The Echuca Masters are gearing up for another season in the AFL Masters Victoria Country league.By Zach Hubber
As district football clubs return to the field for pre-season training, there is another club which is also preparing for the rigours and demands of 2013.
The Echuca Masters have been hitting the track each Wednesday from 6pm before Christmas and returned to the track on January 9.
Club stalwart Neville ‘Nifty’ Green, who has been with the club for 20 years, said he never expected the club to be what it is today.
‘‘It was always going to be a small club because you’ve got so many blokes who go away here and there, but at our last carnival we had 16 blokes go from here,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got at least 53 on the books and at the start of training we’ve got 30 to 38 on the course, whereas we used to get just six blokes.
‘‘The camaraderie is much better and the organisation of the club is 100 per cent better.’’
The club competes in the AFL Masters Victoria Country 35 years and over league, the AFL Masters national carnival and the Masters Games.
The club was formed about 20 years ago and has been based at Tongala and Moama before moving to Echuca South Recreation Reserve for the past nine years.
The Masters wear a similar guernsey to the West Coast Eagles after stints with the Collingwood and Fremantle strips.
Former AFL players Rene Kink and Ken Sheldon have represented the Echuca Masters at some point.
Coach Geoff Abella, who played more than 300 games with Picola United, said he enjoyed the challenges of coaching as he prepares for his third year in charge.
‘‘They’re all great blokes and it’s all about having fun while playing footy,’’ he said.
‘‘It is a lot harder to get people switched on because it is only for fun and not to try to kill the opposition.’’
Green said the club anticipated the application for an over 47s side or potentially another over 35s team.
He also encouraged younger players to make themselves known to the club.
‘‘We do encourage players of the younger age to train if they’ve finished playing footy if they’re 32 or 33,’’ he said.
‘‘On the odd occasion you can play if you get permission from the opposition.’’
Green also lauded the fact Echuca United was one of the few clubs in Australia to run from juniors all the way through to masters.
The 11-round season starts with a home match against Murray on April 6.
Anyone who wants to get involved can attend Wednesdays night trainings at 6pm at Echuca South.
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