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Fresh Fields Needed for Eastern Suburbs Sport

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on September 5, 2019 in Other

What a clusterf*ck, by Stuart Ayres.

It doesn’t seem so long ago I was writing about the transition from autumn to winter, so it’s hard to believe we’re already into the final chilly month of the year, which also means the business end of the winter sporting competitions.
With our high population in a relatively small piece of real estate, Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs epitomises a city obsessed with playing and watching sport. You can’t drive around the block without encountering one of our major sports fields teeming with kids and their families.
We have thriving junior competitions in soccer, the rugby codes, Australian Rules and netball. In the summer months it’s all about cricket. People play touch football all year round, with the nation’s biggest touch football competition right here in the Eastern Suburbs.
What irks me though, as a local sports fan, is the lack of high quality facilities at some of our treasured and most frequently used sporting fields. I’ve always believed a lack of clean, modern and accessible sporting facilities stymies participation in sport, particularly when it comes to women’s sport.
While we certainly have a gem of a facility at Waverley Oval with the state of the art Margaret Whitlam Centre, this is an exception rather than the rule. It’s fantastic that our junior rugby league players and cricketers have access to up-to-date facilities at the oval – if only some of our other major sports grounds could be upgraded to equivalent standards.
Take a look around the area. Queens Park is home to enormous soccer and touch football competitions but the facilities have not been upgraded since the ‘90s. Clovelly’s Burrows Park is a vital ground for the Clovelly Rugby Club and world famous Cloey Crocodiles (the home club of Victor ‘The Inflictor’ Radley), yet this is another field badly in need of some love.
Coogee Oval, home to Randwick’s Galloping Greens and the Randwick Petersham Cricket Club, has cemented its place in sporting folklore but the grandstand was built in 1924 and has barely changed since, and some of our other heavily used sports fields have little more than ancient brick amenities blocks.
While I’m not advocating for a massive new grandstand at every ground, I certainly believe it’s time for some genuine, significant investment in upgrading our local sporting facilities.
In recent times, investment in larger scale projects has come at the expense of local sporting infrastructure. While a high quality yet simple upgrade of the Sydney Football Stadium, rather than a lavish rebuild, could have shaved hundreds of millions off this doomed project, a fraction of the money saved could have been directed to where it’s really needed – community sport, which is where the overwhelming majority of sport is played.
Local sporting infrastructure is about fostering a sense of community and forging links between people and groups, out there in the fresh air of the real world, rather than in cyberspace where so many spend their time these days.
I like to think of local community sport not so much as a competitive endeavour with two teams out there in the middle of the pitch trying to score the most points, but as a binding endeavour, bringing people together, the real reward being part of a team with all the ensuing social benefits. Team drinks back at the pub or club after the game, presentation nights and charity functions, the tears of joy in a proud parent’s eyes as their little one intercepts deep in their territory and sprints the length of the field to score a sensational meat pie… anyway, you get the gist!
Local sport makes people happier, healthier and more connected. Every dollar spent on local sport, as long as it’s well planned and managed, is a dollar justifiably spent. That’s why I will always be an advocate for the prioritisation of investment in local sport right here in our local area.
To paraphrase a well known proverb, “Community sport is great, it’s one of the few things in life you don’t need to be good at to enjoy.”