11 May 2024

Game-changer: Riverina sport club scores $1.7m funding to level the playing field for girls

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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girls' football team celebrating

Ganmain Grong Grong Matong Lions girls’ football team celebrates its premiership win. Photo: Ganmain Grong Grong Matong Lions FN Club.

A Riverina women’s and girls’ sports club is set to benefit from more than $1.7 million in funding.

Ganmain Grong Grong Matong Lions FN Club received $1,736,018 as part of the State Government’s Level the Playing Field Program, which aims to foster women’s and girls’ sports involvement.

Lions president Jason Hamblin said the money was the start of a new era for female sport in the area.

“It’s unbelievable … with the money, we can now build infrastructure that can be life-changing for girls’ sport for our little community,” Mr Hamblin said.

“This funding announcement is truly exciting news. It represents a once-in-a-generation investment in our communities.

“We are very blessed we’ve been allowed the full amount we went for.”

Mr Hamblin said the girls were ecstatic to receive the funding news.

“When I put it on the girls’ group chat, there were love hearts and they said they felt very special because of their hard work and pioneering girls’ football in our area; they’re going to be rewarded with amazing facilities for them to feel safe and included.”

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Mr Hamblin said the funding would go towards building new change rooms and amenities and installing new lighting on the main grounds.

“We had a vision of what we wanted to do; we just needed the money,” he said.

“When the Level the Playing Field Program grants came up, we decided to throw everything out there and try and get the amenities.”

Mr Hamblin said the club had had girls’ football for the past four years and had faced several issues.

“It’s an afternoon comp, and there were a few girls that couldn’t get off work on time and didn’t allow them to play a few games, and we really needed better lighting,” he said.

“The lighting on the main ground can accommodate the girls who knock off work late. Now we can start an hour late to get everyone to play.

“We’ve been playing with the idea of having our junior girls play footy – we have done a few games there – before the senior girls play. It’s another string to the bow. We really want to grow girls’ football in our area.”

group of people at netball courts

State Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke (third from left) with members of the Ganmain Grong Grong Matong Lions Senior and Junior Football Netball Club (from left) Kendra Kerrisk, Jason Hamblin, Bron Hatty, Warwick Smith, Guy Purcell and Alexander Patterson. Photo: Supplied.

The president said that while the existing change rooms were adequate, they were built 25 years ago, not knowing that girls would play football competitively in the future.

“The boys will use those rooms, but we need more state-of-the-art amenities with a cubicle area so the girls can feel safe,” Mr Hamblin said.

The president of five years said the club was proactive with its goals and vision of what it wanted to achieve.

“When grants come up, we already have what we want now, in five years and what order we want our things done,” he said.

“Last year, we got netball and tennis courts put in there through fundraising and grants from [State Member for Cootamundra] Steph Cooke.”

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Ms Cooke said the investment would help break down the barriers to female involvement in local sports by enhancing facilities to create a more welcoming environment.

“More and more women across our Cootamundra electorate are playing a wide range of sport, and it’s vital they have the facilities they need to get involved,” she said.

“I have long supported this project and have made clear to the Minister the value of these upgrades, so I’m thrilled that both he and the Minister for Women recognise the importance of these kinds of investments in our region.

“As we’ve seen, many of our world-class female athletes come from regional communities – including right here in our own backyard – and building these new facilities will ensure we have the right settings to nurture girls’ talent and create a pathway to success.

“Of course, you don’t need to have your sights set on the world stage to harness the benefits of playing sport; participating in your chosen sport has social, not to mention health, benefits, and these improvements will ensure more and more local women and girls can enjoy those benefits for years to come.”

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