HORSHAM'S Dustin Cross considers himself "one of the lucky ones", as he prepares to play his first game of competitive football at the weekend - a rare luxury in 2020.
Cross took a three-month placement as a stock agent on Kangaroo Island earlier this year, escaping Victoria's growing coronavirus conundrum.
It has allowed the 23-year-old to grab the football boots out of the closet while the rest of the Wimmera searches for an alternate way to spend their weekends.
Cross will lace up for his first game with the Strathalbyn Roosters in the Great Southern Football League on Saturday, in a local derby against arch-rivals Langhorne Creek.
"I'm absolutely chomping at the bit to get out there," Cross said.
"I'm just really looking forward to having a kick and a hit out. I've definitely been missing it.
"It's going to be interesting as well to see a different league and how the footy is run on a Saturday, with fans, food, beers; just the whole experience."
It will be the first time Cross plays competitive football in something other than the red and black of his beloved Noradjuha-Quantong.
Cross has played his whole life for the Horsham District league club, captaining them to a grand final last year.
"I'm a touch nervous just because I don't know too much about the footy over here," he said.
"I'm pretty sure it's a fairly handy league, and, to be honest, I don't know if I'm good enough to play in it.
"I got the call on Tuesday, and I'm straight into the senior squad.
"They might be a bit short, so I think they're throwing me in there and just hoping for the best."
Adding to Cross' nerves is the significance of the contest.
"I got told that I'm going into a local derby," he said.
"It's a big showdown, a bit similar to Horsham playing the Horsham Saints.
"Hopefully I can just sit in a forward pocket and get a couple of kicks."
Cross is joined at Strathalbyn by Jeparit-Rainbow's Wayne and Daniel Batson, who both lodged clearances to the club last month. Wayne played his first senior game for the Roosters last weekend, in a one-point win against Yankalilla.
Cross will make a two-and-a-half-hour journey back to the mainland to play on Saturday, including a 50-minute ferry ride off Kangaroo Island.
The rugged midfielder had planned to play in the Kangaroo Island football league, but the season was cancelled in June due to COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing rebuild from a devastating summer of bushfires.
"About half the island got burnt at the start of the year, so to come through that and then get hit by corona is really rough," Cross said.
"It's just a shame there's no footy season, because they would've really got around it.
"Everyone plays sport here. Every farmer asks you if you play footy, before they even ask where you're from.
"It's such a great community, and football on the island is such an important thing."
With the Victoria and South Australia border locked down, Cross said it was a strange feeling to know he could not freely return home to see his family in Horsham.
But, at least for Saturday when he runs out on the football field, Cross said he would not want to be anywhere else.
"I've got three weeks left over here, so hopefully it's three games of footy," he said.
"I'm pretty bloody excited."
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