Sports columnist Vince Habermann looks at how the senior men’s teams in the AFL Wide Bay Premiership, Brothers Bulldogs and Waves Eagles, are preparing for the long-awaited rescheduled opening round of the 2020 season.
Bundaberg’s two clubs with senior men’s teams in the AFL Wide Bay Premiership, Brothers Bulldogs and Waves Eagles, are both back training and rearing to go for the long-awaited rescheduled opening round of the 2020 season in three weeks’ time on Saturday July 11.
The Bulldogs Seniors returned to the training paddock this week under young playing coach Jack Sickerdick, one week after the Eagles took flight under the direction of Klint Wagstaff.
Bulldogs club president Jason Baulch said that while the draw is yet to be finalised, it is set to be a 10-round series, with four teams in both seniors and reserves, and the belated season opener and the last round pencilled in as local derbies between the Dogs and Eagles, and premiers Bay Power and Hervey Bay Bombers, although the venues are also yet to be confirmed.
Jason, Jack, and Eagles vice-president Damien Nunn all used the same word to describe how they and all their clubs’ members are feeling as they prepare for a season like no other – “excited”.
Jason said that until at least further COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, seniors, reserves and under 16s will be played on Saturdays and Under 8, 10, 12 and 14s on Sundays.
“There will be an hour between games to allow time to do sanitation and there will be still a maximum of 100 on site at any time,” Jason said.
“Where we are at this stage, everyone is pretty positive even though it costs money to run a club and the canteen will compromised with the restrictions.”
Both AFL clubs have already picked up extra players with the cancellation of the Bundaberg and Northern Districts Rugby League seasons this year, and both expect more league lovers to follow.
The two Bundaberg arch-rivals are also looking to return to glory days in the blue riband senior division after the Bulldogs bowed out at the hands of the Bombers in last year’s preliminary final and the Eagles missed the finals for the first time in many years.
Damien said most of their senior players had been training since November, following devised fitness programs at home during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Our pre-season was very good and everyone was very positive but of course, then everyone hit a brick wall but our numbers are good with eight players coming through up to seniors, and as long as everything proceeds as is, we are very excited about the upcoming season,” he said.
Damien named Jason Bethune, Patrick Power and Jayden Enever as three outstanding players who can lead the Eagles’ revival.
Jack, whose father Brenton Sickerdick is a Bulldogs legend, has been also been a star throughout his 20 years in the “Kennel” so far but he hopes that at the age of 24, his best football is still in front of him.
He too said they had put in a great preparation before the Pandemic struck and that players had picked up where they left off three months ago.
“We had a few practice matches earlier in the year, one in Rocky against Rocky Brothers Panthers and one here on a wet miserable day against Boyne Island Tannum Sands, we also had a training camp and were ready to go but they pulled it at the last minute,” Jack said.
“We are all excited to have the chance to play again this year and we will keep training the way we are training then by 1st July, hopefully we can have a bit of contact and with pretty much the same team as the last few years, plus a few new players, older and younger, hopefully we will be right up there.”
Jack is expecting another big season from one of their big men and another son of a club champion, Tristan Taylor.
“Also Ash Rendell was one of our best in the practice matches and is set for a big season and young Harry Hodgson played seniors all last year as well as under-16 and was in our top five nearly every week, and this is his first year when he will be just senior, so he will be able to focus on one game each week and be even better for us,” he said.
New AFL players are welcome at both clubs in all grades.
For enquiries, call Jason (Bulldogs) 0431 139 922 or Damien (Eagles) 0436 477 923.