Mount Pleasant Football Netball Club had every reason to be excited about the 2020 HDFNL season.
Buoyed by a finals appearance in 2019 and a fruitful off-season recruiting campaign, the Blues' footballers looked capable of jumping into the top three under coach Darren Walsh.
On the netball court, Mounts have a plethora of young talent coming through the ranks as they try to close the gap on the likes of White Hills and Colbinabbin.
High hopes on the footy field and netball court, combined with improved infrastructure at its Toolleen home base, had the community pumped up for a stellar season.
COVID-19 quickly took the wind out of the sails for all those involved in community sport.
For the Toolleen community, the tradition of spending Saturday at the footy and netball has been taken away.
While there's a small chance the season might make a late start, Mounts co-president Phil Whiting said the club's first priority was the health of the community.
"Given the circumstances we're more interested in the safety of our players and community,'' Whiting said.
"We don't want to expose anyone to any undue risk and, potentially, see the worst case scenario unfold.
"We're very focused on what the government is informing the community in general.
"The loss of that community aspect of training two nights a week, gameday on Saturday and people getting together to catch up with friends...from our perspective when we get back to footy we want the whole box and dice.
"We find it a difficult concept to play footy and netball with no crowd.
"The reason we exist in country footy is for the whole community. It's for the players, volunteers and supporters.
"We want everyone to share in the footy and netball."
Everyone sharing the new facilities at Toolleen is part of the Blues' program.
The improvements Mounts made to their facilities in the off-season, combined with some help from mother nature, has the Toolleen ground looking immaculate.
"We have the best looking ground I've seen in the 10 years I've been involved with the club,'' Whiting said.
"The dams are full and the surface is luscious.
"A couple of weeks before last season every blade of grass was dead, the dams were empty and we were trucking in water.
"We now have the perfect ground, but we can't get on.
"We've invested in a new electronic scoreboard, elevated timekeepers box and hospitality area and replaced our home room floor surface. Everything was looking up for us, but for now we're all dressed up with nowhere to go."
Whiting said the Blues would look at a return to action this year, but only if the community could attend games.
"It's been a real kick in the guts not to play, but the safety of our players, volunteers and supporters is paramount,'' he said.
"Footy and netball is important and it gives the community a sense of purpose which is important, but it doesn't trump the safety of everyone.
"If we miss a year, we miss a year and we live to play another day.
"If the government sanctions a return to competition this year with the right safety protocols in place, and we can involve everyone in our entire club, then we'd be all for playing a reduced season.
"We'll be guided by the league, the AFL and the government."
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