YOUNG girls in their sporting uniforms crowded the City of Whittlesea foyer and sat cross-legged on the council chamber floor to await council’s decision on the future of basketball and netball in the municipality.
At last week’s council meeting, councillors voted in favour of adopting a strategic plan until 2041 which pledges council’s commitment to improving netball and basketball facilities for the community.
Council recognised a shortage of 21 indoor sport courts and 20 compliant outdoor netball courts in the municipality.
It’s estimated that 51 per cent of registered netball participants and 46 per cent of registered basketball participants are leaving the municipality to play sport.
Cr Kirkham addressed the seated Laurimar Power team and apologised on behalf of council for young girls in the municipality being ‘drawn the short end of the stick.’
“The last investment council made was effectively Mill Park Basketball Stadium in the 90s – we’ve gone backwards,” Mr Kirkham said.
Cr Sam Alessi said the plan would be a ‘long time coming’ and criticised council’s decision to back out of a previous decision to contribute to Casa D’Abruzzo’s indoor sports facility proposal.
Casa D’Abruzzo have poker machines on their premises and council reversed the decision to support the project due to their pledge against gambling.
“Unfortunately there was the opportunity to have that [indoor courts] within 18 months but unfortunately that has been cut – you kids could have been playing indoors in Epping,” Cr Alessi said.
Cr Lawrie Cox also added to the apologies – but this time citing the plan would benefit young girls when it’s too late.
“If you listen to the words in the report – it’s more likely the funding will be in action closer to 2041,” he said.
Laurimar Power netball president Adam Wharton said the plan was positive, but the 2041 timeline attached to it was embrassing.
“In our ninth year, Laurimar has seen no money spent on facilities for our club. If it weren’t for Laurimar Primary School, we couldn’t have facilities to train at,” he said.
Mr Wharton said his netball club, Netball Victoria representatives and netball players from Whittlesea and Mernda attended the council meeting to apply pressure on council.
“We’re the second largest netball club in Melbourne’s northern suburbs,” he said.
“We’ve been doing case studies for the past five years, City of Whittlesea is so far behind any of the other municipalities in Victoria.”