Juniors relish return to footy

Published 9:30am 23 September 2020

Juniors relish return to footy
Words by Kylie Knight

The 2020 season might be the ‘one that got away’ for the Dolphins’ Intrust Super Cup side, but the club’s juniors are relishing a return to footy and so are their supporters.

They’re back on the field, for a condensed season of 10 fixture rounds, followed by finals. Normally, there would be about 18 rounds, depending on the age group, but the COVID-19 shutdown prompted some creative thinking.

Dolphins general manager of football Grant Cleal says Steve Crawford had just two weeks to pull everything together before the condensed season started.

“He’s done a great job. He’s the only person on staff at the moment,” Cleal says.

Juniors relish return to footy

Juniors glad to be back

He says there’s been a good take-up by parents and players, who didn’t know what to expect when the season started post the COVID-19 shutdown.

“It’s great to be back out there. I think the parents are enjoying it as much as the kids. They have that outlet to burn off excess energy at training and on game day and they’re really enjoying it,” he says.

“Club footy and a bit of school footy is all they’ve got at the moment.”

Cleal’s grateful to the club’s sponsors who have stuck with the junior competition, despite the shortened season and COVID-19 restrictions.

The club’s hoping it will be successful in its expression of interest to host finals for the BRL and junior competitions. The outcome will be known in the coming weeks.

Senior players ponder lost season

In the meantime, the club’s senior players can only look at this season and wonder what might have been.

They’re all back at their day jobs, with the season called off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cleal says he and coach Adam Mogg have been in regular contact with the squad, with training and even gym sessions ruled out during the shutdown.

When pre-season training starts in early November, Mogg is planning to be working with the same squad the club signed for the 2020 season.

“Most of the conversations with the 2020 squad have been really positive. We see 2020 as the one that got away … we’ll never know. Adam Mogg said this year’s squad was the best he’d seen at the club,” Clean says.

And in his view, that’s a compelling reason to get them all back for 2021.

“Cameron Cullen has re-signed already. He was one of the first to do so … the captain leads the way,” Cleal says.

Juniors relish return to footy

Ready to play

They’re all hanging out for the 2021 season, after putting in the hard work during the 2020 preseason and only playing one game.

“They put in all that work … they felt a little bit robbed,” he says.

“At the end of the day, the players want to play football. They’re not in it for the training,” he says laughing. They did three months of training for one game.”

When asked if he or Mogg were concerned the side would be out of shape, post-shutdown, Cleal is quick to answer.

“In the last three seasons, we’ve never lost a game through lack of fitness. We’re a very fit club,” he explains.

“There’s an old theory that football teams look like their coaches – Adam Mogg and head strength and conditioning coach Gerard Parle are both very fit.

“Our guys are aware of the expectation that be on them when they get back. If they don’t turn up fit, there will be no excuse.”

Border closures won’t be an issue, with no internationals on the roster and only a few players living interstate at present. They will return and quarantine, if necessary, when needed.

In it to win

“The focus doesn’t really change for us. There’s no more or less opportunity for us to win. We want to be premiers again,” Cleal says.

Then they want to go to Sydney on Grand Final Day and become National Premiers.

“It’s been a weird time between drinks – it’s just been an extended off-season,” he says.

“We’re undefeated in 2020 and that’s a sign of things to come in 2021.”

Again he’s grateful to the club’s sponsors and season ticket holders for sticking with them.

“Our season tickets from this year will be valid for next year,” he says.

Sponsors have been happy to carry over to 2021 too.

“They’re really invested and have been through their own issues as a result of COVID-19 but they still want to be part of our club and support our club.”

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