Clubs in fight for sur­vival

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr and Re­becca Par­ish

Sports and com­mu­nity clubs are the beating heart of all WA coun­try towns, but in the Pil­bara many are bat­tling to sur­vive.

More than just a place to kick a ball or have a chat over cof­fee, they are a small town’s great­est as­set, con­nect­ing peo­ple and help­ing res­i­dents feel part of the com­mu­nity.

And if clubs are the beating heart of a town, vol­un­teers are the back­bone.

Most rely on pas­sion­ate peo­ple to take on the un­sung tasks of run­ning can­teens, mar­shalling, man­ning stalls, sit­ting on com­mit­tees and clean­ing up ... as well as or­gan­is­ing the ever-pop­u­lar fundrais­ing sausage siz­zle.

How­ever, with fluc­tu­at­ing pop­u­la­tion num­bers, and many peo­ple with fly-in, fly-out ros­ters or an­ti­so­cial shift pat­terns, many clubs say find­ing re­li­able vol­un­teers can be dif­fi­cult

Pan­na­won­ica, New­man and Onslow Sports Clubs are among those strug­gling for sup­port. Pan­na­won­ica Sport­ing Club pres­i­dent Bianca Evans said the group had no prob­lem at­tract­ing mem­bers but keep­ing them on com­mit­tees was a dif­fer­ent story.

“In­ter­est is quickly lost and they no longer choose to be a part of the club,” she said.

Onslow Sports Club pres­i­dent Bruce Stra­han said most clubs around the State faced the same chal­lenge.

“Due to the in­flux of peo­ple and other work in town peo­ple have not got the time to be on com­mit­tees,” he said.

“We do have a num­ber of ded­i­cated peo­ple who stand by the club and can be re­lied on.”

Mr Stra­han said the sav­ing grace for Onslow had been the ar­rival of work­ers for Chevron’s Wheat­stone pro­ject, but he ad­mit­ted the fu­ture would be un­cer­tain once con­struc­tion was com­plete.

Depart­ment of Sport and Recre-

ation Pil­bara re­gional man­ager Bren­don Cul­li­nan said the loss of ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers cou­pled with dif­fi­culty in find­ing cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship was caus­ing headaches for clubs.

Mr Cul­li­nan said anec­do­tal ev­i­dence from re­gional club de­vel­op­ment per­son­nel showed par­tic­i­pa­tion num­bers were steady across the re­gion, with gains in some ar­eas and losses in oth­ers.

But it’s not just sport­ing clubs fac­ing prob­lems.

Com­mu­nity groups, in­clud­ing the New­man Re­turned and Ser­vices League, are also hurt­ing.

New­man RSL pres­i­dent Ian Thomp­son said there were plenty of peo­ple in the area who may be el­i­gi­ble to sign up who weren’t join­ing.

“We’ve had a few (join) re­cently,” he said.

“But it’s not much dif­fer­ent to what it has been the last five years or so.”

For some clubs, how­ever, it is a lack of com­peti­tors that is hurt­ing them most, of­ten blamed on the ex­o­dus of res­i­dents as the min­ing boom winds down.

Tom Price Speedway limped through 2015 with barely more than a sin­gle fam­ily com­pet­ing and it is fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle to open the gates at all this year.

Dampier has pulled out of the ju­nior soc­cer com­pe­ti­tion be­cause of low regis­tra­tion num­bers, and rugby league had a rough 2015, with sev­eral clubs thin on the ground at the start of the sea­son.

Just gath­er­ing enough play­ers to field a side has been a mam­moth task, says Port Hed­land Hawks Rugby Club pres­i­dent Luke Fit­tock.

“At the end of last sea­son, our player num­bers dwin­dled and we for­feited a semi­fi­nal last year be­cause it was going to be in Kar­ratha,” he said.

Mr Fit­tock said the club had sur­vived only be­cause the other lo­cal se­nior team had folded, bump­ing up his player ros­ter.

“I went to the an­nual meet­ing at the be­gin­ning of the year ex­pect­ing there to be only two of us and 10 or 12 peo­ple showed up and you go, ‘oh well, there is a bit of in­ter­est’,” he said. Sixty-two clubs were reg­is­tered with the Town of Port Hed­land in 2013, but by 2015 only 47 clubs re­mained.

Lo­cal and State gov­ern­ment of­fi­cers say they are working hard to keep clubs alive.

The DSR runs the Pil­bara Re­gional Club De­vel­op­ment Net­work, pro­vid­ing sup­port and work­shops for club per­son­nel.

Mr Cul­li­nan said the KidS­port pro­gram’s ex­pan­sion to cover the East Pil­bara was wel­come, con­nect­ing chil­dren aged five to 18 with sports and recre­ation clubs.

When asked to list some pos­i­tives, there was a com­mon theme.

Hed­land Rovers Foot­ball Club pres­i­dent Mal Olive said the down­turn had brought lo­cal groups closer.

“Last year just try­ing to get guys to games was a very dif­fi­cult due to the un­cer­tainty . . . the guys didn’t want to jeop­ar­dise their jobs,” he said.

“Things are more sta­ble now, con­struc­tion is gone . . . now it’s a main­te­nance and pro­duc­tion town. It’s pos­i­tive be­cause ev­ery­one knows what is ahead of them.”

Clubs WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Karen Giles said WA clubs were a re­silient bunch.

“It’s of­ten in tough sit­u­a­tions like this when the vol­un­teers, staff and mem­bers band to­gether to sup­port each other,” she said.

Pic­ture: Re­becca Par­ish

Hed­land Rovers Foot­ball Club pres­i­dent Mal Olive, with team mem­bers, says al­though many clubs had ex­pe­ri­enced a down­turn, it had ac­tu­ally brought the town and the club closer to­gether.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.