BORDER closures will prevent Josh Corbett from watching North Warrnambool Eagles push for their maiden flag but the Gold Coast Suns forward is still holding out hope for a drought-breaking premiership.
Corbett, who learned his craft at the Hampden league outfit before earning an opportunity at the AFL expansion franchise, maintains close connections to his home club.
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The Gold Coast Suns spearhead told The Main Break podcast he'd originally hoped to spend time in the south-west after the AFL season but was instead back in Queensland due to Victoria's most recent coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
Corbett's beloved Eagles are still in the hunt for the Hampden league's holy grail but uncertainty surrounds the fate of the 2021 season.
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The state government on Wednesday said regional Victoria's clubs could resume training but were unable to restart competitive fixtures.
The league recently announced plans for a reduced two-week, four-team finals series in a bid to conclude the campaign.
"I think it might be a bit tough in the next few months (to get home). I'm hoping probably the same as everybody that the vaccination rates can get going so there's a bit more freedom of movement," Corbett said.
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"I'll probably be trying to get back there over the Christmas time which will be great to see friends and family.
"I was originally hoping to be down there to watch North Warrnambool get their elusive first premiership but that seems like that might be a bit tricky at the moment given the season is still up in the air."
Corbett, who lives on the Gold Coast with his partner Mikayla Murphy, in 2021 enjoyed a career best season despite the Suns' struggles with inconsistency.
He booted 23 goals from 15 outings and credits his form to working out the best routine for recovery.
"I've sort of found my little niche in yoga," Corbett said.
"That's something I do both mentally and physically that helps me reset week-in, week-out.
"You sort of realise the one-percenters and how important they are - whether that's going for a swim early in the week in the pool or doing an extra ice bath.
"I feel like I've got a really good handle on my routine and that sort of reflects on my ability to play consistent AFL football.
"The more I can work on refining that, hopefully the more games I'll be able to put my hand up for selection for."
I feel like I've got a really good handle on my routine and that sort of reflects on my ability to play consistent AFL football.Josh Corbett
Corbett said adjusting his body to the "highest standard of football" had taken a little while but felt he was on the right path.
He said the high performance staff at the Suns' Carrara facility had prescribed a solid off-season program the 25-year-old would follow religiously.
"I'll try to get a lot of bike riding in to be able to build up my fitness that way so I'm still getting a good fitness base built without the pounding of running so many kilometres," he said.
"Obviously I'll still be running a lot of kilometres - that's just part of pre-season - and that'll be good fun but the more pre-season you can do, the better you'll be."
The Suns have drawn scrutiny from the football fraternity in recent weeks as questions loom over yet another season without finals football.
The Stuart Dew-coached club has never played AFL finals despite a 10-year existence at the elite level.
But despite its 16th-place finish, Corbett said the club was trusting its process and felt it was on the right path.
Dew has been given assurances he will coach in 2022 but rumours are swirling four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson is being sounded out for a role at the club.
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"Most weeks we probably field the youngest side in the AFL but that's certainly no excuse," Corbett said.
"We go out there and have full belief that if we bring our brand of football, we can compete with any team so consistency-wise, that was our best season since the club's birth so that was good.
"If you look at the youth coming through - Ben King had another really strong year, Jack Lukosius, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell all those sort of boys have another year of footy into them.
"I think the more we can play together as a group and the experienced guys like Dave Swallow, Jarrod Witts and Touk Miller can help us start to play week-to-week we'll start to really build those relationships and trust and more consistency going forward."
Personally, Corbett is under no illusions of his next step. The marking forward, who is one of the club's strongest runners, wants to keep honing his contested craft.
"I understand my two strengths are the fact I'm a marking player and also the running side of things, so I want to keep making them my weapon week-in, week-out," he said.
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"As the game's evolving, I think you need to be really strong in the contest and either marking the ball or bringing to the front of the contest for smaller players to come into the game.
"For me it's just about doing those constant reps with the key defenders so I've got some competition and it's very much game-like, so I can practice my body work and win or halve all contests."
The former Emmanuel College student said a strong support network continued to be his rock.
"I was and am very lucky that my support network are around me. My partner, my family and really close friends are all behind me and it never mattered if I made it as a footballer," he said.
"I know they'll love me for the person that I am and that takes me a long way. That way, it doesn't matter if you have one kick or 40 kicks, you're still loved as a person rather than a footballer so it's nice to have the support behind you."
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