champs_1615Zali Anderson drives past her Echuca opponent at the Victorian Country Junior Championships.

By Mitch Guy

THE need for a new indoor sports stadium in Wonthaggi continues to cause headaches for the Wonthaggi Basketball Association (WBA).
WBA president Ross Bramley is frustrated by the lack of adequate facilities for not only basketball, but also other sports including netball, badminton, volleyball and indoor soccer.
He has been involved with local basketball on and off for 17 years and has seen no improvements in his time.
“We’re just as stagnant as we always have been and we’ve had some brilliant basketballers – basketballers who have gone on to play state basketball or have played in really strong representative sides,” he said.
“I guess all that progression is about kids needing to access other avenues for their basketball rather than being able to get that from the association.”
The basketball association uses courts at the Wonthaggi YMCA, Wonthaggi Secondary School Dudley Campus, Wonthaggi North Primary School, Webbs Shed and Wonthaggi Primary School for its domestic competitions.
These courts are not the legal size and suitability required for basketball.

With each venue containing only one court, the WBA is forced to schedule matches across five nights.
Mr Bramley said the absence of an appropriate indoor stadium is stopping the progression of basketball in Wonthaggi.
“The YMCA is close to the best court but it’s got illegal run off requirements and it’s hard to get on with fitness classes running,” he said.
“Currently there are at least 20 of our kids playing only at Korumburra, and at least a dozen are playing representative basketball for Korumburra because of more opportunities to play games over there.”
Despite being left with inadequate facilities for training sessions, the Wonthaggi Coasters Under 14 Girls rose against adversity and won the Victorian Country Championships at Shepparton recently.
Team member Grace McRae said she was envious of the facilities other associations enjoyed, and embarrassed about her own.
“(Other representative teams) say they can train three times a week, but we can only train once a week because we don’t have the facilities,” she said.
“They’ve got actual basketball stadiums and we have to use schools that aren’t even the right size basketball courts.
“Every basketball team there can hold their own tournament but we can’t because we don’t have the right sized courts. Korumburra has, Poowong have one, even Welshpool have one and that’s pretty embarrassing because we’re a much bigger town than them and we don’t even have one.”
Mr Bramley paid tribute to the team’s achievements.
“The fact that these girls can win a state country title and be training in some of the worst conditions that anybody would ever see is simply outstanding,” he said.
“We’ve been going to tiny, little towns in some of the tournaments we’ve played in – Kyabram has a wonderful, big two-court recreation centre so how can a town of 10,000 not have anything like that? It’s sad that we can’t meet the needs when we have such a large area and town that we’re catering for.”
The Wonthaggi Leisure Centre upgrade plans have been mooted as a possible location for a new stadium.
The council’s general manager of Healthy Communities, David Elder said original plans for the centre focused on aquatics.
“Community feedback demonstrated strong support for improved/additional basketball and indoor facilities,” he said.
“We listened to this community feedback and the next iteration of plans includes three basketball courts (one existing and two additional). Draft plans are yet to be adopted; however, there is a demonstrated and recognised need for an improved leisure facility in Wonthaggi. The current facility is substandard.
“The draft Long Term Financial Plans makes allowances for future intergenerational facilities like the Wonthaggi Leisure Centre in future years but not 2015/16.
“Whilst we would love to forge ahead and build an improved facility tomorrow, the reality is right now we can’t afford it.”
Although a new stadium may be a long way off, Mr Elder said the council is about to undertake the Bass Coast Sport and Active Recreation Needs Assessment.
“This project will look at the current participation data, facilities and population projection to develop specific priorities for the development of sport and recreation across the shire,” he said.
“We have appointed Inside Edge Sport and Leisure Planning to undertake the project and consultation will commence in May.”
In his role as principal of Wonthaggi Secondary College’s Dudley Campus, Mr Bramley understands the constraints that different groups have with money and the importance of doing what’s right for all groups.
But he said the time for action is now.
“Things aren’t going to be any easier; steel is always getting more expensive, a facility’s requirements are always going to get more expensive,” he said.
“The longer we continue to put off doing something about sport and recreation in this town; it’s only going to be become worse.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t have anything in place 10, 15, 20 years ago for where we are now as a population. If we keep being reactionary, you’re always going to be behind.
“I personally believe if you’re going to do something, you do it right the first time – don’t waste money doing little patch up jobs or band aid solutions and then all of a sudden 10 years down the track you say to yourself ‘why didn’t we do this properly the first time?’”