MAGPIES’ NEW NEST: Merbein Football and Netball Club has received funding from the Victorian Government and Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) to install a second netball court. Pictured are MRCC Councillor for Sport and Recreation Mark Eckel, Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp, Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) president Ros Milverton, and Merbein Football and Netball Club president Toney Hurley. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

HOT on the heels of a best ever season from their A Grade netball team, Merbein Football and Netball Club have received funding for an upgrade.

The Magpies received funding through the Victorian Government and Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) after three years of applications to add a second netball court and 200 lux lights to their Kenny Park base.

The overall project is set to cost $341,297. Of that total, the Government has pledged $100,000, MRCC will add $126,297, and the remaining total will be supplied by the club itself, as well as donations from Merbein businesses.

Family days, where junior footballers and netballers play on the same day, have proved to be big money-spinners for Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) clubs, and Merbein president Toney Hurley feared his club would struggle to keep up financially without the additional netball court. All family days require a second netball court to accommodate all teams.

Toney, Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) president Ros Milverton, Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp and MRCC Councillor for Sport and Recreation Mark Eckel were in attendance for the Government cheque hand-over to the sporting club on Monday.

“To be viable, this club needs family days and having football and netball played on the one day, and with only one netball club we’ve struggled to do that, so this means a hell of a lot,” Toney said.

“I know Ouyen went out and did their own (upgrades), but we’re not in a financial position to be able to do that. We’ve had to wait for two or three years dealing with Council, who have been fantastic for us. There has been a bit of a rocky road every now and again, but the end result is what we had hoped we would achieve. Hopefully by mid-May it will be operational, which would mean this club would be in a sound place financially for a long time.”

The netball court is step one for the redevelopment of Kenny Park. Step two is replacing the old change rooms that were destroyed in the freak hail storm that whipped through the region on November 11 last year. Portable buildings were brought in to use as change rooms during the 2017 SFNL season.

Toney admitted the rooms were likely to be a “2019 project”.

“We’ve stamped everything at our end, and hopefully Council will stamp everything at their end soon,” he said.

“These things won’t happen overnight, the insurers have only just gotten back to Council now so it will probably be a few years away.”

After the Merbein A Grade netball team played in their first ever finals series this season, Toney said the netball program would continue to go from strength to strength.

“The netballers were very good this year, very competitive in all grades and we’ve got a great bunch of girls here and they’ll only continue to improve,” he said.

“Having this here now means they won’t have to train at Mansell Reserve any more. Like the footballers they will be training and playing at their home ground.

“They are very close now, but I think this will bring them even closer again and make the whole club even more tight-knit.

“It’s not only just helping what we’ve already got. With the lights we can hold twilight netball out here in the Summer time, perhaps creating a mixed competition, and invite the community to be part of it.

“I know personally the community have asked a lot of questions about what’s going on with the netball courts, so it is going to make a lot of people happy around here.

“We would like to thank the State Government, Mildura Rural City Council for all the work they’ve put in, and Ros Milverton from the Sunraysia Football and Netball League. Without Ros, we wouldn’t be accepting this cheque, I can assure you of that. The work she has done for us in the background is sensational.”