It hasn't been a normal pre-season for Edenhope-Apsley.
Guy Smith has had to wrestle COVID uncertainty and the inevitable rotating cast of players that rural clubs face each summer.
On the eve of Christmas, two of the Saints' gun recruits - Beau and Dawson Cross - left the club.
Beau was going to be tied to Bendigo for work, prompting Dawson to head to Noradjuha-Quantong.
Homegrown Saint Matt Butler was drawn to South Australia for a job, and like most clubs, Edenhope-Apsley is finding that players are enjoying their weekends off.
"We had some key players pull the pin on us relatively late, which sort of put a spanner in the works with recruiting," Smith said.
"We were on the back foot to start with a little bit, but as the pre-season has progressed, things have improved, and we've been able to pick up a few players too.
"Pre-season has been slow. It hasn't been overly hectic. We've been pretty cruisy about it."
It hasn't been one-way traffic.
Carl Slape, a 191cm full-forward from Mt Gambier, will be back with the Saints after a fruitful 2019 campaign.
Joining him is Kaniva-Leeor United midfielder Chris LaRocca.
"There are still a couple of things to fall into place yet, but it's looking okay," Smith said. "We've definitely got a healthy senior side, but unfortunately, we don't have a lot of depth."
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Smith said he was trying to tone down preparations for football's return.
"As a club, we haven't really been hyping it up too much," he said. "(We're) just slipping under the radar and quietly turning up each week and working on our fitness and a few things.
"We didn't start training until late in the first week of February.
"People's mindsets were a bit different. We were struggling to get them to commit to playing anyway. That year off has just killed clubs.
"I didn't want to push it too early, so we deliberately decided to start late. I think that's worked in our favour because guys have consistently rocked up, and they knew they had to dig in and get going.
"It's been pretty cruisy, pretty steady, and it's been enjoyable."
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