During the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, four of the BFNL's premier players spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser about life without footy.
More than 10 weeks later, there are some positive signs that the BFNL 2020 season could make a belated start with up to nine home and away rounds, starting as early as July 25.
The same four players - Gisborne's Pat McKenna, Maryborough's Coby Perry, Strathfieldsaye's Lachlan Sharp and Sandhurst's Nick Stagg - spoke with the Addy this week to discuss the ups and downs of no footy during lockdown, the return to training and the possibility of playing for a premiership this year.
PAT MCKENNA (Gisborne)
The Bulldogs resumed group training three weeks ago and it whet McKenna's appetite to get the 2020 season underway.
"We're into our third week of training now and we're ramping things up which is good. It's been nice to have a run around, have a kick and see all the boys again.
"I'm now at the point where I want to play again. It's ebbed and flowed the whole period where motivation has gone up and down, but at this stage it's looking pretty likely that we're going to play when we have the dates for contact training and competition.
"I guess, it just depends on crowd numbers, but I've been thinking if you can have 50 people inside a pub now then in a month or so we'd be likely to be able to have at least 500 people outside with some restrictions.
"The government has gone ahead with a return to play guidelines, so I'd expect them to put in place some crowd measures as well so we can get up and going."
McKenna put his footy boots away for much of the lockdown period and focused on his university studies.
"I was at home three or four days a week of online classes and not doing too much else. I work at the local gym and was doing some AFLW stuff over the summer, but they both closed down because of COVID and the gym still hasn't reopened yet.
"The uni semester is wrapping up now, so I've had a bit more time on my hands to train and I'm looking forward to footy now.
"The footballers and netballers did a running challenge in May and that kept us occupied with some longer distance stuff.
"Now we're doing speed and change of direction stuff at training, so in a month's time there won't be any issues with fitness."
The state government guidelines allow community football clubs to return to contact training on July 13 - which gives clubs just two weeks of contact training before a potential season start on July 25.
McKenna said two weeks of contact training was not ideal, but he was confident players would agree to it if it meant the season would begin.
"Two weeks of contact training is an interesting one. I see the Essendon DFL has given their teams an extra week of contact training. I'll play, and everyone will play if the decision is two weeks of training, but an extra week of contatct training would allow you to have a scratch match and some more body on body contact.
"It's probably the best case, but that could potentially cost you a week of finals at the other end.
"Whatever the league comes up with we'll be happy to comply with."
McKenna said match payments should be scrapped for 2020.
"We've got to this stage now, so I can't see players digging their heels in and saying they won't play unless they get paid.
"Everyone is switched on enough to know that clubs could really battle if they have to fork out money.
"It's about the footy and social aspects more than anything else."
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COBY PERRY (Maryborough)
The Magpie ball magnet is raring to go should the BFNL season get the green light.
"I pulled back in the first few weeks of lockdown because I knew it wasn't going to change for a period of time,'' Perry said.
"I built things up slowly and (coach) Justin Abrams sent out some programs for us to do.
"As a group we stayed in touch and we were able to compare times and that made the fitness programs enjoyable.
"Once group training started...kicking the footy with your mates has been good fun without being too intense. It's more been about enjoying each other's company.
"Now that we're starting to train more it makes you more keen to play.
"We're not getting ahead of ourselves and we're keeping a lid on things because we're still in the unknown when it comes to playing."
Perry said the mood at Princes Park was positive as the Magpies build on their fitness base.
"We're training once a week as a group and then a couple of individual sessions as well.
"While we're still in the unknown once a week of group training is probably appropriate.
"Our guys will be physically okay to play after two weeks of contact training.
"Ideally, you'd probably like three weeks, but we're not in a dictating world at the moment.
"We're all in the same position in terms of getting your body hardened to play football.
"That makes it even for everyone which is more than fair."
Should the BFNL season get cancelled, neighbouring Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League clubs are likely to target Maryborough players for a shortened MCDFNL competition.
Perry was confident the Magpie players would remain loyal.
"We're a tight-knit group and we've come a long way in the past few years, so I don't think much of that would happen in our group,'' he said.
"I can't see many players going off to other competitions."
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LACHLAN SHARP (Strathfieldsaye)
No footy had its positives for the Storm star.
After playing in Darwin through summer he had the opportunity to rest and, more importantly, he had more time to spend with newborn son, Tige.
With the Storm returning to training in the past few weeks, the 2018 Michelsen Medal winner is back in the groove.
"It's been the unknown, but I'm really proud of the Bendigo league for the way it's handled this,'' Sharp said.
"We've held off and we're now at a point where we could play. The Bendigo league has done a great job.
"With some of the other leagues around us cancelled, if our season does get up it's gonna be insane."
The reigning premier Storm have a new-look group in 2020, but that hasn't stopped their drive to succeed.
"The buy-in from the players has been fantastic,'' Sharp said.
"Even with the thought of us maybe not playing, we've still had great numbers at training.
"The guys that have played 50 or 60 senior games have really stepped it up.
"The likes of Hunter Lawrence and Lachie Ratcliffe have really bandied together and led the way with their fitness.
"That's been infectious for the rest of the group.
"Young guys like Riley Wilson and James Schischka that were down in Melbourne in VFL programs, they've come back to us and their fitness levels are so much higher than what they were before the break."
Sharp said he was happy to do whatever it took for the footy season to go ahead as long as it meant the players, volunteers and community were safe.
Two weeks of contact training would be more than enough, according to Sharp.
"It's the same for everyone, so why not go with it?
"As long as we can get out and play footy safely, I don't care if we have one week, two weeks or 10 weeks training.
"It will probably mean we have scrappy footy for the first few weeks, but I'm sure it will pick up after that."
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NICK STAGG (Sandhurst)
The Sandhurst premiership player admits he thought there was very little chance he'd pull on his beloved number eight jumper this year.
However, the return to group training recently sparked him into action.
"I did lose motivation for a while there,'' Stagg said.
"Something as small as being able to train in groups of 10 ignited the flame to get back into it.
"A little bit of that was to do with just being around the boys again and having that banter with everyone.
"There was a time where I thought we had no hope and the motivation for footy was very low.
"Anything can happen, but at least we've had some more positive signs and that's made us more excited."
Individually, the break from footy allowed Stagg to recover from a knee injury.
"The break was a blessing in one way because I was battling patella tendonitis and I probably wouldn't have played early in the year,'' he said.
"It's cleared up and now and I'm fit and raring to go."
Despite starting group training later than the majority of their BFNL rivals, Stagg said the Dragons would be ready to rumble by July 25.
"Everyone is on board and we're not lacking numbers at all. We're ready to go,'' Stagg said.
"The two weeks of contact training is enough. We just need to get that base fitness back again before then and then have a mini-pre-season of contact and tackling.
"I think that's fine and we can look past that."
While a nine-round season plus finals to decide the premier is not the footy war of attrition that players and clubs are accustomed to, Stagg said winning the flag in 2020 would be every bit as special as any "normal" season.
"We've faced more challenges this year than we have ever before in our football careers,'' he said.
"One challenge is to get everyone back motivated again. With some of the other leagues dropping off some of the BFNL teams might pick up recruits which makes it harder for some clubs to win the flag.
"So if Sandhurst did happen to get there and get the chocolates, then I'd treat it like a normal premiership. There'd be no asterix beside it."
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