WITH the start of the AFL home-and-away season still under a cloud of uncertainty, Swan Hill brothers Paddy and Thomson Dow are waiting to hear if their sides will go head-to-head in the season opening clash between Carlton and Richmond.
Carlton midfielder Paddy debuted in this traditional bout at the MCG in 2018 in front of 90,151 people.
This year, the 20-year-old faces the prospect of playing to empty stands as the spread of the COVID-19 virus worldwide has forced the AFL to ban crowds indefinitely.
But Dow said he's still keen to provide a good performance for everyone watching on television, if given the chance
"It's going to be something very different, but it doesn't take away from the importance of the game at all," Dow said.
"We are just focussed on doing what we do best."
Paddy enters his third AFL season and he and his teammates are excited about what the Blues can accomplish this year.
"It's always good to finish off the pre-season because it can get tough at times with running, conditioning and preparing for games," he said.
"Each year becomes easier and you become more confident as you learn more about the game, your body and understand what you need to improve on and maintain.
"There were some promising signs from the pre-season games and while the results didn't go our way, they're only pre-season games where you can experiment and try new things out and see what works.
"We've put no expectations on what we'll achieve this year, but with a lot of recruits, it looks promising and everyone will be trying their best."
The third pick in the 2017 AFL draft receives a lot of external pressure to perform via media and fans due to being a highly touted talent.
However, Dow said he had ignored all external sources on the advice of his club, which is the only source he is focused on pleasing.
"I'm only 20 years old and I think I'm progressing fine — I'm listening to what the club is telling me and they're happy," he said.
"Everything outside the club is an external source and what they're looking at in games is entirely different from what the club is looking at.
"This pre-season, I've been focused on building my tank and understanding my role as a midfielder and forward.
"The goal for me this season is to continue to improve each game as we try to put more wins on the board this season."
Paddy said it was exciting to see his younger brother, Thomson, get his first taste of AFL football during the JLT Community Series pre-season games.
"I'd be rapt if he got a game in round one and we got to play head-to-head," he said.
But Thomson was more realistic about his chances of making his debut for the reigning premiers Richmond in the opening match of the AFL season.
"Based on the depth we've got on the list and the quality of players, it'll be pretty tough to debut having nearly no injuries in the side," Thomson said.
"But if I don’t play, I'll just continue to chip away and try to get a game at some stage this year — as long as I get a game, I'll be happy."
The 18-year-old was drafted to Tigerland less than four months ago with Richmond's first pick (No. 21) in the 2019 AFL draft.
Thomson said after being starstruck by the likes of captain Trent Cochin and Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin when he first arrived at training, he's become more settled.
"I felt like I was a fan at first, but now I'm a lot more comfortable and it just becomes a normal day out with teammates as you develop those relationships," he said.
"The boys have been so positive and I'm loving my time here so far.”