Despite more than two decades as a senior team coach, Ararat Football Netball Club's senior football coach Matthew Walder is entering the 2021 season in unfamiliar circumstances.
Walder agreed to coach the club in 2019 but is yet to take charge of his first game due to the 2020 season being abandoned due to COVID-19.
"It's the second year, but effectively the first year," said Walder.
"We've done two-and-a-half pre-seasons without even playing a game. We stopped and started a couple of times last season, but it was all for no games.
"Obviously it's a bit frustrating but it can't be helped."
Ararat is some 1400km from Walders last coaching role at Coolangatta.
But Victoria is familiar ground for Walder, as is the Wimmera Football League.
Walder was the Warrack Eagles coach when they won the premiership in 2002, defeating Ararat in the grand final.
Ararat had won the premiership the year before but have not managed to do so again in the 20 years.
Walder said he would love to break the drought but is also mindful of the peculiar circumstances the pandemic has created.
"You've always got ambitions, but they're tempered a little bit by the situation and the unknown from not being able to compete last year," he said.
"It's almost like a restart 18-months on since everyone last played here. Everyone looks for finals and to be there in the end, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out; you probably change your benchmark after the first month or six weeks.
"It's the club's 150th year though, so it's got a bit of synergy to it though: 20 years after the last premiership on the 150th anniversary, that would be nice."
Though the fixture is yet to be finalised, Ararat will likely open their season against Stawell in the much-anticipated Good Friday clash.
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