Last ditch pitch
Friday, 28th October, 2011
By John Casey
Despite a proud local heritage, softball is in danger of joining baseball as an extinct sport in Broken Hill.
The 2011 BH Softball Association season will start tonight with just two teams and unless new players can be found, this year could well be the sport’s swansong.
“It’s a terribly disappointing situation but we have almost exhausted every avenue to try and breathe new life into softball in Broken Hill,” BHSA President Leonie Channing said.
“It’s a sad thing to say, but this could well be our last season.
“Just three years ago we had eight teams and ran an A and B Grade competition but there just isn’t the interest there anymore,” Mrs Channing continued.
Tigers and Penguins will commence the new season at Jubilee Oval at 7.30 this evening and the association is still hopeful that Excelsior will field a team in the next few weeks.
“We even had interest from a group based in Menindee who contacted us about joining the competition, but that has failed to materialise,” Mrs Channing said.
“We want to get the message out there that this is as much a social and fitness opportunity rather than a win at all costs competition.
“We have six players aged over 50 in our team and we all enjoy getting together for a game and then sharing a social gathering.
“But we can’t go on forever, so unless we get some of the younger ones interested the future doesn’t look good,” Mrs Channing added.
The demise of the competition is a sad reflection on modern society according to reigning BHSA A Grade Best and fairest winner Lisa Tonkin-Werch.
While she is still hopeful that her side Excelsior will be able to field a team in the near future, she has concerns for softball’s bigger picture.
“When I was a kid growing up in Broken Hill I played about five different sports over the weekend,” Ms Tonkin-Werch recalled.
“I started at primary school in a team called the Railwaytown Rebels but kids these days don’t seem to be that interested in sports like we were.
“I just hope we can encourage some youngsters to come and join us because softball is an easy sport to play and can be a lot of fun,” Ms Tonkin-Werch continued.
The BHSA has tried a number of ways to generate interest in softball - changing its playing schedule, reducing games to 75-minute time-frames and even inviting the now defunct BH baseball players to get involved.
“We don’t know what we can do,” 59-year-old softball veteran Cheryl Meuret sighed.
“We start at 7.30 on Friday nights and play 75-minute games so there is still plenty of time to go out afterwards.
“To say we need some new blood would be an understatement.”
The sporting malaise in BH is obviously not restricted to just softball, with this week’s doubles championships in tennis also poorly attended.
“I think we had just seven pairs taking part in A and B Grade and there was just one young girl involved,” Mrs Channing said.
“We keep hearing that Broken Hill has an obesity problem and it’s up to the parents to make sure their kids get involved in sport.
“We don’t even ask people to come to training - we just want to increase the numbers so these competitions continue.”
Ms Tonkin-Werch admitted she was concerned that if softball were to stop for just one season it would never recover.
“Once it is gone you will never get it back,” she said.
“The time for people to get involved has come and we’re not saying you have to commit to every weekend - but if some parents come out and bring their kids and see the positives it provides I’m sure we can resurrect local sport.”
A state player for South Australia in Under-15s and a NSW representative at Primary School level, Ms Tonkin-Werch said sport had opened many doors for her as a youngster.
“Softball has given me so many opportunities, including the chance to travel overseas when I was a teenager,” she recalled.
“There were six girls from Broken Hill and we were teamed with six other players at Under-15 level and we spent six weeks travelling throughout the United States playing games.”