WORN OUT: While the players at the NSW Over-50s Championships at Fisher Park yesterday didn’t seem to mind, the sand-based hockey field is showing its age.
WORN OUT: While the players at the NSW Over-50s Championships at Fisher Park yesterday didn’t seem to mind, the sand-based hockey field is showing its age. Adam Hourigan

Worn field threat to hockey visits

THE poor state of Grafton’s sand-based hockey field is putting at risk the ability of the Grafton Hockey Association (GHA) to attract lucrative carnivals to the area, such as the one being played this weekend, an association spokesman said yesterday.

One hockey stalwart said fast-moving hockey balls which hit raised seams of synthetic turf regularly fly up in the air, making play more hazardous than usual.

The hockey community is waiting with bated breath on word about a submission to the Federal Government to upgrade the field to a water base at a cost of $750,000.

This is just one part of a wider $2.5 million Fisher Park upgrade submission co-ordinated and partly funded by Clarence Valley Council with the help of the cricket, tennis, AFL and hockey fraternities.

A spokeswoman for Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, said an announcement on the success or failure of the application was ‘imminent’ and the process was in its final stage.

She said there was $120 million of funding available but the Minister had received 393 applications for a total of $1.3 billion worth of projects.

The spokeswoman declined to give a precise date for the announcement, saying only that news was ‘expected shortly’.

Speaking from the sideline of one of the early rounds of the NSW Over-50s Championships yesterday, GHA special administration officer Kerry Wilsmore said Grafton had managed to attract an average of three state titles per year for the past 10 years, amounting to an estimated $750,000 annually in sports tourism revenue.

“The whole town gets booked out and eating houses certainly get a treat, it is a major force in sports tourism,” Mr Wilsmore said.

He estimated the current value of the Grafton hockey facility was $2 million, with the association managing debt of only $200,000.

“It’s important that people realise that when we borrow money to do stuff here it’s people going guarantor with their own houses that allows it to happen,” he said.

Speaking of the current state of the sand pitch, Mr Wilsmore said the 19-year-old turf was of 33 millimetres deep when it first went down but was now lucky to be 7mm.

“There’s a degree of urgency to this upgrade,” said Mr Wilsmore, who explained GHA had already been knocked back for funding for the turf several times.

Mr Wilsmore said CVC would supply $100,000 towards the turf upgrade, the GHA a further $100,000 and, if approved, the Federal Government $550,000.



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