The roller coaster season that was 2021 in the Central Highlands Football League is officially finished and for the second year in a row, ends with no premierships being awarded.
The CHFL held on to the dream of finishing the season for as long as it could, a testament to the league and its commitment to its players, coaches, officials and supporters.
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For league president Doug Hobson, it ends a tough season but one the league worked through well.
"It has been a challenge," he said.
"A normal year is just regimented, you have a pre-season, you start the season, you tick off your interleagues and under-12 lightning premiership and you come along to finals, everything is regimented.
"Years like this are challenging and you wouldn't want to be a novice administrator in these years.
"There isn't a rule book out there for these sorts of years so you try make the best decisions you can as you go along and that's what we did this year."
The league was met with three separate lockdowns throughout the season, costing them five rounds.
Come the end of the season, restrictions meant crowds were not permitted into games.
The ladder changed, the league adopting a percentage of games won system as more games were lost to attempt to keep the competition as even and fair as possible.
As the second-half of the season wore on, the state of the finals changed, the September 11 grand final date continually pushed back.
Eventually, the league set aside seven weeks to complete a four-week finals series, October 2 or 3 the cut-off date.
That time continued to run out, this missed weekend already ending Buninyong, Springbank, Waubra and Skipton's seasons before the league's announcement.
All four teams were finding form at the back-end of the year and were primed to cause some issues for the top four sides come finals.
Less than 24 hours before week one of finals were scheduled to commence, play was forced to cease due to Victoria's rising COVID numbers and ultimately, the season would never return.
Overall, the constant cloud of possible lockdowns and spikes in case numbers meant the season remained on a knifes' edge through it's entirety.
For top four sides Gordon, Hepburn, Rokewood-Corindhap and Dunnstown, the chance at a premiership is gone and for the latter two, their inspiring rise back up the ladder ends with no real reward.
"You just have to roll and evolve as you go to try and make things fit in," Hobson said.
"Ourselves and the clubs did our best to be able to evolve and do all that, but the environment around us hasn't allowed us to do that.
"You try and take positives out of everything, if you take everything we've done this year as being a negative you will do your head in.
"You have to take everything as it comes and try and just take positives out of it and move forward."
Looking forward to 2022, Hobson said the league will do their best to assist clubs in bouncing back from what has been a tough season in a range of different aspects.
Specifically, junior footy numbers is a priority.
"The couple of clubs at the moment that haven't got their under-18's, we're looking at that, Ballan and Buninyong," he said.
"I know they're working hard in their own area towards that.
"Also looking to have a sit down with the Ballarat Football Netball League and have a talk about junior structures and if and how we can possibly share players between leagues.
"We are all looking for a market share but we're all working in the same place, so keen to sit down with (them) and have a talk about how we can help each other in that space."
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