Flexibility has arguably become a buzz word around football clubs this season, with teams on loose footing when it comes to team line-ups and selection.
In attempting to complete a full season for the first time since 2019, clubs and coaches are having to be as malleable as possible with late outs seemingly on the rise. Look at any team list on Thursday night, and by game time Saturday, there's several changes across the board. COVID-19 is arguably a key factor, but so is injuries and unavailability.
Camperdown coach Neville Swayn was tasked with reshuffling his whiteboard on Friday ahead of its clash against traditional rivals, Cobden, with at least five players walk up starts.
"Friday was a long day, I had phone calls coming from everywhere," he said. "That's where I think we'll be at this year, just with illnesses."
Swayn said while late changes were naturally a part of the game, this year was a whole new ball game.
"I think this year more so with the nature of everything, things are going to change," he said. "Even the first three weeks, things are changing all the time from Thursday to Saturday and every other club is going to be the same. It's just going to be hard, with everything going on we're going to have to pull people from our reserves and under 18s which makes it hard on those sides to field teams down through the lines."
Even the first three weeks, things are changing all the time from Thursday to Saturday- Camperdown coach Neville Swayn
It's an issue also affecting the Warrnambool and District League. Presented with an early round bye in round two, Old Collegians coach Ben van de Camp said in hindsight the week off was arguably a blessing.
"We probably would have lost a few with COVID and whatnot," he said.
The first-year Warriors coach said he had told his group from the get-go; "emergencies more than ever were a real chance of playing".
"Because you just don't know with COVID-19 testing or people's work environments, or regimes they've got to follow, you might get to Saturday morning and they call and say "I'm out"," he said. "We're always wary of that happening, and making sure we're prepared for it so that guys are in the right mindset if they do get the call up on Saturday morning.
"Every comp, ever team, every coach you speak to, it's the same scenario. And whether it's COVID, or illness or injury, I think it's just going to be par for the course."
Allansford coach Tim Nowell agreed with Swayn that players on under 18 or reserves lists needed to be ready to step up if needed.
"We are telling players to be prepared for a tap on the shoulder on Saturday," Nowell said. "You might have five to six senior footballers out with COVID-19. Things change all the time and the year is going to come with its hurdles.
"That's why we're putting so much focus on our trainings and making sure we get 35-40 players at every training. Every single player, they all know our game plan and the structure we want. I think footy clubs have shown they can respond, it's just making sure people understand its a balancing act."
Despite the added workload, all three coaches agreed getting a full season up-and-running remained the goal. "Its unfortunate, but at least we're back playing footy which is the main thing," Swayn said.
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