Naracoorte United Soccer Club's senior mens team returned to the pitch for pre season this week on Tuesday in preparation for a big 2022 season.
The Herald spoke to United treasurer Jon Thurlow about the upcoming season, with the president mentioning that players, coaches and club volunteers will be following all the same COVID-19 safety guidelines coming into this year.
"You have got to check in, sanitise your hands, have your own drink bottle and then try and be socially distanced as possible during training...I have talked with our coach and he has worked out drills where we can distance ourselves from each other."
Pre-season training has started two weeks later than normal, with Mr Thurlow explaining that it has been a slower start to get back into soccer with the borders opening and covid cases circling in Naracoorte.
"Normally we would start at the first week of January but it was a bit unknown of what was going on in town at the time," Mr Thurlow explained.
The treasurer added that he wanted players coming down from Bordertown and other surrounding areas to feel safe travelling down in a group to trainings rather than individually.
Naracoorte United is also excited to be welcoming its new senior coach Qussay Ibrahim for the 2022 season, with Daniel Sribar stepping down as coach.
"Daniel has done a fantastic job for the last few year - we are looking forward to working with Qussay with a goal of playing in finals again this year," Mr Thurlow said.
Mr Thurlow explained that the club will be looking to start its under 17s team this season after a few years of being inactive, outlining other plans the club has to introduce more girls teams.
"We will start them during the first week of school on Thursday February 3 at 5:00 and we are going to try and start an 16s girls team - they will start on February 2, on Wednesday at 5:30."
The under two junior teams in the under 12s and under 14s will start a fortnight after, with the treasurer outlining how the juniors will have the opportunity to gather on Thursday nights moving forward for training and a game.
"They will just be working on their skills and having a game and then we will just sort of go into pre season and add fitness into that," he explained.
Mr Thurlow will be continually posting updates on Facebook with information around the new teams, and publishing the information at local schools.
"We will just see how many numbers we get for trainings and hopefully we get enough to put a team together as well...Last year we had 4 under 16 girls play in the seniors and then a senior womens team - we just need to build up a few more numbers."
He mentioned the work that needs to be done to complete the new change rooms, with the club looking to employ a someone to complete the tiling along with other tradesmen to make the final touches to the project.
"It is all painted up and ready for them to come in and do that," Mr Thurlow said. "Then the plumber has just got to come back put the shower heads in and the toilets in and then we are ready to go - that will happen over the next 6 weeks.
"The club will do some paving around the building itself - that will be one of our projects before the season starts."
The club is hoping to eventually knock down its current clubrooms, rebuild closer to the pitch and have its carpark located behind where its previous rooms were.
These changes will also involve a clearer area near the entrance, enabling a safer path into the grounds - Mr Thurlow stressed how important it is that people drive safely through the gates when arriving at trainings and game day.
"We are always aware of that issue and people just have to drive carefully - so that is an ongoing problem," he said.
Mr Thurlow is encouraging juniors who are new to soccer to come along to the club's 'Come and Try days,' and for any newcomers to the seniors to come along to the pre-season sessions and get a feel for the game and meet other players.
"We welcome anyone to come and join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:15 for the senior men - if anyone is interested in coming, just come out and have a go."
He mentioned that the Limestone Coast Football Association's new board members have been working to organise a new fixture and pre season cup concept.
Usually the association would split the competition into two groups of four teams, creating a fixture where the teams would play a round robin and then finals for the pre-season cup, before transitioning into the normal season.
Mr Thurlow explained why he believes the association need to change this concept to keep the momentum up when players transition into the season fixture.
"If you play the pre season cup and your team does not make the finals, you have a two week break and then you have got to restart again - it is quite easy to lose a little bit of momentum there," he said.
The treasurer also expressed that he is hoping that the Portland Soccer Club will return to the competition after playing for a year in the Western Border Soccer Association with the borders re-opening, enabling the fixture to have more rounds and a longer final series.
"They played in a victorian league but it is not a really strong competition and there is not many junior grades...they are hoping all of their players come back out after not being around for two years and they can fill the majority of the teams and come back and play against us."
Mr Thurlow finally added how people can keep up to date with what is happening at the club and any changes that may occur within the association.
"People can find us on Facebook and we will have all of our training times go up on that, as well as people to contact if they are interested in playing or coaching or other roles within the club."