FOR ANYONE questioning whether the coronavirus pandemic has pushed female sport on the backburner, look just outside Ballarat.
In a world where grassroots sport has been crippled, there are those who are able and willing to find a way to muster up play.
Most notably for Ballarat, Central Highlands Football League launch a modified junior season this weekend.
We know getting back on the field is incredibly difficult and will continue to be a mammoth challenge if and when clubs have the chance, even if this be next year.
But where does this leave women's sport, particularly those who have made great in-roads in arenas traditionally dominated by men? Arenas, like football, where the senior men have always been the focal point on which clubs' rotate?
Western Victoria Female Football League is set to become one of the only female football leagues when it resurrects amid the pandemic next. Ararat Storm and Stawell will sport under-18 teams for the predominantly Warrnambool-based competition, which will also draw in players from Horsham Demons and Hamilton Kangaroos.
League pioneer Alicia Drew told The Standard this was a chance to build on momentum in a new and exciting league. This was a chance to "show off" the female game in a football starved region and find new fans, new players and a new appreciation for female football.
Former Golden Point Dragon Beck Phillips, who coaches Ararat Storm, told Ararat Advertiser the commitment shown to get players back on the field showed community support and a desire to see the girls' game grow.
This is not to say there is not a similar level of support for female football in Ballarat. This city's booming game has been a great example for the state. The Western Victoria league was a natural spin-off from the Ballarat Football League, which has put all competitions into recess this year.
What is does show is hope.
Female sport across the country entered lockdowns on a massive high having almost beaten the world record for a crowd at a women's sporting event with more than 86,000 fans for the ICC Women's Twenty20 World Cup at the MCG.
As sport at all levels grapples with COVID-19 impacts, the ongoing questions of sponsorship makes a very real prospect many events and clubs will fold. This is a time for clubs to really sort out their top priorities to survive.
Right about now we would have been celebrating a new Wimbledon champion, 50 years after Ballarat's Judy Dalton was among nine women to make a big play for parity in tennis. They each signed $1 professional contracts in a move to forever change women's sport.
Early in the pandemic, Dalton told The Courier that while it was unlikely women's tennis would get back to her $1 protest days, it was not looking great either, especially for lowly-ranked players.
Or will it? Priorities for sport does not necessarily mean stripping back to how play used to be. Western Victoria female football is already proving this in its own way. This is a chance to forge a new way forward for women's sport.
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