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The green light has been given for sporting teams to return to the field in the ACT, but Canberra United is still eying its original pre-season start date – October 25. ACT chief minister Andrew Barr confirmed some restrictions would be relaxed on Friday due to the high vaccination rates in the territory. One relaxation allows up to 25 people to gather outdoors for physical or recreational activities, signalling a return to team training for summer sporting codes. By sticking to their original date, United will have 39 days to prepare for their first match at Viking Park against Melbourne City on December 3. The side’s head coach Vicki Linton is not worried though, after a similar situation focused on individual skills and fitness unfolded ahead of last season due to COVID-19. “This is a unique scenario. Most of the other players are in lockdown so it’s a really big challenge coming into this preseason, and I think Sarah Kelly, our head of performance, has been doing a great job in supporting every individual in the situation they’re in,” she said. “My expectation is that every player comes in every day with a mentality of being coachable, with giving 100 per cent and putting the team first. I expect that every play, every day. And if people are doing that, then I can’t ask for anything more. “For the most part, we had that last year, and it’s sensational, it’s a great environment, and credit to the players for doing that. So, when we do that too, we tend to have a smile on their face and we tend to enjoy the work we do.” MORE IN CANBERRA SPORT: The factor behind the set pre-season date is because interstate signings from New South Wales and Victoria, such as Beth Mason-Jones, Chloe Middleton, Holly Caspers and Margot Robinne, are required to quarantine for 14 days in the ACT before they can get back on the park. Last season’s A-League Women’s pre-season was the first affected by this, as it meant international and some interstate players had to undergo quarantine in an already tight window, but this year, club’s were better prepared. Linton said one perk last year because of the limitations meant she had one of the best pre-seasons she had had in the ALW because she had her full squad – minus one player – for the full six week block. “I’ve never had a preseason like that ever in the W-League, because normally internationals are coming in, players were coming from other places and whatever, and we had maybe four weeks,” she said. “So, last year was the standout, it was the exception. “We’re not unused to it, just players coming in at different levels and trying to build, it’s ideal if we get everyone at the same spot, day one.” One factor stands out when you hear the word pre-season – fitness. However at United, and for Linton, it is about more than just that. It’s about shaping technical, tactical, mental, cultural and of course physical attributes of the side ahead of the season opener. “I have to be open minded and just be prepared to work with what we’ve got once we’ve got it, and in what shape they are,” the head coach said. “What I do know is they’re going to be decently fit running wise. So it’s just getting a touch on the ball and building through that, but we will still build on their football fitness, because running doesn’t replicate game specific fitness. “And we have to be really careful at monitoring them and their loads individually and as a group, and be really sensitive to loading, and what we can do, where we need to push and when we need to back off.” Fourteen players have signed for United so far, and more are expected to be announced next week to fill out the side’s roster.

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