Charles Sturt University coach Travis Cohalan is confident the Bushpigs will be well placed to handle some key departures in 2021.
As the club's men's and women's teams kicked off joint pre-season training, the coach is positive despite some losses, including key position players Joe Stapleton (Queanbeyan) and Jack Thompson-Gardener (Collingullie-Glenfield Park).
The pair were among their most important players (Thompson-Gardener was in their best in 10 of his 15 appearances in 2019).
"It's obviously not ideal to lose the calibre of those players who have decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere but we wish them all the best and I'm very confident," Cohalan said.
"We've started training, there's a real good vibe around the group and we're talking to quite a few players about playing next year.
"We also had quite a number players who came to uni this year but didn't get to play footy. We should have a lot of those first years come back and we're confident we will be building a more than competitive side."
In addition to former MCUE ruck/forward Andrew Dickins, the Bushpigs have also picked up forward Scott Barlin from the Goannas.
Cohalan is excited about Barlin's potential given he kicked 152 goals in reserve grade in the Riverina League (2015-2019) but played only a handful of senior games due to the quality of forward firepower at the club.
After the abandoned 2020 season, the Bushpigs could have the benefits of two lots of first years arriving.
"Next February, a high number of students will be moving to Wagga to study at Charles Sturt and we'll be on the front foot to make sure we're an option for them to come and play footy," Cohalan said.
Pre-Christmas training is underway with CSU women's team benefitting from training with the men. Bushpig Sam Barrow has taken over from Clinton Blake as coach as they prepare for another Southern NSW campaign.
"Blakey did a really good job and so did the girls that played under him. There's been massive development the last couple of years, with our girls and the competition," Barrow said.
CSU won back-to-back premierships but didn't get the chance for a hat-trick when this year's competition was cancelled a week before the grand final.
"I know our girls were looking forward to that North Wagga match-up... it would've been a big game, so hopefully we get a crack at them in February," Barrow said.
"It'll be really exciting to see how many new teams come into the competition."
Barrow said, particularly with the Victorian border opening, plenty of the university players have scattered to see family or help out with harvest, but he believes the combined training sessions have been valuable.
"It's really good, having a lot of experienced footballers around helping out or with advice (for the players). We've got multiple sets of eyes," he said.