THE Stawell Pioneers have elected to suspend their junior football season for two weeks due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in western Victoria.
The Pioneers under-12 and under-14 teams had been competing in a shortened South West Victoria Soccer Association season.
But with several active cases in the Horsham council region, more than 50 in the Colac Otway shire, and one new active case in the Ararat region, the Pioneers have elected to step-back from the competition for two weeks.
Club president Jason Oosthuizen said it was a decision made by the parents of junior players.
"We put a vote out to get their feedback considering the current environment, and a lot of the parents opted to suspend the season for a few weeks," he said.
"Ultimately, it is their children and their decision.
"As a club, we also have concerns about cases coming back home to Stawell after we travel to play somewhere - in Warrnambool, Portland, or wherever.
"We don't want to be the sporting club that brings the coronavirus back to Stawell and back to our community."
The club will reassess whether it is safe to return to the competition during the two-week hiatus.
The Pioneers decision comes after the Corangamite Lions opted to pull out of the season for three weeks for similar reasons.
Mr Oosthuizen however said the soccer would not stop for the junior Pioneers.
"We're going to continue with training and possibly a few intra-club matches, just to keep everybody participating and exercising," he said.
Mr Oosthuizen admitted this most recent speed bump was "disappointing" as the Pioneers look to gain a foothold in the Stawell-region.
The club had been increasing in numbers and enthusiasm since its establishment in 2018.
"It's only our second season as a club, so all of this stuff does make it hard," he said.
"We just have to keep going forward and staying together as a community.
"It's been a tough year for everyone."
READ MORE FROM STAWELL:
Mr Oosthuizen said the junior numbers was one of the club's biggest strengths.
"We've got so many kids, and we're even still getting messages from parents saying they want to get their kids into soccer as well," he said.
"The way the numbers are continually growing, next year we could look at putting two under-12 teams in the competition."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday morning from the Stawell Times-News. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Northern Grampians shire, sign up here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.