WE need to be bold and smart about a game plan, but first we need to consider deeply how much we really want a Victorian Football League team for our region.
We would need a strong, driving commitment from major stakeholders, not just in Ballarat, but across western Victoria. To do this, we would probably need to make an out-of-the-box play.
As it stands, North Ballarat Football Club and AFL Victoria, the league's governing body, are at an impasse. AFL Victoria has reiterated the best model would be a club for Ballarat and western Victoria; North Ballarat believes it has the right model to do this but has turned down a bid for a licence on a sticking point: North Ballarat is not to be the major entity behind and VFL team.
Whatever shape a new team might take will still need time.
The booming professionalism in men's and women's sport means increasing demands on players, who are taking on professional athletes while juggling their own day job. Tyranny of distance is a factor in state league sports when you are a regional outfit - it is harder to lure marquee players and Melbourne-based clubs tend to balk at the road trips our teams make most weeks.
Financially, our teams need sustainable financial models and community support.
But, with the right model, it is worth it.
A decade ago, Ballarat's state league football and netball teams were flying. In 2009, North Ballarat Roosters were entering the VFL season as reigning premiers after shocking the competition that country clubs can win flags - then winning two more.
At the same time, Ballarat Pride was readying to enter a revamped Victorian Netball League with a championship division team players had been chasing for so long. Pride was runner-up in a heart-breaking division one final the season before.
Players were household names across this city. Juniors wanted to be like them. Many good grassroots players aspired to join them.
This year, we have neither.
Pride was axed from the VNL in 2014 and a community alliance fought to deliver Sovereigns for the region, only to be wiped last year.
This is a tough model to sustain, particularly when you are going standalone in competition like the VFL. Bendigo lost its team five years ago - and the league has since adopted more AFL franchises, rather than shared team systems.
If we are to re-launch into the VFL, or VNL, we need a model fully embraced not just in Ballarat but across the whole state's west. This has to be truly bigger than us to make an impact against mostly metropolitan powers.
We need to get the mix right to build success and support, ingredients that go hand-in-hand.
This will be a telling year in Ballarat's state league sporting fronts. Our Miners and Rush basketballers will enter a new Victorian-based senior elite league after the disbanding of the South Australian Basketball League. Our marquee women's soccer team is reuniting with their male counterparts under the Ballarat City FC banner.
Not to mention, on the lawn bowls front, Geelong-Ballarat premier bowls will disappear after finals this summer sending our top players exclusively back to Ballarat pennant greens.
We have incredibly arenas across all these codes, including a new indoor stadium under construction, and what would be the best football facilities in the VFL.
These are facilities built, not just for Ballarat, but to bring elite sports and athletes to our city for people in western Victoria and to develop pathways for talent in this region.
It is a shame to no longer have these avenues to show off our game in two of the biggest participation sports we have here.
Their absence leaves the region feeling a little empty.
North Ballarat's move to join the VFL in 1996 had a visionary at its core. Ken Eyers was the man who first brought bingo to Ballarat in the late 1970s, a move in a long-term vision to bring AFL to Ballarat.
Bingo helped build North Ballarat Sports Club, the nearby table tennis and badminton centres, and Ballarat Football League headquarters, Saxon House, at City Oval. Funds also boosted other sporting clubs willing to do the work in the bingo hall and, ultimately, helped take the Roosters to the VFL.
This was radical and bold at the time but with exactly the belief and commitment we need to put our players back on the VFL stage.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.