THE prospect of a "normal" football-netball season going ahead next year is diminishing, according to a leading health expert.
Doctor Robert Grenfell - the director of health of biosecurity business at CSIRO - painted a bleak picture of our chances in 2021, as Victoria manages a second wave of COVID-19.
Dr Grenfell, who resides in Natimuk, said it was a difficult topic to address.
"You're making me weep here," he said at a Q&A session hosted by the Horsham Rural City Council.
"I know how important footy is to all the small towns and communities around here, and unfortunately I can't give you a positive answer.
"Football and community support is vital for the strength and wellbeing of our communities, but we're going to have to keep working out how we might do it so it's safe.
"At this stage, I don't see a way of that happening."
READ MORE: Dr Grenfell bares ugly truth about COVID-19
Dr Grenfell has led a team of around 50 scientists working to develop potential vaccines since the pandemic began.
He said rollercoaster surges of COVID-19 - such as the one currently enveloping Victoria - could be expected for months to come, until there is a way to combat the virus.
"I can't give you a positive answer, because we're going to get surges continuing," he said.
"The reality here is that it is unlikely we will have things under control over the next 12 months that will allow us to have very large events, and that's not good news to hear.
"We're just going to have to wait and see what happens with this virus, because it is still going to be around at that time (Autumn 2021)."
Community members have echoed Dr Grenfell's concerns.
Discussions Wimmera Mail-Times' journalists have had with presidents and club personnel usually end with a common sentiment - a simple hope that community sport can return in 2021, but a lingering doubt about the possibility.
AFL Wimmera-Mallee's Jason Muldoon said discussions about next year were underway.
"We have to be real about this and ask what community sport looks like going forward," he said.
"I think the general consensus is that if we don't get a vaccine for this, then community sport is going to look different to what it has in the past.
"What that is, we don't know."
Mr Muldoon said there was some solace to be taken from other states around Australia successfully playing community sport this year.
Many football-netball leagues across the border in South Australia are currently playing shortened seasons.
"That's a positive, no doubt," he said. "You can possibly take the things they have learned and apply that to our situation when we're allowed to."
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