FOR 20 years, John Hackett has been providing Bass Coast and South Gippsland with the only opportunity to play field hockey.
Tucked away on his property in Wonthaggi is a custom-built tennis court, designed to also be a miniature hockey pitch (12 tennis courts can fit onto one hockey pitch).
Every Wednesday night a host of hockey lovers descend on Mr Hackett’s property on the outskirts of Wonthaggi to play a five-a-side game.
Other nights of the week, most of Mr Hackett’s players travel over an hour away to play with the closest hockey clubs; Drouin, Churchill, Frankston, Berwick or Dandenong, none of which are in South Gippsland or Bass Coast.
But soon the team will be without space to play hockey because Mr Hackett is moving house.
“We’d like to keep this going but we don’t know how,” he said.
“A hockey facility in Wonthaggi would serve the needs of existing hockey players who live in the area and attract new players to the sport.
“Hockey is an excellent sport with a broad range of skills required. It involves fitness, strategy and teamwork.
“And it’s so much fun!”
But Bass Coast and South Gippsland Shire councils say they have no plans to provide a synthetic field in either municipality.
“While it is acknowledged there are talented and passionate hockey players living in South Gippsland, the cost to develop a synthetic facility is a major challenge,” South Gippsland Council’s recreation coordinator Ian Murphy said.
“A venue suitable for competition hockey would require very significant investment ($1 million-plus) and it is difficult to demonstrate that potential participation would justify the investment required.”
But it’s a catch-22, Mr Hackett said.
“If we don’t have facilities, we can’t interest people to play because there is nowhere to start playing to grow that interest.”
Bass Coast resilient community’s general manager Jodi Kennedy said hockey facilities were not identified as a priority in the ‘Our Active Bass Coast Plan 2018-2028’.
The only hope seems to lie with Newhaven College, Phillip Island.
Although still 40 minutes from Wonthaggi and an hour from Korumburra, the private school is building a hockey ground on the Phillip Island campus.
It’s due to be completed by the end of 2020 and its unknown whether external groups may be able to use the facilities.
For now, Mr Hackett and his team of 10 will savour the opportunity while it lasts before potentially having to hang up the sticks in the district, for good.
Where are the local hockey facilities?