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2022-07-23 15:23:06 By : Mr. Jack liang

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Wet weather has played havoc with winter sports competitions, with clubs forced to cancel training and games because local councils have closed waterlogged ovals.

But kids are also missing out on games because of a lack of sports grounds and facilities that are ill-equipped to deal with extreme weather.

Easts Junior Beasties RUFC players Charlie Hourigan, Remy Scott, Felix Connor and Ceilim O’Kelly at training in Rose Bay. Credit: Janie Barrett

Sport NSW chairwoman Carolyn Campbell said rain and floods in NSW had been devastating for sports already dealing with the existing pressure on facilities.

“The sector knows the impact of climate change and associated weather extremes is a major threat to sports participation and the quality and maintenance of infrastructure needed to support future growth,” she said.

Campbell said sporting organisations wanted to work with governments to build sporting facilities that will withstand future weather events.

“Clearly, the outdoor field sports have been most affected by the weather, but right now, pretty much all our members are telling us the biggest hurdle they face is finding places to play,” she said. “Many sports are telling us they’re restricted from growing, often turning away potential participants, because of a lack of facilities – and that is a sad state of affairs.”

Roselea Football Club has been forced to cancel many training sessions and weekend games this year because of waterlogged sports grounds. Credit: Wolter Peeters

Roselea Football Club has not been able to use three ovals in Carlingford since March, forcing the club to train its 60 junior and adult teams on just two fields instead of five.

When the fields are open, the uneven playing surface is “detrimental to competitive play”, the club’s director of development Rohan Primrose said.

Under-12 footballers Samaira Bagga, Charlotte Keller and Casey Ahn. Credit: Wolter Peeters

“They have patchy grass and dusty hollows in the dry which become boggy in the wet,” he said. “The fields have no drainage or irrigation leading them to be the first to close and the last to reopen during the mildest wet weather.”

Primrose said the state of the sporting fields had restricted the growth and training capacity of the football club: “Many training sessions and weekend games have been cancelled in the 2022 season due to the sodden fields at our grounds and across the association.”

A Football NSW spokesman said half of Sydney’s football fields did not have drainage, leaving turf ovals in “a moderate to poor state”.

“There are some fields in Sydney that haven’t been used for the winter season due to rain in March, let alone the torrential rain that we have experienced over the last few weeks,” he said.

Soccer clubs that use turf grounds had been forced to cancel training sessions over the past few weeks because of wet weather, he said. “Fields have been closed during the rain and then consequently closed days and weeks post the rain event.”

He said kids were missing out on participation due to the poor condition of sporting facilities: “Kids have had two seasons impacted by COVID-19 and now they have had a third season in a row where competition and training has been affected.”

Some areas of Sydney also lacked enough sporting ovals to cope with the number of people who wanted to play soccer, Football NSW’s spokesman said.

There is an average of one soccer pitch in NSW for every 166 players, but Hunters Hill Council has only one pitch every 518 players.

Soccer players in the Sutherland Shire (one pitch for every 293 players), northern beaches, Blue Mountains and Lane Cove also lack sporting fields.

A 2017 report commissioned by the Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils found the north shore needed an additional 62 hectares of playing space – equivalent to 78 rectangular fields – by 2026 for sports such as soccer, football, cricket and hockey.

Other football codes have also been forced to cancel or postpone training or games.

A NSW Rugby spokesman said parts of Sydney with growing population have struggled to provide more open public space.

“As a result, there is a growing need for access to all-weather facilities such as purpose-built synthetic pitches and improved sharing of existing greenfield space,” he said.

He said NSW Rugby supported more all-weather sporting grounds as well as improved lighting to increase the number of hours facilities can be used.

Head of rugby at Easts Junior Beasties Matt Souter said the club was fortunate to share a synthetic rugby field that was unaffected by bad weather. However, two grass ovals at Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Football Club in Rose Bay have been out of action for most of the year due to wet weather.

Souter said a number of home and away games had been cancelled because of unfit playing surfaces. “When it comes down to ground closures, all the kids miss out.”

But the use of fake grass in parks and open spaces is controversial, with grassroots community groups across Sydney fighting councils planning to install artificial turf.

But Football NSW’s spokesman said a disparity was beginning to creep into community sport because clubs with access to synthetic fields have been less affected by wet weather.

“Teams that train on natural turf fields have had training cancelled multiple times throughout the season,” he said.

“They are playing against teams that haven’t missed a training session. This puts the clubs using natural turf fields at a severe disadvantage no matter what level of competition they are participating at.”

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