, but we make up for it with our culture and history. So for those clubs to come together and get something going is a credit to them,” he said.
“We don’t get things given to us; we earn what we put in. So we do have a bit of a chip on our shoulders to compete with the AFL. That’s a big motivation for us standalone players.”
When the Sherrin is bounced to start next year’s VFL season – in whatever shape that may be – Murphy said Coburg would be ready to tackle it head-on.
“We love playing footy, so whatever form the season is – long, short, with pay or without – most of us are happy to just play footy and get a season going,” he said.
“Uncertainty will be the main thing so we’ll need to take it as it comes, but we’ve got a saying at Coburg – ‘adapt and overcome’.
“And we’ll take that mindset into next year.”