TWO top-age Greater Western Victoria Rebels footballers say the chance to play Hampden league juniors before the NAB League starts in August will be beneficial.
North Warrnambool Eagles' Jett Bermingham and Warrnambool's Patrick Rea hope to play for their respective clubs in the under 18s when the season kicks off in July following a coronavirus-enforced delay.
Both players want to squeeze into the Rebels' team for its condensed six-match season, starting August 22. They say playing for their home clubs will build up match fitness and give them a better chance at the Rebels' selection table.
Re-embracing a team environment and playing with their friends also rated highly.
Bermingham, who turns 18 next week, said he was grateful to have football back in some capacity.
"Hopefully I'll get a few games (for North) leading up to the NAB League season and blow the rust off a bit," he said.
"At least you get to play with your mates in the 18s and play with people you've played with your whole junior career and then you get to go and play serious footy up in Ballarat hopefully."
He is eager to earn a debut. "It will be interesting. I don't know how they're going to pick the teams," he said.
"There's not many games so some people might not even get a game and if that happens it will be tough."
Bermingham conceded circumstances brought on by the worldwide pandemic were "a bit disappointing".
But the wingman returned to training when restrictions lifted and is completing three sessions a week - one with the Eagles' seniors and two with its under 18s.
"You've just got to make sure you're training and ready for whatever comes," Bermingham said.
The Emmanuel College student used the football break to focus on VCE.
"It's been better for year 12s that the footy hasn't been on because you have more time to focus on what you're learning," Bermingham said.
Rea, 18, said he would seize an opportunity to play for the Blues this year.
"It would definitely be good to play there prior to the NAB League season starting, just to get a few games under your belt," he said.
Rea said the footy hiatus had given him time to overcome injury.
"I actually injured my knee just prior to the season being postponed (in March) so I was able to use that time to do some rehabilitation, strengthening and injury prevention stuff," he said.
"I was able to go to Warrnambool physio and use their gym while we were home in isolation, that was a really good opportunity and I was thankful for that as well.
"It was a bit different to have time off from sport in general but it was all good to re-gather yourself and prepare."
Rea said the potential Hampden league start date - a month out from NAB League - was a plus.
"Even with training now it's just coming back into contact and I think being able to get some match fitness would be a really good opportunity," the St Patrick's College Ballarat student said.
He believes the Rebels season will be enjoyable.
"I'm keen to be back in a team environment, that's the main thing most of the boys will be looking forward to getting back to," Rea said.
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