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South left in the dark

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019

South footballers Cody Schorn (left) Nick Agius and Mason Squire at 6:15pm last Thursday night. When then other clubs are just getting started for their senior training sessions, South are forced off the Alma Oval due to a lack of adequate lighting. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan South footballers Cody Schorn (left) Nick Agius and Mason Squire at 6:15pm last Thursday night. When then other clubs are just getting started for their senior training sessions, South are forced off the Alma Oval due to a lack of adequate lighting. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan

By Tyler Hannigan

They might be the most successful AFL Broken Hill club over the past decade but the South Football Club’s training conditions leave a lot to be desired.

It has been a long-running joke that the Roos have been forced to train in the dark at their Alma Oval home but some of the scarce lighting they did have is now also out of action. This has forced their League side to start training at 5pm when many players have yet to finish work.

While North and West (Jubilee Oval), and Central (Memorial) can start training at 6:30-7pm at their fully floodlit grounds, the Roos have to do whatever drills they can in the fading natural light before running around in the dark to complete their training.

Trying to fit everyone on the oval before it gets too dark proves the biggest challenge, according to South’s senior coach Drew Mashford.

“Our biggest concerns this year is that we’ve got all the Auskick teams using the oval (for training) and then on Tuesday and Thursday night we’ve got under 13s, 15s and 18s as well,” Mashford said.

“And with our senior training (League and Reserves) we have to bring that forward to at least quarter past five so that the boys can get 30 to 45 minutes of training in before the sun goes down.

“Just logistically, trying to give a fair go to the young kids to have a training session and then get some work into our senior boys, it’s just a nightmare at the moment.”

While most senior teams traditionally start their training sessions with running and fitness to warm up before getting into skill-based drills, South are forced to start with the skills while there is still some natural light before finishing off with running.

Mashord said that this leaves the players more susceptible to soft-tissue injuries, especially as the weather starts to cool down.

Adequate lighting at the ground would not only benefit the South Football Club (SFC) but local football in general. Wednesday night Under 18s, as well as Youth Girls and even Auskick, could be held at the Alma to lessen the amount of traffic that the Jubilee Oval endures through the season.

On top of football, the Alma is the main cricket ground in town with the best surface and pitch. Proper lighting would allow cricket to be played at night and away from the scorching Broken Hill summer heat. 

The idea of lights at the Alma Oval is not new but it has never made it through the initial stages of discussion at City Council level. 

AFL Broken Hill recently offered to donate the lighting from the Jubilee Oval, which will be replaced as part of the oval’s redevelopment, to the Alma but this was turned down by the Council as they deemed the cost too great for outdated technology.

There are no plans to install new lights at the ground but that may change in the future, according to Council.

“There are no immediate plans to install light towers at the Alma Oval, and the current Council is yet to receive a request from users of the facility to do so,” BHCC Chief Financial Officer Jay Nankivell said.

“Council has not ruled out the prospect of erecting lighting at the Alma Oval in the future, however there would be significant budgetary issues to consider.” 

“Council is currently in the process of reviewing its assets and their required upkeep, and it is rapidly becoming apparent that Council cannot afford to maintain the infrastructure it already has,” Nankivell added.

“Adding another major piece of infrastructure to the city’s asset register would have to be very carefully considered.

“Council will be in a better position to consider its approach to current and proposed assets and infrastructure once the long term financial plan is adopted in June this year.”

Council does provide a great deal of support to local sport including grants and maintaining their own facilities.

“Council provides parks, ovals, and other facilities for sport and recreation, supports the annual Broken Hill Sports Awards, and in February adopted a pilot program to supplement the cost of registration for participants in junior sport,” Nankivell said.

“In 2017 Council increased the Community Assistance Grants fund by $30,000, bringing the annual total of funding on offer to $128,000. Numerous sporting bodies have taken advantage of this program to fund competitions and activities, improve facilities, and purchase equipment.

“Council also made significant financial contributions to both the Jubilee Oval and YMCA renovation projects, and provides grant application assistance to sporting bodies looking to access Government funding streams.”

While they haven’t made a specific request for lights at the oval to the Council, SFC president Ashley Byrne said that the club would do that if required.

“The SFC wasn’t aware that we had to put in a request for the lighting upgrade (as) there has been numerous public comment from AFLBH, the SFC and from BHCC councilors surrounding the lighting issue at the Alma Oval,” Byrne said. 

“AFLBH put forward a proposal to BHCC regarding the lighting upgrade which the SFC supported. If the SFC has to put in a separate request then that is something that we will look at. 

“I know that the Alma Oval lighting is still something that AFLBH are keen to sort out, by having better lighting at the Alma Oval it will give the league more flexibility when scheduling matches and could help in removing a degree of foot traffic that the Jubilee Oval currently experiences.”

Byrne said that using the ground for other sports was definitely something that the SFC would support.

“Of course we would be open to sharing the oval with other sports,” Byrne said. 

“We use the oval for some Saturday games and for training sessions throughout the week. We don’t use the oval every day so there is ample opportunity for it to be used by other sporting codes.

“I think at the end of the day the three parties - AFLBH, BHCC and the SFC - need to sit down together and figure out what is needed to upgrade the lighting at the Alma Oval.”

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