SOUTH-WEST community sports are hopeful of an impending return as they plot a route out of Victoria's fourth COVID-19 lockdown.
Acting premier James Merlino on Wednesday said outdoor junior sport could potentially return from Friday as a part of a raft of changes to virus restrictions in the state's regions.
Senior outdoor sports - including football, netball, soccer and hockey - are likely to be able to resume training but matches are on ice for at least another week.
Indoor sports, such as basketball, are still off-limits as Victoria's public health team scrambles to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne's north.
Cases, exposure sights and public health advice in the next 24 hours will determine if the changes can proceed.
AFL Western District regional manager Matt Ross said there was no prohibition on south-west juniors returning to play if state government guidelines allowed.
The Hampden and Warrnambool and District leagues were still devising plans around a return to play as The Standard went to print on Wednesday.
Hampden league media liaison officer Troy Logan said the league was encouraged by the potential easing of restrictions in regional Victoria but reiterated nothing was set in stone.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly podcast The Main Break:
"We'll await confirmation from AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria before working out what that means for us," he said.
"We'll want to make sure everything is OK before we speak to our stakeholders about what it means for us."
Logan said the league would look to facilitate a return for junior football and netball this coming weekend if clubs and the state bodies ticked off the notion.
The Warrnambool and District league board, meanwhile, will discuss its options on Wednesday and also await guidance from AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria.
Time out still for basketball
Warrnambool Basketball junior coordinator Mike McGorm said he was "fairly confident" its members will be back on court next week.
Indoor sport and physical recreation will remain closed under the proposed easing of restrictions for regional Victoria, which could come into effect on Friday.
Under the new restrictions for regional Victoria indoor sport and recreation centres, like the Arc, will remain closed until next Thursday at 11.59pm when restrictions are expected to be eased again.
"I'm fairly confident we will be back next well with certainly hopeful to be back on the court," McGorm said.
"There will be some restrictions like masks and number caps but the way I read it is that gyms can open then and we were on the same timeline as them last time."
McGorm said the association was waiting for more information from Basketball Victoria but it was keeping its members up to date via email.
Soccer association prepares to return
South West Victoria Football Association secretary Ollie Hodson says the association will start making plans for its junior competitions to resume this weekend.
Football Victoria confirmed outdoor junior matches and training could resume for regional Victorian players if the new restrictions are given the green light on Thursday.
Adult training can also resume from Friday if restrictions are eased for the region.
Hodson said the SWVFA would confirm with its clubs if they're ready to resume the season, which is approaching round six, this weekend.
Last weekend's round will be rescheduled at a later date.
Hodson said no decision had been made on the Victorian Country Championships, which was to be held in Geelong over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.
Warrnambool Rangers president Cam Pyke said it was great to receive positive news about restrictions and to prepare to get players back on the pitch.
"I know that all players, both junior and senior, were looking forward to positive news and it's good it came through today," he said.
"We're now waiting for more information from Football Victoria and our respective leagues in terms of re-fixtureing and final confirmation on this weekend's games."
Pyke, who is also the senior men's coach, said the priority for the Rangers was to get junior players back training and playing before the seniors.
The Rangers under 12s, 14 and 16s could return to training as early as Friday.
He said the senior men would return to their normal training on Tuesday and Thursday nights next week if the easing of restrictions are approved in the coming days.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.