Werribee takes lockdown in its stride

Matt Hanson. Picture Belinda Vitacca Photography

Tara Murray

Werribee vice-captain Matt Hanson knew that the Victorian Football League season would likely come to a halt through a snap lockdown at some point this year.

Having been through three lockdowns, including one that resulted in all VFL commitments being cancelled last year, nothing is new for the playing group.

While a fourth lockdown again presents challenges, Hanson and his teammates they’re focused on the small stuff.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “We’re 3-0 in the last three games so it’s not great timing for us.

“We expected it to happen at some stage during the year. We had Sods [Michael Sodomaco], Gribbs [Tom Gribble] and Coughs [Nick Coughlan] take us through a workshop with the potential of what might happen.

“We’ve kept the mindset that you essentially control what you can control and there’s things outside football.

“Footy is always going to be there.”

Hanson said having been through lockdown last year had made it easier to know what they needed to do to stay prepared for the rest of the season.

“Everyone is pretty diligent in their training,” he said.

“We’re training with one other person and doing really basic skills sessions. We’re also doing strength and conditioning work to keep the muscles going.

“We all know what we can and can’t do. We take it as it comes.”

For Werribee football manager Mark Micallef, a lockdown like this is a new experience having lived in Perth last year. He has been impressed by how the playing group has handled it.

“They just knew what to do when we told them we were going into lockdown and would be away for a week, potentially two weeks,” he said.

“They grabbed stuff out of the gym, all grabbed a football each so they’ve got that touch element involved.

“We’ve been really strong in the communication through Zoom or Whatsapp. We have a lot of groups going at the moment, they’ve been fantastic at the moment to be quite frank.”

Micallef said while they were keen for the guys to continue their fitness and skills, that wasn’t the most important thing.

He said from their perspective, ensuring that the mental health of the group is looked after is even more important.

“It is absolutely huge,” he said. “It’s at the forefront of us at the moment, because we are dealing with young men and we understand they have a lot of time on their hands and a bit more going on in their lives than just football.

“These guys are either studying and working and have personal things as well. We have to make sure we are across all those areas and take care of the person first and foremost and the footballer second.

“We check in every second night over Zoom, and run some interactive games, to keep their minds ticking over along with some ice breakers, looking at different things to research… in what can be a pretty daunting time.”

With a lockdown end date still unknown, Werribee has been planning for all scenarios.

Micallef admits that they are at a slight disadvantage compared to the AFL-aligned clubs, where those on AFL lists can train throughout the lockdown. But he said the way the side prepares week in week out will hold them in good stead.

Hanson saidthey’ll be ready to return to the field once given the green light.

“We take it as it comes,” he said.

“We’ve already spoken about playing without training as a group. It’s something we’re prepared for.”