AS A NEWCOMER to Leitchville-Gunbower in 2020 and entrusted with the A-grade coaching role, Ashley Bradley was perhaps looking forward to the HDFNL season more than most.
But excitement quickly turned to disappointment when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the HDFNL became the first community football-netball league to cancel its season.
Fast forward a few months - and armed with a new coaching contract - Bradley is anxious to make up for lost time.
The first task for Bradley, a former five-year VNL player and North Central representative, when players can reconvene will be recapturing the positive energy and spirit of this year's pre-season, before it was cut short.
"That was the most disappointing thing about the season being cancelled, it looked like we were going to have quite a promising season," she said.
"Training was going really well, numbers were good and the club culture was really building. It was something to be proud of.
"We were holding out hope something might get going, but it all got a bit too hard.
"Now we will have to try and pick up from where we left off next year."
The Bombers had recruited as well as any club for 2020.
A long list of newcomers and players returning to action included Cassie Broad, Gretel Hodge, Jamison Lowe, Tahli Brereton, Gemma Angove and 2015 league best and fairest winner Lauren Dehne.
Also back with the Bombers following a premiership with Pyramid Hill in 2017 and a stint as the Bulldogs coach last season was Emily Prout.
Bradley, who joined Leitchville-Gunbower after a stint with Goulburn Valley league club Shepparton Bears, was confident most of those who had committed to playing in 2020 could be retained and that losses would be kept to a minimum.
"There's a few girls I know are doing year 12, obviously where they play next year will depend on uni, or whether they want to travel or not," she said.
"But we're hoping we can hold as many of those players as possible."
While the Bombers did not return to training following the first COVID lockdown, and training in groups is still not permitted, Bradley, who previously played in the HDFNL with Lockington-Bamawn United, revealed she had continued to train alone at home over the past few months.
"For one thing, it keeps me sane. But I'd like to think we can come out of this and get the 2021 season up and going," she said.
"I'd like to have a good season personally, but more importantly I'd love our club to have a great season."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.