Under darkening skies in the twilight of a winter Saturday, heavy fog rolled across Rawlings Park. It only added to a surreal first step in a season of change for Nick Hull, a new face in Tolland Wolves' third grade side.
"It got to about 6 o'clock and the fog rolled in, you could barely see a thing. It was bizarre, I was like, what is this?" Hull says.
To any casual observer of local Aussie rules, the fog wasn't half as bizarre as the sight of the former East Wagga-Kooringal star himself, having a crack in Football Wagga's Blake Trophy competition.
One of the most dominant players in the Farrer League in the last five years, Hull has returned to a sport he'd never played seriously and certainly not as an adult.
"It's good just being around a bunch of fellas and meeting new people," Hull says.
"I've played football with the same core group for half a decade then you come to something different. A lot of blokes haven't played (Aussie rules) and don't know anything about the local AFL or anything so I'm just another number. It's good.
"It's very different, even getting used to different movements and it's more stop-start on your joints. But it's good fun, getting back to playing something different that you haven't before, and starting at the bottom."
Hull has been named the Farrer League's best-and-fairest player twice in the past five years, as well as playing in three grand finals and winning a premiership.
But he was unable to train last year after moving to Young for work and battled injuries and form. He then had the pinky finger on his left hand amputated after a bad fracture that wouldn't repair. It convinced him to give Aussie rules a miss this year, long before COVID-19 was a thing.
"My finger's still pretty sore... a lot of my mates play at Tolland and they were winding me up saying you should come and have a run at soccer," Hull says.
"I was like yeah, why not. I'm not doing anything else and having weekends without could be pretty boring.
"I haven't played soccer since I was 14 or 15 I reckon. I played both as a kid but once I went to seniors for footy, I couldn't combine them. I liked footy more so I thought I'll go and play footy, even though all my mates play soccer."
Hull has been playing forward. There was plenty of action when Tolland had a 5-all draw with Temora in round one but an 8-0 loss to Lake Albert last week was a rude awakening.
The former ruckman/key forward, renowned for strong marks and long bombs from outside 50 metres, could soon be using his big frame and trusty hands to keep shots out.
"I think they want to put me in goals going forward, that'll be good," Hull says, and thinks his finger stump will stand up to it.
"You wear those big goalkeeper gloves so it shouldn't be too bad. But if you went to tackle someone... or was trying to tap in the ruck, it would be just whacking right on it."
At 27, Hull isn't sure a return to his old footy will ever be on the cards.
"I don't know, to be honest with you. I don't think so. Not while I'm over here in Young. It's too much. I reckon you need to train two times a week just to be ready for a game."
Previously, he'd even toyed with the idea of playing rugby league but it's the round-ball game that emerged as the next challenge.
"It's a tactical game. It's not like footy where you can just chase the ball. You have to stick more to a bit of a structure. Obviously I'm not real good at it. so its good to start from scratch and try to get good at something," Hull says.
Then again, Hull rose from a battling teen to a two-time league medallist in Aussie rules pretty quickly. He jokes that he had the same early form line in both sports.
"Mate, I couldn't get a game in footy or soccer. I used to sit on the bench all game in both, hahaha. Thats probably why I could play both, I wasn't getting much game time in either," he laughs.
"Mum was that mum that used to go up to the coach and ask if I could get a bit more game time: 'Just put him on for a quarter and make him happy'."
Well, he's happy now.
Tolland take on South Wagga this week who are coming off a win against Hanwood last weekend.