WORLD sport has overcome its share of obstacles across the past two years.
South-west Victoria was not immune as the coronavirus pandemic forced cancellations and delays.
Now, as we look towards 2022 with high vaccination rates across Australia, there is reason to be optimistic.
The Standard has identified athletes, competitions and events to keep an eye on in 2022.
GOLDEN lettering on honourboards ensure history is remembered.
Sadly, 2020 and 2021, will reflect a time when football and netball across the south-west was forced to the sidelines.
DNP (did not play) and DNF (did not finish) replaced club names after the coronavirus pandemic denied teams a chance at the holy grail.
Clubs, players, volunteers and supporters are hoping 2022 will usher in a return to normality, an 18-round season culminating in a four-week final series and the return of the premiership dais.
The Hampden league football frontrunners are six-time reigning premier Koroit and 2019 runner-up North Warrnambool Eagles.
In the netball, Cobden - the standout team of the past three years - will strive to win its first open title.
Warrnambool and District league club Nirranda appears the benchmark in both football and netball in that competition.
WARRNAMBOOL Mermaids are hoping two recruits will help bolster their exciting-but-young Big V roster.
Fuller is part of Geelong's AFLW program and will play football in January and February before returning to her basketball roots for the Big V season in March.
JAMARRA Ugle-Hagan landed at the Western Bulldogs as a hyped number one recruit who could have an instant impact.
But the Framlingham-raised teenager had a tough initiation into the AFL, forced to wait until late in the Dogs' campaign to make his debut.
The key forward featured in five matches, kicking seven goals, and was overlooked for the final series.
But it could be a blessing in disguise for the former East Warrnambool and South Warrnambool talent who will enter season 2022 eager to cement his spot.
Ugle-Hagan will have a second pre-season to add bulk to his lean frame and, with Josh Bruce recovering from knee surgery, opportunties will beckon.
The Dogs have handed Ugle-Hagan the number two guernsey, previously worn by club great Bob Murphy, in a show of faith.
BRODY Couch's rise from Warrnambool and District Cricket Association to Sheffield Shield and Big Bash League was one of the feel-good stories of 2021.
He made his Victorian debut against New South Wales at the SCG and is now taking wickets for Melbourne Stars in the national twenty20 competition.
Couch is the third south-west player to play in the Big Bash, joining fellow Nirranda exports Tim Ludeman and Jake Haberfield.
Interest in his progress is high and his development in all forms will be monitored closely as both competitions ramp up in the new year.
CAN a country lad from Cobden become the AFL's next All-Australian ruckman?
Sean Darcy's breakout season for Fremantle, which culminated in winning its best and fairest, saw him enter discussions as the game's best.
He will jostle with Melbourne premiership captain Max Gawn, West Coast's Nic Naitanui and Collingwood's Brodie Grundy for the honour in 2022.
Darcy, who became a threat up forward, made the initial All-Australian squad last season after averaging 28 hitouts and 16.9 disposals a game.
He was overlooked in favour of Gawn and Naitanui for the final team but, if he replicates his form, he could be fitted for an All-Australian blazer in 12 months' time.
NATHAN Sobey is coming off a career-best NBL season. Can he replicate it or go one better?
The Brisbane Bullets guard, who was part of Australia's bronze medal team at the Olympics, averaged 21 points a game on his way to All-Star first-team selection.
Sobey, from Warrnambool, has started the 2021-22 season averaging 16 points a game.
He is the Bullets' on-court leader and their playoff hopes rest on his shoulders.
EASED border restrictions could mean a sprinkling of American racers in January's Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic.
Experienced driver Carson Macedo - a regular on Australian shores - has already arrived and will race for Complete Parts and Equipment Solutions this summer.
A US contingent adds an extra layer of interest with fans. Americans to win Australia's most esteemed race include Donny Schatz, Shane Stewart, Tim Kaeding and Kyle Hirst.
The classic, which returns after a one-year hiatus, will crown its 49th winner on Sunday, January 23 after three nights of action.
PERENNIAL finalist Russells Creek entered the 2021-22 Warrnambool and District Cricket Association as red-hot favourite.
But it has competition entering the Christmas break from Merrivale, Wesley Yambuk and North Warrnambool Eels. Merrivale is undefeated atop the ladder and Wesley Yambuk boasts a 4-1 record.
Both have been surprise packets. The Tigers are well-coached, have a clear game plan and are strong in the field. Put simply, they do the fundamentals well.
The fixture, usually split into three formats, only features one-day matches due to concerns about potential COVID-19 implications. Does it suit the Tigers to a tee?
Women's football across the region was finding its feet before COVID-19 intervened.
But a clean run at pre-season will give it a chance to regain momentum and entice new players to the sport.
Western Victoria Female Football League will supply five players to NAB League outfit GWV Rebels in 2022.
Could another south-west export join St Kilda's Renee Saulitis in the AFLW competition?
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