By Jonty Ralphsmith
For Kobe Shipp and Kade De La Rue, Holm Park Reserve was a happy outlet during the pandemic.
With Beaconsfield under-19s player Jamie Roberts, the pair spent hundreds of hours across that period at the Beaconsfield oval.
Across the 18-month period, the pair fine-tuned touch, kicking, fundamentals and one-on-one work and spent hundreds of collective hours playing marker’s up.
Now, the phrase that’s always on people’s lips when discussing De La Rue is his cleanliness.
“Some respect definitely has to go to those days,” De La Rue said.
“We would hold ourselves liable to train down here after school and having others makes it more fun and competitive.
“We’ve all got our strengths in different areas so it’s great to challenge each other.
“I’m probably the stronger aerobic athlete, but they’ve got me in speed and power so it’s something to have a bit of fun with when we have races down here but also better ourselves.”
For Shipp, that long period sans official matches coerced him to lift his training standards.
The son of former Fremantle Docker Andrew, Shipp also spent time down near his Dad’s house at Inverloch, and picked the former AFL tough nut’s brain about what was required to reach the top level.
“At the start of 2020, I probably wasn’t the best trainer,” Shipp conceded.
“I think going into that year, I didn’t really understand what hard work was because, being a junior, you never really had to work as hard, a lot of it was natural talent.
“Across those two years in lockdown, I learnt so much about myself and my footy so I’m really grateful for that because I don’t think I would be where I am now otherwise as a footballer or person.
“It was hard missing out on playing but the resilience that I’ll take from it is so important.”
During and since the pandemic, coach Steve Paterson has noted the frequency the boys have spent down at the oval.
Having coached Shipp – and De La Rue – either side of the pandemic, he saw the lift – something which has continued to incline since the start of his journey with the Stingrays.
“That was maybe a turning point for him,” Paterson said.
“Through his early days, he was very talented on game day but it took him a while to grasp on to and realise that ‘I’ve actually got to train hard to perform even better.’
“I think that helped him realise he can make something of this.
“When games needed to be won, Kobe was first on it.
“Whether it’s putting himself into the midfield so that he could have the greatest impact to help the team or putting his head over the footy, he was there.”
The AFL draft will take place from November 20-22 with De La Rue and Shipp both expected to be late pickups.