Local Footy: Let there be light in Capricornia

This weekend sees our Brothers AFC boys play under lights for the first time since 2011, and for the first time in Rockhampton since the early part of the previous decade. I’m sure many will ask why don’t more night games get played at this part of the world, particularly when conditions during the day remain above 20 degrees through the early part of the southern winter. Inspired by this article in the local Morning Bulletin and in part with something next week that many find either a chore or a discounted lunch (sausage sizzle crawl between polling booths anyone?) perhaps I can shed some light (amongst other things) on the grounds that we play on for up to 18 weekends a year.

Currently there are now 3 venues that have lights that are capable of hosting night football. The Rockhampton Cricket Grounds, home of the Panthers club, have had their lights for as long as I have been in the region (1990 onward). They get used most Friday nights as the ground is the major venue for Under 7’s, 9’s and 11’s (all non-competitive games with no scoring details or best players recorded) but it’s only a couple of times during the football season where the lights are used for senior men’s matches. I emphasise men’s matches because by the time the second half of women’s matches start darkness often has set in and any lighting takes effect. Being a cricket ground it normally also is used for the local 20 over competition although surface repairs meant that competition was played on other wickets and venues last summer.

The last night game our club participated in was at Gladstone’s Clinton Oval, where using a dodgy old school digital camera I managed to film in very low quality the second half of the game and it’s available on YouTube should you dare to try to watch it. Their facility is shared with the Clinton soccer club, the only Gladstone based club playing in the CQ Premier League (where every second game is decided by a lop sided scoreline, such is the talent gap between the 9 squads in that competition), and from my perspective the lighting is more geared to the World Game as opposed to Australia’s Game. The pockets, particularly at the airport end, can be slightly darker than normal. The addition of a digital scoreboard at least means that we can see the score, something that was a challenge in 2011. They often host local rival BITS at least once a year under lights, and this year they were also able to play Panthers in a twilight fixture. Travelling down there for a night game for Rockhampton based clubs however is harder, with bus trips often not returning home until midnight (I’d tell you why but as everyone knows, what goes on bus trips stays on bus trips).

Recently the BITS club has been able to install their upgraded lighting system, and they were able to train under their new lights for the first time on Thursday Night. The photo on the BITS FC Facebook page looks superb, and now they would be able to host some Port Curtis based Under 7’s, 9’s and 11’s footy as well as their own night games, usually against Gladstone. This would only have been a pipe dream a couple of years ago, particularly when there were plans to expand the adjacent golf course and build a new precinct for the club. Now that the lights are there, perhaps they or the soccer club can build new change rooms which are desperately need upgrading.

Of the 3 grounds that at this stage have inadequate lighting to host night fixtures, Swan Park at Yeppoon is the logical next step. They’ve upgraded their facility so that patrons can sit under cover in front of the clubhouse (which has long been the benchmark in the region along with Gladstone’s which is shared with soccer), the scoreboard has become digitalised (handy when we played there in round 4 when I channelled my inner Mason Wood and watched the clock tick down to 3/4 time……difference being I marked it at centre half back and we were down by 4 men and a substantial margin on the scoreboard rather than ahead narrowly) and at long last they were able to get the troublesome surface to a standard that is befitting of the current benchmark of the competition. They had the surface to a similar standard in 2015, then Marcia came along and blew it halfway to nowhere. There are now even nets behind the goals to prevent balls from going into the carpark or the mangroves depending on which end you’re kicking to. All that is really left to upgrade is the lights, which at this stage is virtually half ground. They too host Friday Night junior fixtures covering the Capricorn Coast, although they occasionally either host Rocky based teams or even travel up to play at the Cricket Grounds. With the support they get I’m sure it can only enhance the experience as the premier club North of Bundaberg and South of Mackay.

This leaves the other 2 grounds in Rockhampton, whose lighting would be barely usable for training purposes. Stenlake Park (Glenmore’s home ground) has had some work done on spectator facilities with a big covered area and a couple of small stands to sit in added in recent years. Unfortunately the change rooms are shocking with very little room to move (especially in the away rooms) and their lights would only cover half the width of the ground. For a club that produced one of the recruits of the year in AFL land (Geelong’s Zac Smith, formerly from the Suns) it would be a better look for the club if they were able to get a facility to match.

Ditto for our home ground at Kele Park. I’m sure there are grand plans to expand the facility in terms of covered areas and even change room extensions, but the lighting is something that should be brought forward from a long term dream to a short term priority. Unlike Glenmore, our half ground lights cover half the length of the ground, and even though there are towers in place in the corners, being primarily a softball facility when the ground was converted in the middle of the last decade the lights are a fair distance from the playing surface (and given part of the facility still hosts occasional softball matches they need to stay back). Plus on a personal level given I umpire women’s matches when we play at home, it’s as embarrassing for me as it would have been for Craig Joubert last Saturday apologising for the surface at the Rugby test to have to play second halves of matches with a 2/3’s field (when it should be 3/4, been arguing that every week yet I always seem to lose that argument) when the first half has been full field. It’s unfair on the players to have to squeeze a 14 on 14 battle into a small area, and it’s harder for me to get clear space to actually make decent decisions.

 

So with a week to go before the election FINALLY is done and dusted, I challenge any of the 6 candidates to put up the funding for the 3 venues with inadequate lighting so that our game can actually be in a fair fight with others in the region. Forget the pipe dream of a stadium for an NRL team that will NEVER exist, that’s as wasteful as Craig Thomson actually spending money on a union credit card one something its intended for. Give the region the facilities it deserves so we can be as strong a region for the game as Cairns is. Otherwise I’ll have to add more clauses to my ABC election coverage drinking game……

 

 

Oh and as for the on field stuff, our seniors haven’t won in 9 starts. Reserves have done a little better, winning 2 games and still being in contention for a finals spot although we need to win games with our percentage in the bomb shelter.

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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