Eventually, after eight mostly great years, a mutual decision was made for me to depart the Crows. Enter, Sleepy Hollow.
Geelong has been everything I’d hoped for. A relaxed atmosphere, the ability to pursue other interests in life and – hopefully – chase premiership success.
My first pre-season with the Cats went smoothly. I’m never any danger of winning the time trials or the fitness testing but I’ve always been fortunate in regards to durability and being able to complete almost all training sessions across the summer period. This pre-season, I completed 97 per cent of the workload, which does not guarantee a good season but at least gives you a shot.
Then a nasty, little-known, invisible enemy entered the fray and footy became secondary.
I was fighting for a spot in Geelong’s best 22 one day, then entering another ”off-season” two days later.
On the team bus returning from Tullamarine Airport after our loss to GWS, the message began filtering through that the 2020 AFL season was to be postponed. The people on that bus were in shock, even though anyone who had paid any attention to the seriousness of the virus knew this day would come.
To see Richmond and Carlton open the season in front of an empty stadium was hard to watch. The product looked tarnished and it was painfully obvious the excitement of footy had been taken hostage by COVID-19.
We faced the Giants two nights later and as a travelling emergency for the game, I sat in an empty stadium alongside the immediate family of GWS debutant Tom Green. There were a handful of Giants fans standing outside the gate on the opposite side of the ground and each time the Giants kicked a goal they roared. It was as if they were a few metres away, such was the silence inside.
Less than 48 hours after our loss in Sydney, we were meeting for the last time as a team.
After four months of toiling away, preparing for what we’d hoped would be a successful season, we were forced to stop.
All of this pale in comparison with what way too many Australians are going through. Job losses are crippling our community, with so many people being put out of work through no fault of their own.
That’s the most heartbreaking aspect of this. You feel guilt that you are still able to provide for your family while so many others are not.
Me, my wife Hannah and our daughter Lottie have left Geelong for my home town of Swan Hill in north-west Victoria. We have space, sunshine and many things to take our minds off the things we don’t have and remind us of the things we do.
My main job is to follow the rules, stay safe and be ready for when Gillon McLachlan says, ”let’s play football”.
I’m trying to stay fit and, like all parents, finding ways to entertain Lottie when parks are closed and playdates are banned.
We’ve just completed 15 weeks of pre-season training, so our fitness is at the optimal level, but maintaining that for another three months would be an ask.
Swan Hill’s local gym, Voyage Fitness, has had to shut its doors but the owners have been kind enough to loan me some aerobic equipment and weights. For now, I’ve taken the approach of implementing some less traditional training methods.
Walking long distances in the Mallee sun, boxing – using a gum tree as a boxing bag – lifting bricks that masquerade as dumbbells – really anything that can raise my heart rate but not send me nutty from repetition. And after years of requests, I’ve given in to my wife’s demands and joined in on some virtual yoga, pilates and HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes. Once we have more clarity on when we can get back to the club, I will up the ante and try return to match fitness.
In the meantime, I have 40 acres of farm to cover, hundreds of gum trees waiting to be pounded and countless virtual HIIT classes that work muscles I didn’t know I had. Get me back to the Cattery!