Only a foolish man gets his hopes up during a global pandemic.
The recent release of AFL Victoria's return to play guidelines fuelled dreams that a footy season would get off the ground.
Then came a new week, and a third statewide lockdown, and the sporting community embraced an all too familiar sense of apprehension.
Whether it be through blissful ignorance or genuine progress, assurance had fallen on the Wimmera's sporting grounds.
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Sure, summer seasons didn't look the same and musings on the state of the world replaced your usual sledging. But, overall, there was a sense of something close to normality.
Victoria's five-day lockdown was a blunt reminder that the future of community sport is not guaranteed.
Not a gentle nudge, but a full-force blow to the guts, letting all know that everything is still up in the air.
Less than 50 days remain until Ararat and Stawell return the Wimmera Football Netball League to a capped, yet craving, crowd.
Whether that happens is no certainty as long as the virus lingers.
Governing bodies need to construct plans that allow sport to be played. All involved need to follow them religiously to ensure the region's ovals remain alight with action and colour.
There is no alternative.
Another season lost will be the fatal blow for many sporting clubs.
An Australian Sports Foundation survey revealed 16,000 sporting club across the nation faced collapse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An estimated $1.2 billion was needed for grassroots clubs to survive the economic impacts, before Victoria's second lockdown.
The costs of losing a sports club in a rural community are immeasurable.
A heartbeat. A shared identity. The fabric of the town. All lost to history.
Only a foolish man gets his hopes up in a global pandemic. But only those who hold hope can picture something better.
A winter where the ovals are packed, the supporters are at fever pitch, and local footy is back again.
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