WANGARATTA, Ballarat, Moe and even Colac; several regional towns around Victoria have been selected to host JLT Community Series AFL Practices Matches at the start of the 2018 footy season.
And Wonthaggi could have been one of them.
Several AFL clubs have visited the local recreation reserve ahead of next season’s round of JLT matches and declared the standard of the playing surface at Wonthaggi well and truly up to the condition needed for AFL football.
But oh dear, the players’ changerooms, umpires’ rooms, spectator and hospitality facilities are among the worst in the state.
Not even up to the standards set by Gippsland League clubs.
It’s something that the Wonthaggi Power Football Netball Club is determined to change.
“Imagine having a Collingwood versus Richmond game in Wonthaggi?” said Power President Peter Liddle.
“You saw the crowd that came into the town for the West Gippsland Grand Final. That had to have a big impact on the economy.
“The work that’s started there now is welcome, don’t get me wrong. We’ll get a new kitchen, new toilets and offices out of it,” he said.
“It’s something that really had to be done to meet compliance standards for food preparation and the like.
“But it’s only stage 1 as far as we are concerned.
“We really need to get a whole lot better.
“We’re going to need an extra $800,000 to do what really has to be done.
“I mean, what are they going to do about women’s footy? We’ve got a youth girls team now but there’s definitely demand to expand further but we simply haven’t got the facilities.
“And the visitors’ rooms are poor.
“We’re even well behind the standards set by Moe, Morewell, Traralgon and even Leongatha. If you want to be playing in the main regional league, and Wonthaggi should be in that going by the size of the town, then you’ve got to be prepared to come up to the standard.
“Hosting a practice match for the AFL is achievable we believe but it’s really all about having better facilities for the local community.
The club already has stage 2 of the project drawn up and planned out, and once they have stage 1 squared away, prior to the opening of the 2018 season, they’ll be moving heaven and earth to get the funding necessary to do the work.
“The plan is to build new rooms (in the space between the existing social rooms and the gymnasium) and run a grandstand all the way around in front.
“We’d get new home changerooms, a new social club facility able to seat 200 people, we could make the existing changerooms into the visitors’ rooms and put the umpires in the old visitors’ room.
“We think it’s realistic and achievable,” Mr Liddle said.
The works presently underway at the Wonthaggi Recreation Reserve, by TS Constructions, are valued at $378,000, which is nothing to be sneezed at, and are being funded out of the of Bass Coast Council’s 2017/18 Capital Works Program.
The works will include:
• Extension of the existing social rooms to construct new toilet facilities, including accessible toilets
• Extension of the existing changing rooms to create a new equipment storage facility
• Extension of the existing kitchen/canteen facility, including fit-out
• New energy efficient lighting systems throughout the building
• Internal and external painting
• New floor coverings throughout
The facility is set to be opened on the weekend of Wonthaggi Power’s first home game, against Warragul on Saturday, April 14.