FOR TYLER Sonsie there has been a sense of deja vu about the past few days.
Last year, just days before the talented midfielder was about to start the NAB League season, it was called off due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria. Despite several attempts, the competition never got off the ground in 2020, leaving Sonsie, who was a bottom-ager last season, sidelined for the year.
And last week, having only just finally returned to training with the Eastern Ranges after a new summer structure was implemented into the NAB League, the talented Sonsie is back training by himself as Victoria enters another lockdown.
"It's a bit difficult at some stages but you end up getting through it," Sonsie told AFL.com.au.
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"I was feeling pretty good and pretty confident to get out on the track and all of a sudden you get the news you're not training for a week with some of your best mates and the whole group. I was a bit flattened by it but hopefully we'll be out there as soon as possible."
Sonsie starts the year as one of the leading contenders for the No.1 pick.
He already has runs on the board: he impressed during the under-16s championships for Vic Metro back in 2019, and in the same year starred for the Eastern Ranges two years out from his draft season, including featuring in their Grand Final loss to the Oakleigh Chargers. The midfielder showed his speed, class, poise and ball-getting ability, and was hoping to keep that momentum going last year before the season was wiped out.
"It was a big challenge. I felt like I would have had a pretty good year so I was keen to get out there," he said.
It has been a different pre-season format for all Victorian prospects, with draft hopefuls not returning to NAB League training until the middle of February after resources were hit as a part of the COVID-19 fallout.
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It has meant pre-seasons have been left more in the hands of each draftee, with Sonsie, who has finished school, joining a small group of Ranges players who enlisted the help of the club's strength and conditioning coach, Tom Lariba-Taing, for regular sessions.
The 18-year-old has also been working one-on-on with Lariba-Taing in the gym to ensure he is ready to show his explosive streak once games recommence.
Sonsie also spent a session over summer training alongside AFL stars Christian Petracca and Bailey Smith, as part of a coastal training day organised by his management group Connors Sports over the Christmas break.
"I learned a bit off Christian Petracca. The way he goes about it is unreal. I did a few drills against him and was doing all right but he embarrassed me one time," Sonsie said.
Expect Sonsie, a Richmond fan who models his game on skipper Trent Cotchin, to do the same to a few opponents this year. The NAB League will head straight into round one games in March and play three matches before taking a four-week break for prospects to play at community level.
A member of the NAB AFL Academy, Sonsie hopes he can spend some time in that period training with an AFL club and potentially playing in the VFL. He heads into his draft season with plenty of hype, but wants to channel that in the right way.
"There's a bit of pressure but at the same time it's also a kick of the bum, because you don't want to fall behind as it won't look very good. I'm feeling pretty confident about the year," he said.