You beauty: The footy is back in Ipswich
THE long wait is nearly over. Getting a good look at the opposition is welcome. It's time to enjoy some footy.
The Ipswich Eagles Senior men's and Reserve Grade Aussie rules sides will tomorrow be among the first in the city to kickstart post COVID-19 sporting competitions.
Ipswich Eagles head coach Kym Mansell said his players were eager to restart their QFA Division 2 North season after months of being shut down due to the coronavirus.
"We're keen to get going, really keen to see how our younger players have stepped up,'' Mansell said, preparing for the home games at Limestone Park against Kedron.
Every club will play eight matches leading into finals under the revised format.
Mansell expected to field a side "about 95 per cent'' full strength for the competition restart with off-season recruit Jacob Huisman and regulars Matt Sheridan and Simon O'Donnell among those likely to be out.
He said a key off-season focus was strengthening the Ipswich squad to cover for expected player losses due to injury and unavailability.
"Closing the gap between the top two players and the bottom two players is something that we've worked hard on,'' he said.
He appreciated his players sticking to fitness programs during a difficult transition as COVID-19 restrictions eased.
"Most of them were pretty good,'' he said. "They all done their own stuff and then we were allowed to train in twos and then when went up to 10, they were all doing that as well.
"The numbers have been pretty good while we've been back at training.''
The experienced coach is also eager to see the club's promising young brigade rise this season.
They include players like Nick Kennedy and Jack Boston, along with key recruit Jaiden Fidge.
Darling Downs small forward/winger Fidge comes with immense promise having been a best and fairest player in the youth leagues.
Returning to Ipswich's Mark Marsh Oval is another boost for the Eagles in a shortened season due to COVID-19 and with Gympie withdrawing.
"I think the competition is a lot harder this year,'' Mansell said.
"Teams like Kedron and Pine Rivers have recruited really, really heavily and they probably had to (to be competitive).''
This year's Eagles side is being captained by premiership-winning Western Australia import Tyler Hall.
He'll be joined in the leadership group by players including Jordan Godfrey, Boston and Kennedy.
Saturday (noon and 2pm): QFA Division 2 North - Ipswich Eagles v Kedron at Mark Marsh Oval, Limestone Park.