Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty yesterday took a swipe at the lack of facilities for women at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval.
Mr Delahunty, who toured the ageing facilities at the so-called premier sporting oval, used his visit to implore user groups to band together with the city council to get the ball rolling on a much-needed redevelopment.
“The days are gone when females get changed out of the back of a car,” he told a meeting of council officials and user group representatives.
“C’mon gentlemen and ladies, surely we are well past that.
“I want to see Warrnambool’s Reid Oval become the premier oval it was when I was here in 1974.
“It’s important we put more into facilities.
“We (the government) can do so much, council can do so much and users have to … it has to be a partnership. We can’t do it on our own.”
Mr Delahunty, a former Essendon footballer in the VFL, told the group he had strong links with Reid Oval, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s when he played and coached in interleague matches with both the Wimmera and North Central leagues against Hampden.
“I would think for a premier oval, I would say some of the district league ovals back in my area (Horsham) would be in front of this. You have some challenges in front of you.”
He said the facilities stagnated for more than 30 years.
“There are some places in Melbourne that would kill for places like this but it’s a matter of maintaining it,” he said.
“Warrnambool is one of the fastest growing regional cities in Australia and I have to say the oval hasn’t changed too much. It does need work done on the oval.”
Hampden Football Netball League president Bob Guiney, who slammed the facilities at Reid Oval on Saturday, told Mr Delahunty participants and supporters in the league needed some good news.
“We need hope to see it will happen,” Guiney said.
“What the Hampden league community needs is someone to say ‘yes it is going to happen’.
“I know the Warrnambool Football Netball Club has been working their backsides off and the general consensus is that nothing will happen for another four or five years.”
Mr Delahunty said it would only happen if the user groups and council worked together.
“I can’t fund it all, the council can’t fund it all. It’s about how we do it all together,” Mr Delahunty said.
He said the ground needed improved lighting, upgraded playing surface, pop-up sprinklers for a more efficient use of water, better toilet and changeroom facilities.
Mr Delahunty’s comments came as city officials are preparing to present plans to councillors for a first-stage upgrade relating to the eastern side of the facility.
The city’s recreation and cultural services manager Russell Lineham said the $500,000 project planned was a good start.
“This is only stage one. There are a stack of other things that need to be done to make sure it reflects the notion it is the premier ground in Warrnambool,” he said.
It is understood the stage will focus on netball facilities.
Mr Delahunty said $2 in government funding was available for every $1 up to $650,000 for works at the ground.
Yesterday’s meeting of user groups included Warrnambool and District Football Netball League president Justin Balmer, Warrnambool Football Netball Club president Mark O’Keeffe and Nestles Cricket Club president Peter Herbert.