With Ballarat's COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, the glimmer of hope that preliminary finals could be played in the Central Highlands football and netball leagues was shunned.
The possibility of a grand final on October 2 or 3 remained, however, and with it the clashes that CHFL and CHNL fans had been waiting for.
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Ultimately, the fate of the season was decided late on Friday night and no sides received the chance to play for a premiership.
Gordon co-coach Adam Toohey and Hepburn co-coach Jason Olver admitted they assumed the league would wait until Sunday's roadmap was announced by Premier Daniel Andrews to make a decision.
Ultimately, the roadmap would have ended the leagues' seasons anyway, with regional community sport unable to return to play until the indicative date of November 5.
Olver said despite the expectation of the announcement, it still hit home for him.
"The heart sunk when I got the phone call to say we're not going to be going ahead with it but at the same time it's half expected, but still a shock when it does hit you," he said.
"We were expecting the worst, even though we were hoping to play the grand final, the league had backed us all the way.
"Once those cases spiked in Ballarat we sort of knew that it was going to be on the cards."
Toohey echoed Olver's comments.
"It was probably inevitable anyway that it was going to happen," he said.
The differing story lines of the two sides had been an interesting aspect of their respective campaigns.
Gordon seemed primed to make a serious run at its first premiership since 1988 and first grand final since 2015.
"It's real bad," Toohey said.
"Obviously for our senior crew ... we've been there abouts since I've been playing senior footy at Gordon.
"To get to the stage now where it's like 'well you were the best team, you beat everyone except for Dunnstown that would have challenged you', but it's all sort of for nothing is a pretty hollow feeling.
"As we say there's just nothing you can do about it, COVID wins again."
Hepburn was ready to challenge for its 10th premiership and claim redemption for its 2019 grand final loss to Waubra.
Its one loss came at the hands of the Eagles in round nine in the wet and mud at Gordon.
It's safe to assume a grand final match-up would have seen a closer contest, most likely in some better weather conditions.
MEANWHILE in the Central Highlands Netball League, Buninyong and Hepburn sat first and second on the ladder throughout the entire season.
Percentage was all that split the two as they dominated the competition on their way to undefeated seasons.
Buninyong, the best defensive side in the competition, Hepburn, the best offensive side.
It loomed as a classic contest but in the end, like many things in the last 18 months, it fell victim to COVID-19.
For Buninyong coach Meg Gilbert, the announcement of the cancelled season was one she felt was inevitable.
"I think I saw it coming, I think most people knew that it was on the cards so it wasn't too much of a shock," she said.
"Everyone knew that it was probably going to be very unlikely that we'd get to play, so I don't think that waiting another day (for a roadmap) would have made much of a difference personally.
"It's disappointing news but I saw it coming so not too shocked by it."
Hepburn coach Gary Cooke echoed Gilbert's comments.
"The writing was on the wall. Disappointed but at the same time relief because I was having trouble thinking how is the whole committee at the league going to put the whole thing together," he said.
"It was going to be a bit complicated ... crowds would have been tough, getting all the team back together again and getting re-focused, because we haven't trained for four weeks.
"If we had of been told it's definitely on, we would've re-grouped ... but I think at this stage we all suspected and we all knew it was coming."
Cooke continued to say that missing out on facing Buninyong and other top four sides was a disappointment on the season.
"We were absolutely spewing that we missed out in the middle of the year ... we were pumped, we were very confident in our team, I feel like it was the best team we've ever had ... but it just wasn't meant to be," he said.
"They're a great team Buninyong, really (looked) forward to playing them because they're a really highly skilled team as well.
"Just the top four ... would have been good to play all of them."
Gilbert echoed Cooke's comments.
"I think that had the finals played out normally we would've met Learmonth at the start and then hopefully had we made our way through to the grand final, chances are we would've come up against Hepburn," she said.
"The girls were really excited to have a chance to play those top two sides but it didn't work out that way, so nothing we can do about it."
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