She might be living in lockdown, but that won't be any sort of excuse for Ellyse Gamble heading towards the 2021 AFLW season.
The 22-year-old from Wynyard had her place on the Western Bulldogs' list confirmed last week as the club locked in the majority of its 2020 playing stocks for some stability after the player upheaval before that.
Gamble, who said being an "original Bulldog" from their first season in 2017 was a badge of honour, though will be doing things differently in the build-up with COVID-19 wiping out the VFLW season and metropolitan Melbourne locked down.
But the two-time Burnie Dockers TWL flag winner said she was embracing that challenge, with running three times a week and a "home gym" replacing being out on the footy field.
"It is challenging, but you have got to see the light at the end of the tunnel and remain positive and just lean on each other for support,'' she said.
"We are all going through the same thing as all Victorians are and it is a struggle for everyone, but for me it is university and myself and my classmates supporting each other and it is the same with footy and touching base and supporting each other to try to improve ourselves as athletes during this time where it is a bit more challenging right now.
"It is about trying to find a way and we have looked at this opportunity as a chance to continue our development and the staff at the Bulldogs have been really good in helping us as individuals and players in helping continue our development."
Gamble said the Bulldogs had adopted the attitude of just "finding a way" to ensure they can be at their best when, hopefully, pre-season starts in November as scheduled.
Coach Nathan Burke and fitness and conditioning staff are available "24/7", with coaching done virtually in line groups to help players' football education.
"It has been a different not to have the VFLW season to focus on in what is our AFLW off-season, so it is really a time to focus on ourselves individually and as a group and what we want to work on before coming back into the AFLW system,'' she said.
"Something we are trying at the Bulldogs is just to find a way, just to a find a way to improve during this year and not use it as an excuse, and when the AFLW season comes around again I think we are going to see what teams have embraced this time and used it well.
"But you do learn the most from in game situations as it is different with that pressure than training, so that experience and learning the game a bit more is something we will miss out on this year with no VFLW, but it won't be an excuse for what happens next year."
She said having Kirsty Lamb as her housemate, and fellow Bulldogs Lauren Spark and Ashleigh Guest close by had been a big help during this time.
Gamble, who is studying a Bachelor of Education (P-12) specialising in mathematics and physical education at Victoria University, said she was "stoked" to be with the Bulldogs again, saying it was a reward for the not only the faith they have in her as a player, but the belief she has that good things are on the way for the 2018 premiers.
"While we have seen the dramatic impact COVID-19 had on the AFL competition, we still all felt reassured and quite hopeful that our competition wouldn't be affected majorly considering our pre-season doesn't start until November,'' she said in regards to whether there was any initial doubts the competition might not get going again.
"Although now we know it might still be affected by it, it is reassuring to know that it will be going ahead."
Gamble, who was the 69th pick in the 2016 national draft, played four games in 2020 as a key defender, a season which was cut short for her not only by COVID-19 but a quad niggle, to take her career total to 13.
"It was probably the first year where I felt confident that I can compete at this level and Burkey instilled a lot of confidence in myself that I am in the team for a reason and I have a role and a position in this team,'' she said.
"Playing that key position in the back line and being a bit of a leader was something that I really loved and that helped me a lot knowing that was my role and that was how I am going to help the team."
COVID-19 has not only robbed Gamble of a proper finish to the AFLW season and a VFLW season, but her other passion travel, with a trip to the Philippines on hold.
She has also had a couple of trips home cancelled, and is waiting for the day she can meet her niece for the first time.
Gamble is one of eight Tasmanians confirmed to be on a AFLW list with the delisted free agency period open until Friday and then the drafts to come.
The others are Brittany Gibson, Nicole Bresnehan, Mia King, Daria Bannister and Ellie Gavalas at the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos, Abbey Green at Collingwood and Jessica Wuetschner at Brisbane.
North delisted Emma Humphries and Chloe and Libby Haines, while Ingrid Nielsen retired at Greater Western Sydney.
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