INJURIES and unavailabilities have made for a frustrating pre-season thus far for Western NSW FC, but coach Mark Rooke has still been able to see positives ahead of the 2021 National Premier Leagues 4 season.
Those positives come in the form of a handful of talented young players who will be pushing for a place in the first grade squad.
One of them is Lithgow's Kyle Cummings. He was a member of Western's under 20s squad which reached the semi-final stage last season and has been part of the club's set up for close to a decade.
"I think he's really shown me that he's ready for the step up," Rooke said.
"Look he's pretty versatile actually, he plays anywhere across the midfield and can play as a winger as well. He's a good kid."
But Cummings is not the only young talent who has progressed through Western's junior ranks and is now pushing for a place in the first team.
"I think Kyle will certainly be pushing to be involved with the first team squad this season and you can add to that the likes of other players from our 20s squad, Steve Long, Bevan Foxall, Tom Rooke. Matt Beattie has already been in the first team squad," Rooke said.
"They're all knocking on the door and they're there and thereabouts, which is good."
Some of those young talents have taken part in pre-season trial games, Western having gotten some match practice in against Bathurst's Abercrombie FC and Orange's Barnstoneworth United.
For Rooke those games were not about results given both Western's first grade and under 20s are far below full strength at the moment. He treated the trials as a chance to see what players have to offer as the NPL4 season draws closer.
"We just put the kids out there with the older guys to have a run around and get some minutes in the legs, that's pretty much what it is all about. To be honest we're pretty young as a senior squad this year," he said.
"We still have four senior players who are out injured and we have three guys who haven't even been to a training session yet because they've been away working.
"We haven't even got a senior keeper at the moment to be honest ... so it's certainly been a frustrating pre-season so far.
"In the coming weeks we'll look at separating the squads and making things a little bit more clear, but at this point in time we are still organising things and getting players back from injury."
Western will start its NPL4 campaign on March 6 against Granville Rage.