12 January 2023

Griffith Sikh Games could expand to 20,000 crowd dual venue event after funding boost

| Oliver Jacques
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Paul Toole embraces manjit Lally

Deputy Premier Paul Toole and councillor Manjit Singh Lally at the Griffith Sikh Temple. Photo: Supplied.

The 25th Griffith Sikh Games organising committee plans to add the sport of hockey, branch out to two venues and accommodate a record 20,000 spectators, following confirmation of a NSW Government funding boost.

The annual Shaheedi tournament, held over the June long weekend, is a variety of sports, events and free Indian food stalls organised by the local Punjabi community that attracts more than 10,000 visitors from all over Australia.

But this number may double, after NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole was in Griffith last week to announce the event would receive $100,000 in funding under round five of the NSW Government’s Stronger Communities Fund, an application-based and assessed grants program for rural projects.

Group of politicians and Sikhs

Paul Toole, Peta Betts and Nationals MP for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh with the local Griffith Sikh community. Photo: Supplied.

Griffith councillor and former tournament organiser Manjit Singh Lally said plans were underway to expand the games, which are held at Ted Scobie Oval.

“I’m very happy. We could [run the tournament across] two venues this time, we want to introduce the sport of hockey, which will be played at the [newly upgraded] West End Stadium.

“We might be able to host crowds of up to 20,000, or more.”

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The 2022 tournament made an estimated contribution of more than $5 million to the Griffith economy.

The flagship event of the Sikh Games is kabaddi, a form of Indian wrestling that once attracted rugby league greats Nathan Hindmarsh and Bryan Fletcher to Griffith to compete on an episode of the TV program The Matty Johns Show.

Mr Toole was accompanied in Griffith by the National Party candidate for the state seat of Murray, Deniliquin mayor Peta Betts. The pair also visited Griffith Tennis Club, where they announced $155,750 in funding under the same program for new state-of-the-art LED court lighting, which will replace the 40-year-old receding lights currently on the courts.

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Veteran tennis player Robert Irvine welcomed the news.

“My eyesight is not that great anymore, so I struggle given the current lights are not so bright. When all three courts are lit up, it’s often quite dark on one side of the court.”

Mr Irvine said this often led to disputes over line calling, which would hopefully be rectified when the more efficient, brighter lights were installed.

“This upgrade will give the century old Griffith tennis club a new lease of life, delivering modern facilities which meets the needs of members of the community and into the future,” Mr Toole said.

Paul Toole serving in tennis

Deputy Premier Paul Toole had a fierce serve. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Both Mr Toole and Ms Betts took to the tennis courts, where they played an impromptu match against club committee members Matt Hockings and Robyn Meehan.

Mr Toole showed he had a fierce serve and sharp volleying skills, while Ms Betts displayed a strong forehand and moved quickly across the court despite playing in heeled women’s boots.

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