ARE travelling players going out of fashion in the post-pandemic era? Evidence suggests not as several clubs are still using them in a bid to claim an elusive premiership.
But if COVID-19 made clubs think about one thing, it's the importance of a strong, locally-based core. When Melbourne remained in lockdown through 2021 as regional Victoria was free to roam, travelling players were stuck in the state's capital.
But is there a perfect balance and will country football-netball clubs keep needing to recruit from highly-populated regions?
Camperdown coach Neville Swayn said while the club had lost a few of its travelling players from 2021 - namely Jason Robinson and Jack Williams - it had a batch of home-grown talents depart for university.
"That's the other way I reckon it's gotten harder," he said.
"Us, Cobden, Terang (Mortlake), we're probably in the same boat. I can go off the pre-season we've had trying to recruit. It was hard because you talk to guys from the likes of Ballarat, Colac, Geelong... and the guys are good in that they come to talk to you.
"But then they look at where we go and the travel and they'd say 'I'll stay where I am'. The Colac guys, they say they'll go to Colac or Geelong or stay in the district league.
"It's getting harder to get guys that'll travel and guys that're coming to Warrnambool, that's hard because there are so many clubs down this way in both the Hampden and district league.
"We had a lot of our core group at home in previous years but we've found a lot of those younger guys as well are going to uni so they're travelling back as well."
Swayn said it meant communication was key.
"You're sending emails, you're on the phone a fair bit giving feedback because they train in their own time Tuesday and they're with us on Thursday," he said.
"It's changed this year compared to last year, just with uni which is the main one. It's just going to get harder and harder to have a list of 40 or 45 guys who are in town, there's so much more opportunity outside.
"With younger guys chasing university and work it's probably the landscape it is now."
Kolora-Noorat coach Nick Bourke is a rare exception. The Geelong-based star is the only Warrnambool and District league or Hampden league mentor to travel from outside the region to coach.
"It's been really good. Taking on the role and living in Geelong I wasn't sure how it was going to work but between myself, Sam (Moloney) and Joel (Moloney) it's been good," he said.
"Sam's in Port Fairy so he isn't really local either but I think we've managed to make it work and I'm really appreciative of the time we've put in over the pre-season.
"I've been coming down once a week and they've made the other night work which has been really good. I owe a lot to them and I definitely wouldn't have been able to take on the role without having them there, who I trust really well to be able to take care of trainings and things like that."
Warrnambool mentor Ben Parkinson, whose club only has one travelling player in young tall Ben Howard, said working with locally-based players had its benefits.
"It does help when we're training and if you're trying to do something a bit different or train a certain way," he said.
"That way you're not rolling up on Saturday with 20 questions or so. You might have one or two which is no worries but a carload is a bit different for that sort of thing.
"I've never really had many travellers since I've been coaching, I prefer to have the full squad."
Parkinson said Howard was at university but his schedule allowed him to travel back fairly seamlessly on Friday mornings.