Wingham Tigers have received welcome news just weeks out from the start of the Group Three Rugby League season, with $500,000 to be used to upgrade facilities at Wingham Sporting Complex.
The funding will be used to upgrade the dressing rooms, canteen facilities, lighting as well as extend the awning over the grandstand.
Deputy premier John Barilaro, Sport Minister Stuart Ayres, Myall Lakes MP Stephen Bromhead, former Newcastle Knight Kurt Gidley as well as representatives of MidCoast Council and the Tigers were on hand for the announcement.
Mr Bromhead said the announcement is a win for the Wingham community.
“What a day for Wingham, for this regional community, and for regional sport more generally,” Mr Bromhead said.
“The upgrades to this facility will benefit not just the rugby league club, but the local soccer and cricket club, which all use the field for training.”
MidCoast Council worked with the club to complete the funding application.
Council’s community spaces and services director Paul De Szell said local schools and other sporting clubs who use the ground will also benefit.
“It’s a fantastic investment for the local community,” Mr De Szell said.
Council’s acting general manager Steve Embury said council will continue to work with the NSW Government to continue improving local sports facilities.
“I think that it’s fantastic for the kids.
“Junior sport is important in regional areas so we welcome that and we also welcome continued partnership with the State Government.
“It’s an effective partnership, it helps the local people, the local economy and also the local sporting communities,” Mr Embury said.
Tigers vice president Stephen Blanch said the upgrades are necessary for the club’s growth.
“It needs to be done, it’s overdue,” Mr Blanch said.
He added that changing the current lights to LEDs will significantly reduce costs to the club.
Mr Gidley said Wingham is a breeding ground for future NRL talent and a potential venue for pre-season trial games.
“Hopefully it (the upgrade announcement) will inspire some junior players to enjoy rugby league and be a pathway to join the Newcastle Knights one day,” Mr Gidley said.
“We’d like to see any up and coming rugby league player to enjoy their footy up this way and then when the time comes, we’d like to see them come to the Newcastle Knights and become part of the program.”
It’s a fantastic investment for the local communityPaul De Szell, MidCoast Council's community spaces and services director
He added that Wingham junior and current Knights forward Mitch Barnett, who was unable to make the announcement due to training commitments, is proof there is a pathway from country rugby league to the NRL.
“He’s hugely proud of where he came from. I know he’s really proud of this announcement,” Mr Gidley said.
The Tigers presented Mr Barilaro, Mr Ayers and Mr Bromhead with commemorative jerseys.