FOR years Scott Blanch had carried the load of not only playing a vital role on the field, but off the field as a coach.
However, after tasting more premiership success with the North Tamworth Bears in 2019, the halfback was eager to take the field only as a player this year.
That was until the COVID-19 pandemic set in and postponed the Group 4 season indefinitely.
"It's really tough not being around the boys at the moment," Blanch told the Leader.
"I am doing a fair bit on my own at the moment to try and keep fit, but it is much easier to rip in when you've got all your mates around you, as opposed to doing it by yourself.
"But, I'm just looking at staying positive for as long as this lasts and doing what I can to be ready when we get the green light to play."
As well as having a new coach in Brad McManus at the helm, 2020 was set to be a new challenge for the Bears, who would have entered the season without experienced campaigners Shane Wadwell and Kieran Fisher.
"There has been a lot of new faces around the club, which had everyone feeling really positive for the season," Blanch said.
"To be honest, not having Kieran there is the reason why I have been working so hard to get ready.
"Having him there with me in the halves in the past, meant I was able to just drift in here and there and let him do the rest.
"Now I am going to have to take on more responsibility in the halves, so I have to make sure I'm ready."
Despite the loss of experience, a raft of new recruits including Tom Woolaston, Tevita Cegunaivali and Mel Meya had Blanch feeling even more confident about the Bears' chance of winning a seventh-straight premiership.
"To be honest, I was really looking forward to taking a bit of step back and just playing," he said.
"The culture and experience we have at Norths did make my job as coach easier and I'm sure that will be the case again this year.
"I did put a bit of pressure on myself to lead by example as coach and I guess I will just be trying to do that again now as a just a player.
"I guess all we can do right now is try and be ready for when the season starts, whenever that will be."