The Lexton Football Netball Club is celebrating after winning $25,000, a happy ending after a devastating year.
The club were selected as participants in a special maiden race at the Ballarat Turf Club - sports clubs were allocated horses, and win or lose, each would receive some prize money.
Lexton's horse Brimondo ended up crossing the line first, netting the top $25,000 prize from the turf club's major sponsor SportsBet.
AS IT HAPPENED: Tasmanian mare hits peak to get cash for Lexton Tigers
Club president Jordan Phelan said it was a "sensational" result, after a year of hardships.
In December, bushfires struck part of the Rainbow Serpent Festival's grounds, causing organisers the January festival - this is usually the club's biggest fundraiser, with club members volunteering throughout and in turn receiving a community grant to help pay for affiliations and insurance.
Then the coronavirus hit, scuttling all live music for the foreseeable future, as well as the sports season.
A burglary at the club's sheds left thousands of damage, and even the club's defibrillator unit was stolen.
Just when things couldn't get any worse, the club's bus broke down - Lexton's lists include several boarding students from Ballarat, and the bus is an important way to get them to and from training sessions.
After replacing the bus, Mr Phelan said there were a few nervous committee meetings to work out how the club will proceed - the $25,000 is a lifeline, he said.
"It was one of those things where we were sent the link (for the competition), we put an application together and a bit of a video - we were guaranteed $2000, and we were happy with anything, so to walk away with $25,000 was sensational," he said.
"It hasn't solved all our issues, but it goes a long way towards that, it's a kickstart for next year."
The club now has a more hopeful outlook for next year, including potentially setting up a new electronic scoreboard.
READ MORE: Ray Martin fights for regional newspapers
Mr Phelan said during the pandemic, it was hard to keep in touch, and many club members missed the social aspect - but Zoom calls and weekly prize draws aren't like catching up with mates for training.
"There's a lot of people doing it tough, there's people on farms or isolated all the time, and I'm not saying it's easy, but we've done our best to work with it and get through," he said.
"We've done as much as we can to keep connected but it's not the same."
"When I joined 10 years ago there were no juniors footy-wise, so a lot of people have done a lot of work to get the juniors up and about," Mr Phelan said.
"The juniors are the concern going forward, especially with our pool - we draw from boarders, and we're not sure about what impact COVID's going to have on their schooling.
"Fingers crossed, we're through the worst of it and we can start looking ahead and getting together again."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Ararat Advertiser, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling the city's story. We appreciate your support of journalism.