Last weekend my Vets footy team headed out to Marysville for an expected victory. We were undefeated, and they had been cobbling together a team week to week for some very heavy defeats. It was a weird feeling for me, having experienced the other side of that scenario for the previous season. My side had really battled for numbers, and had not been able to get a team together for this season.
After my switch of club it had taken me a bit of adjusting to not only being competitive each week, but winning. I’m happily used to it now, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel playing against a side that, like me four games ago, was facing that awful prospect of getting thoroughly belted. It’s a belittling thing not even being competitive, knowing each game is for personal pride only, to try to win as many individual contests as possible. Having no prospect of winning is not fun; having no prospect of losing is not even in the same category, but it is still a strange thing to have hanging over a sporting event.
When I arrived at the ground I was met by a seriously impressive construction. The club rooms are state of the art, with the exception of a lack of a scoreboard. An odd oversight, no doubt, but you take the good with the bad, and there was much more good than bad. The ground was a bit undulating, but it was broad and long, and should provide a fine setting for footy.
I was the first of our team to arrive, with the bus lagging back on the Black Spur. I entered alone and couldn’t believe how well appointed this country town’s sports rooms were. If I were a local, I would play there just to use the facilities. So the Vets team couldn’t raise a full side, as unusual as that seemed considering the rooms available to them, at least the juniors and seniors would have every reason to play. A strong country sporting club is always good for the town, right?
Still, they did have the trump card that shadowed over the spectacle all afternoon – their clubrooms.
I’d sat out the last quarter to make sure my dodgy hammy got through the game, so was pretty fresh when we walked back in to sing the song. The song is weird and long and rambling and I’m never going to remember it, but the other guys seemed to know it and, when that was done, it was time for the peak moment of the Marysville experience (my one goal aside), the shower!
I’ve been in many footy club showers, and they range from disgusting to sub-par. I’d never experienced a footy club shower that was actually nice - until Marysville. You would play at Marysville for the shower alone. In fact, if I lived in Marysville, I’d try to use it in place of my shower at home. It was lovely.
Lucky buggers, I thought. All those sports teams that lined up on the weekend got to use these facilities. When I got back to the changeroom and was getting changed, OWAAT’s own Mark “Franka” Franklin told me something that I’m still trying to compute: There are only two teams that play sport at the Marysville sports ground. Two.
There is a cricket team, and the Vets team of 14 that we played that day. That’s 25 blokes. I started looking around, just not quite sure what was going on. As I was walking out of the rooms, I looked to my right and saw a door with a window. It was obviously dark on the other side as I couldn’t see through, but I pressed my forehead to the glass and shielded my eyes, and sure enough, a basketball court. What the hell?!?!
Upstairs also had a gym, for which memberships were sold. At the front of the building was a doctor’s surgery. The kicker in it all was that, despite the extreme expense, the footy team had to train in the basketball court because the ground had no lights. Has it dawned on you yet that, since the club rooms are home to only a cricket team and seven ninths of a Vets footy team, the town has neither a basketball nor a netball team?
I’m pretty sure it was around the time I saw the basketball court that it finally dawned on me that these facilities were replacements of the ones that burnt down in 2009. Bushfires had ravaged the region, and the clubrooms were not spared. Sure enough, money was raised, and the club/town was able to rebuild. But it wasn’t just a rebuild, because there is no way that what I was seeing was there before. I know this, because the Vice President of the club told me so. They had two changerooms, a canteen, a committee room, and a bar.
I was wondering how much money had been spent on so few? What would a conservative estimate be? $8M? Upper end maybe $10M? What would I know about that, but let’s say the lower figure is accurate; that’s $320,000 per man. At the upper figure it is $400,000 per man. Astronomical numbers considering that a year and a half ago there was an article written by ABC news stating that the locals don’t even want it, and the ground itself still doesn’t have lights!
If you care to read the article you can find it here, but otherwise I’ll impart the message for you now: the population of the town has dropped from 700 to 250, and $33M of infrastructure that was built following Black Saturday now has to maintained at a cost of $1.72M per annum, making rates leap from around $300 to around $1200. All for infrastructure that is hardly used; at the time of the article the basketball court hadn’t been used for a basketball game in three years. Make that four and a half now.
I’m not sure what the point of all this is other than to share how impressive those clubrooms are, and to make the fairly redundant observation that governments are criminally stupid. Pretty much, I saw it and had to follow up, it was that noteworthy.
And of course, there was also a game of footy that took place. We had come and stormed their castle. A castle so impressive I had immediately assumed it fortified by hundreds of troops and their gnashing dogs. Nope, no such army existed. Would you believe, 25 blokes? For the Maxwell Smart fans amongst us, would you believe, a boy scout with rabies? Unbelievable.
Follow Greg Gibson on Twitter: @GregGibbo28
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