Player welfare is one of the major reasons Castlemaine Football Netball Club will start pre-season training on Monday.
Traditionally, pre-season training for BFNL clubs doesn't start until mid-November at the earliest, but the cancellation of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the clubs are preparing for 2021.
The Magpies were given council approval earlier this week to return to training in small groups of 10 at Camp Reserve and senior coach Don Moran wasted little time in organising the first session for Monday evening.
"It's a welfare thing as much as a footy thing,'' Moran said.
"Everyone has been locked down because of COVID-19 and they've gone a bit stir crazy because they've had no sport, footy or mateship.
"Part of this is the preparation and foundation for pre-season, but part of it is just about getting the players together.
"It's been a tough year for everyone and, hopefully, getting players together for these sessions will give them something to look forward to.''
The Pies will ease their way in with two sessions per week before ramping up the pre-season schedule in late November.
Moran, a premiership player with the Pies in 1992, hasn't sugar coated the club's position since he took over as coach late last year.
The Pies need to rebuild around local-based young players and the coach is in it for the long haul.
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"The players we had signed for 2020 have re-committed for 2021, which is a great sign for the club,'' Moran said.
"When I first took this job at the end of 2019 I spoke with a lot of local players who were playing in district leagues.
"They said at that stage they'd be interested in coming back to Castlemaine in 2021, but the fact there was no footy this year means those players are now undecided if they want to come back to Castlemaine now or play another year of district footy.
"If we can get some of these players to come back we'd be a totally different side. There's a lot of home grown, young talent out there playing in district footy.
"Bendigo is a premier league and we'd love to see those players representing their town at the best standard they can.
"The main thing is some of these players are showing interest and we'll stick by our plan to promote local talent."
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