It has taken more than 50 years, but on September 29, the timing was perfect.
As Covid-19 sporting restrictions ease across NSW, a long awaited, state-of-the art clubhouse was officially opened at Rushforth Park soccer fields in South Grafton.
The new, $1.6 million facility, is a substantial upgrade of the old weatherboard shed which still sits on the grounds, having served the community for decades.
But as soccer, or football as it is commonly called, continues to grow in popularity, the time had come to make a change.
The new facility, which boasts two unisex change rooms, two referee rooms, competition office, accessible public amenities, storage space and two canteens along with a first aid room, was jointly funded by
Clarence Valley Council and the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund.
It follows earlier NSW grants totally more than $400,000 for lighting upgrades on the fields.
After a traditional welcome to country by local Indigenous elder Auntie Nita Taylor, who described her own family as “soccer mad”, prominent community members and representatives from local sporting clubs, united to officially open the new clubhouse.
Andrew Woodward, general manager of North Coast Football, said the new facilities will help to encourage more players and other people to get involved with football.
Describing the clubhouse as a great asset to the local area, Mr Woodward said better facilities equal happier players.
“These facilities are as good as it gets and they replace smaller facilities that are decades old,” he said.
“These new facilities at the home of football in the Clarence Valley will serve the area for many years to come.”
His words were emphasised by CVC general manager Ashley Lindsay who gestured towards the impressive new clubhouse as he spoke.
“Look what we’ve got,” he said.
“This is a great facility that wouldn’t have eventuated without the support of the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund which has been fantastic for regional NSW.
“I’m very proud to see the new clubhouse open to the community.”
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said it was a great time to open the new facility, referring to the recent relaxing of sports restrictions.
Mr Gulaptis said more than one parent can now attend community sporting activities, although social distancing measures of 1.5 metres must be adhered to.
He added he is especially pleased more parents and children will be able to enjoy the new clubhouse at future games.
“It really is a terrific facility that services a couple of grounds and makes this a really premier field,” he said.
“I’m sure this is going to be a facility that’s going to be well received by the community for many years to come.”
The clubhouse and new lights over the soccer fields attracted plenty of praise from locals during the official opening.
Lynn Rudder from Rushforth Park Town Clubs and Amy Morgan from Grafton Supa Oldies Soccer Club both agreed the new facility and lights were welcome additions.
Ms Rudder also said the four sports clubs that use Rushforth Park as their home field including Grafton United, Grafton City, Majos Football Club and South Grafton Gunners Soccer Club, will love utilising the new facilities.
“This field is our hub, our community,” she said.
“In the 52 years these fields have been open there have been thousands of people who have played on them and watched people play on them, refereed on them and become a part of the history of this place.
“The new facilities are a dream come true for so many people and the future looks very exciting.”
Ms Morgan agreed.
“We have a great facility here which a lot of local groups can access,” she said.
“It’s definitely exciting.”