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While the Dubbo Demons haven't had the pre-season they, or anyone, would have hoped for, men's first grade coach Steve Smith is still pretty optimistic about the team's fortunes this year.
Smith and Lachy Ewart have taken over as the Demons' men's and women's coaches for 2020 but their preparations, and potentially their Central West AFL seasons, have been derailed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"We got plenty of time to train together way back when we started things up in November, we had a good twenty or so people training with us across November and December," Smith said.
"By the time we were really starting to ramp up we'd got up to about 35 people training alongside us in February.
"Everything was looking good, we were going well, we were ready to go and then it all hit a grinding halt."
The Demons have taken to social media and the internet to keep abreast of each other's training now, with gatherings for sporting purposes banned and the possibility of trial games or other experience right out the window due to COVID-19.
"We've been keeping in contact, we've been talking and we've got our group chat set up," Smith said.
"The boys are all trading videos of themselves running, training, using their home gym and showing off their results on their fitness devices in order to keep each other motivated, which is good to see."
While the intensity hasn't let up for the Demons even with all the roadblocks, Smith still knows that if a season of Central West AFL is to take place, it'll likely be in a more taxing format, something he wants his side to be prepared for.
"If the season gets off the ground, that'll be the real test; it'll be seeing how much people have been doing and how ready they are, we could be looking at a shorter season or any number of other things," Smith said.
But despite the concerns over format, Smith said his side would be happy to play in whatever games come their way, so long as there's opportunity for cross-sport players to still turn up to their other obligations.
"Absolutely I could see us playing in that AFLX summer competition idea that's been floated, they're raring to go, I imagine whatever happens, the boys will definitely be keep to play," Smith said.
"There is a bit of a problem because so much of the Dubbo footy side make up about two of our local cricket teams, so it wouldn't be able to clash with that, because they're all keen cricketers.
"They're no good at it, mind you, but they'd still be absolutely keen and they wouldn't want to miss out."
Whatever form they end up playing in, if at all, Smith says fitness is the goal for the Dubbo side for now.
"That's basically it, we have to keep fit," Smith said.
"We keep that group chat going and every couple of times a day we have people motivating each other, I get on there and we've talked about the possible start dates; looking at the NRL and the AFL maybe coming back, that's a pretty positive sign."
"Hopefully we're not too far behind them and we get something like an eight week season, that would ultimately be a very good result; just pure survival of the fittest footy, the team that wins would be the team that's worked hardest during the quarantine."
"That's the best case scenario I see at the moment if it does return, just launch straight in and go for it."
Dubbo Daily Liberal April 12 2020