It was about halfway through our fourth, or was it fifth, set of modified Malcolms that I thought ... 'why have I spent the shutdown period missing this?'
Already, my body was aching and sore, my knees were creaking and I was absolutely not used to running – in fact, I had done no running since our last training way back at the start of March. My bad.
But here we were, the Normanby Hounds women’s team, back in action and back out on the training field at Bert St Clair Oval. And as sick and sorry as we may have felt during the session, we were there because we love it and were grateful to have it back.
The Hounds are one of a number of clubs across Queensland hoping to see some action on the field for their players across their various divisions - whatever form it may take - and have taken on board the Queensland Rugby League’s Return to Play protocols, to be ready as can be.
The women’s team were the first cab off the rank this week with a Monday night training session, and the A Grade / Reserves and open men’s players are set for their return on separate days later in the week.
For our first time back, things were a bit awkward as we (players and coach) all took pains to make sure we all stood apart from each other as we caught up on what our lives had been like during the COVID-19 shutdown and listened to what our upcoming session would entail.
We all brought our own water bottles and also all cleaned our hands on arrival at the wash stations that had been set up by the side of our undercover area... four blue plastic storage containers, two labelled water and two labelled soap.
Committee member and front row forward extraordinaire Erin Kelly was in charge of football sanitation, and armed with a can of Glen 20 disinfectant spray, got to work on coating the bag of training balls.
However, we didn’t need too many of them as our coach Neal Aldridge had other plans in mind – and mostly, they involved running. And lots of it.
Firstly, run a lap around the oval, then into a COVIDSafe spaced-out line along the try line for our warm up stretches, high knees, back flips... you know the drills.
“Hold ... hold ... up!”
Then, it was time for some ball work, passing through the hands and few runs with tips and blocks.
Next up, it was time for a date with our “friend” Malcolm, with lunges, front planks, side planks, star jumps, push ups and crunches all thrown in.
It was about then that a few of us began to wonder if rugby league was actually fun ... but of course it was!
From there, it was back to our ball work, before a broken 800-metre run.
“Who hurt you Neal?” asked one of our forwards as we once more headed back to the spaced-out training discs to again run through some ball skills.
And to finish things off... two more laps of running. And not just any laps... we had to run in single file, spaced apart, as a team relay run, with the last person in line sprinting to the front and so on and so on.
Absolutely awful. By the time we came to the end, I was shuffling my feet and willing my arms not to fall off as I fought the urge to cry, vomit and collapse into the un-mown grass that signalled the edge of the playing field, all at the same time.
And while we were relieved to finally be done, as a team, we were even happier that we were able to have our fitness tested while we wait for the okay to get some tackling in... all despite not knowing when we might be able to draw on the reserves we were building in a game.
It's true, we don’t know exactly when match day will return and even what a revamped season may look like, but while there’s hope and a plan in place at a club, a commitment from players to do the right thing and enough volunteers who are not at-risk to help glue things together, football will return to our fields.
For more information and guidance on how clubs can get back on the training paddock, including how to make your club COVIDSafe and key cleaning protocols, visit the QRL’s Return to Play information site.