Maroons rise from the depths
Maroons rise from the depths
WHEN you drive into Riverside Park at Newbridge, it appears the picturesque reserve has been taken over by a miners' camp.
''Even though we played all our games away last year, we still had to have facilities there to train,'' Newbridge president Ron Trimble explains. ''So we brought in three portable classrooms that were donated to us by Bendigo Relocatable Buildings. We converted two of them into a canteen and eating area, and the other one became a change room.
''But this year, so we can host home games, we've had to bring in another 10 or 12 buildings from Coates Hire to have change rooms and showers for the opposition and umpires. So things aren't quite how they should be. It's all a bit disjointed. But we're making the most of what we've got.''
Trimble's story is a reminder that while clubs such as Nathalia and Tungamah are struggling after the March floods, others are yet to recover from the destruction caused by the torrent of water that struck central Victoria in January last year. Next Saturday, Newbridge will play its first game at its home ground since August 2010. For Trimble and his tireless army of volunteers, it will be a special occasion. But for everyone who attends the game, the extent of the work still to be done will be obvious.
Construction is under way on the $1.8 million facility that the Newbridge football, netball, cricket and tennis clubs will eventually call home. But only the earthworks have been completed so far.
''We worked and worked and worked for a long time without really seeing any reward, so it's probably only been the last three weeks that it's all started to come together,'' Trimble said.
The floodwaters that hit Newbridge 16 months ago rose as high as the roof of the club rooms. The surging Loddon River had partly demolished the buildings beside the oval, and they were soon condemned. It had also ruined the goalposts and boundary fence and washed the scoreboard 100 metres downstream.
Once the initial clean-up was done, the lights were repaired and the first lot of portable buildings trucked in, the ground was fit for training. ''The amount of tradesmen who came along and donated their time to get the club back up and going was fantastic,'' Trimble said.
However, Newbridge had to play all its matches last season 40 kilometres away at Backhaus Oval in Bendigo. The situation made it hard for the local publican to make ends meet, and it did nothing to help the Maroons compete on the field, the senior team winning only four games. It was a similarly tough battle for Trimble and his army of helpers as they tried to come up with a plan for replacing the buildings ruined by the flood.
''The process has been fairly lengthy, but I guess it's a process that you have to go through,'' Trimble said. ''The reserve is owned by the DSE [Department of Sustainability and Environment], so the process was one of consultation through the local council and state government.
''The insurance deal was also quite lengthy to get settled. It was nearly 10 months before we got settlement on that.''
At the same time, a fund-raising drive was spearheaded by Trimble, who became something of a celebrity as the Newbridge story captured the public's attention. He appeared on Channel Nine's Footy Show, was invited to the Brownlow Medal count by the AFL and later won the VCFL's volunteer of the year award.
''I'm still copping it about that,'' he jokes. ''I saw a bloke the other day and he said, 'I haven't seen you around for a while, except on telly!' It goes on and on. But the Brownlow was an amazing event and experience to be part of.''
Trimble's expertise remains in demand and he has been mentoring committee members from the Tungamah Football Netball Club, which was badly damaged in the March flood. The publicity his appearances generated last year certainly paid off, as Newbridge collected more than $1 million for its rebuilding project. ''There were a lot of people who tipped into that,'' he said. ''It wasn't just one grant. The money includes fund-raising, sponsorship, contributions from the user groups and the recreation reserve committee, insurance and funds from state and local governments.''
The new club rooms will be a vast improvement on the old, which lacked proper social facilities. A large function area and bar are highlights, while the many campers at Riverside Park have been catered for with new public toilets and showers.
Although the new building won't be ready for some months, the people who head to Newbridge next weekend will see that plenty of other work has already been done.
Loddon Shire installed a new watering system on the oval during the summer, while improved training lights, a new scoreboard and goalposts have been erected. The netballers also have two new courts.
''The whole reserve is starting to look a treat,'' Trimble said. ''Out of the whole reserve, one coach's box is the only thing that hasn't been renewed.''
Newbridge's players and supporters are confident their senior footy team, which has not made the finals since 2007, will improve greatly this season. Local lad Brad Comer, who has returned from Elmore, was among a host of recruits who lined up when the club began its campaign at Calivil yesterday.
But whether the Maroons win, lose or draw when they host Marong in six days is not the main issue for Trimble. He's just happy his club members are finally able to spend every second Saturday at home.
''Everybody in the Newbridge community is waiting for next Saturday. A lot of people have hopped in and been part of working bees and the rebuilding. It's been good for the community in that way.''