Early start has HFNL clubs thinking about skipping pre-season break

CLUBS are contemplating breaking with tradition and playing practice matches the week before the start of the gruelling Hampden Football Netball League season.

Instead of giving players a week’s break to ensure they start round one fresh, the release of the 2014 draw has some coaches going back to the drawing board with pre-season training schedules.

The early start to the season on April 5 and maintaining a bye over Easter, which falls late next year, are forcing the rethink. Complicating the build-up is the timing of the league’s compulsory pre-season cup competition on March 15.

With the Labour Day long weekend the week before the pre-season cup, clubs and players have only the two weekends left leading into the season for full-scale practice matches.

With clubs preferring a minimum of two practice matches, the week off before round one is likely to be scrapped by most.

Coaches contacted by The Standard yesterday indicated their preferred build-up included a week off, but they understood they would have to adjust schedules because of the earlier than usual start.

Warrnambool coach Scott Carter said the reigning premier would not start practice matches before the pre-season competition, mindful of the long season ahead.

“You can’t play any earlier than the 15th (of March),” he said.

“It’s a bit difficult with the timing, but I do agree with having Easter off.”

Camperdown coach Dan Casey is already predicting a disjointed pre-season for the Magpies. He said he was planning Sunday practice matches to accommodate players with cricket commitments, but he would have preferred two or three practice matches and a week off before round one.

“We want to have three good hit outs,” he said.

Casey said the Magpies would again play against Ballarat league club North Ballarat City. He said his players would need a week off after a bruising game against a quality side before starting the premiership season.

Terang Mortlake coach Matthew Irving said the Bloods were similar to Camperdown, with many players having cricket commitments on March 15.

He said the Bloods planned to play Colac in a practice match on March 22 and, while he preferred a break the following week, a game might be scheduled on the Friday night.

“It’s going to be tricky,” Irving said.

Portland coach Jake Myles said each club was in the same position and believed a game the Saturday before the season-opener would be acceptable given they would have a bye after round two for Easter.

He said the Tigers would have two practice matches on top of the pre-season competition.

Myles suggested some clubs might put a greater emphasis on the competition and still take a break before round one.

Hamilton Kangaroos mentor Jarrod Holt said he had been waiting for the draw to be released before finalising practice matches. The ideal scenario would be the pre-season cup, two practice matches and a week off.

“I just work back from round one,” he said.

“I wouldn’t definitely rule out having a practice match the week before round one.”

Holt said coaches would be able to manage players’ work loads if they played the week before to ensure key personnel were primed for the season opener.

North Warrnambool Eagles coach Bernard Moloney said he would negotiate the compact calendar.

“I think the Boag’s Cup is a showcase for the league and we will work through it,” he said.

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