Staggered arrival times, temperature checks, and training groups of no more than 10.
These are just some of the COVID-safe protocols Bulldog Bonnie Toogood and the AFLW playing group are getting used to this year.
With 2021 pre-season training officially commencing at VU Whitten Oval last week, Toogood says the differences have not been a distraction on-field.
“(Being back on deck) has been absolutely fantastic, just to be handballing the footy and kicking to one another again after the six or seven months of lockdown has been great,” the 22-year-old told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“I think we’ve purposely made (the COVID protocols) not affect us – we have to jump through a few hoops to make training happen, but it doesn’t affect us too much when we’re out on the track in the sense that we’re still putting 100% into our drills, and we’re still getting around each other in a COVID-safe way.
The AFLW Bulldogs spent last month training voluntarily, after the State Government granted Victorian players an exemption to train during Stage 4 Lockdown.
It was also one of the first opportunities Toogood was given to test her knee, having recovered from a PCL injury she sustained in March.
“When we first started training in October, we were lucky to be able to get into groups of 10 while the rest of Victoria wasn’t able to yet, so we had to make sure we were doing everything the right way so we could keep training together, because that’s what we wanted to do,” Toogood said.
“You can’t quite replicate the intensity (of training) and change of direction at home, so going back to training over the last month has been an interesting adjustment.
“Through COVID-lockdown I had Phill (Danzi), our rehab physio, on my case the whole time making sure we were ticking off the rehab as best as possible, and I’m now probably feeling the fittest and strongest I’ve been coming back into a pre-season.”
With four new Pups welcomed during this year’s AFLW Trade and Draft period, Toogood has actually only physically met two of them – another sign of the COVID times.
“Katie Lynch and Sarah Hartwig are in my training group - they’re both amazing and have melded into our group nicely,” she said.
“I’m excited about ‘Twiggy’ (Hartwig) because she’s got a good pair of hands and marks the ball well, and ‘Lynchy’ (Lynch) is just a character and a half – she’ll get along with the rest of the group quite nicely.
“I’ve seen ‘Fitzy’ (Jess Fitzgerald) and ‘Pritchy’ (Isabelle Pritchard) from afar – I knew ‘Pritchy’ because she trained with us a bit last season, and I’m excited to get to know ‘Fitzy’ because she’s a FRIENDS fan, as am I, so we’ve been sending each other FRIENDS quotes back and forth as like a pre-acquaintance kind of vibe.
“They all seem like amazing players and even better people, so I’m very excited.”
The AFLW season is scheduled to begin in February 2021.