Western Bulldogs forward Josh Schache has had a whirlwind week. Schache spoke with aflplayers.com.au from the Bulldogs’ hub on the Gold Coast about being forced to move out of a COVID-19 hot spot, to playing his first game of the season and now being interstate for a month.
It was 2 o’clock last Wednesday when Josh Schache and six of his Western Bulldogs teammates were called into an office at their Whitten Oval training base and delivered the unusual news.
Schache and those six other teamamtes would have to pack all of their belongings and move out their houses by midnight that night.
Why? Well that’s because an edict came from the New South Wales government stating that all Victorians who lived in a COVID-19 hot spot would be barred entry from the state.
With Victoria’s Coronavirus situation worsening by the day, the AFL was planning to shift all 10 Victorian teams into interstate hubs to keep the 2020 season going and clubs were forced to to move every player who resided in a hot spot out that area so they could gain entry to the state.
It just so happened that Schache and housemate Jordon Sweet were among those living in one of the hot spots in Maribyrnong, a metropolitan suburb in Melbourne’s north-west.
“It was a mad rush home after training,” Schache recounted to aflplayers.com.au.
“I literally packed my bags not knowing how long I’d be staying in the hotel for. I just shoved all my things into bags because I didn’t know whether I’d have to be in there for a week or a couple of weeks.”
Schache and Sweet moved into a hotel in Docklands, while Sweet’s girlfriend, Juliet, who has recently moved over from Adelaide, stayed behind in the house to look after the place and their dog.
At that stage of the week the interstate hubs hadn’t been confirmed, so Schache was forced to take everything not knowing the length of his stay.
“We made it into the hotel around 9pm and then had to unpack everything, so after being at the footy club for an early start that morning it made a for a massive day,” Schache said.
The next day Schache received a call from coach Luke Beveridge telling him he had regained his place in the team and that he would be playing his first game for the season against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, a stone’s throw away from where he and Sweet were staying.
“After moving in (to the hotel) and having a hectic day on Wednesday, to get a phone call the next day from ‘Bevo’ to say that I was coming back into the team I was obviously rapt to be told that,” Schache said.
The spot in the Bulldogs’ forward line opened up after Aaron Naughton was ruled out for a lengthy period with a serious ankle injury.
While Josh Bruce was the star with six goals, Schache was solid in his return against the Roos bagging two goals and often putting himself in dangerous spots to have an impact.
“I just needed to work on my consistency in the contest and with my follow up efforts when the ball hit the ground, and that’s something I’d been really focussing on at training,” Schache said.
“I feel like I’m as fit as I have been for a long time, so I knew that if I kept doing everything right away from the footy club as well that once I got that opportunity I’d be ready to go.”
Schache completed recovery with his teammates on Sunday before packing his bags yet again as the Bulldogs flew up to the Gold Coast on Monday morning to be embedded in their hub for a month-long period.
“It’s been a pretty crazy week not knowing what’s happening and then flying off, but it’s all worked out so credit to the club, the AFL and the AFLPA for making it go as smoothly as possible,” Schache said.
With Naughton out a while longer yet, the key forward now has the opportunity for an extended run in the side after managing 14 games in 2019 and 13 in 2018.
After missing out on being selected way back in round one, he moved back to his hometown of Seymour during the season shutdown period with the aim of training hard and improving his fitness so that he could get to more contests and have more impact on games.
“I did a lot of sessions with (teammate) Mitchy Wallis who was there just down the road in Tallarook, so I did a bit of running with him and he’s a good runner so he pushed me along which was good,” Schache said.
“It just spurred me on even more to try to get back into the side and even though it didn’t happen straight away I knew that if I kept persisting I would eventually break back in.”
Schache said he and his teammates were embracing the Gold Coast hub and using it as an important bonding experience away from home.
“We’ve only been here for a short time so far but I’ve been hanging out with the boys, having a few coffees and getting out in the sunshine as much as I can,” he said.
“It’s important to develop that cohesion with the players and the coaches during our time away. We’ve just really got to lap it up. It’s not a bad part of the world to come up to for this time being away and anything that we can do to keep the season rolling ahead we’re going to do. Everyone’s in the same position, it’s not just as, so it’ll be a great opportunity for us all to bond as a group and hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”