Funding for Jack Neal Oval upgrade

MEMBER for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead, will seek State government funds to upgrade facilities at Taree's Jack Neal Oval.

Mr Bromhead and State minister for sport and recreation, Gabrielle Upton, inspected the oval this week. Mr Bromhead said the minister was amazed that the oval - with its dilapidated facilities - was Taree's premier sporting field.

He has had meetings with the ground's owners, Taree Leagues and Sports Club, along with the principal user, Taree City Rugby League Club.

Mr Bromhead said he will seek up to $1.5 million for an upgrade, but admits this could be a 'pipedream.'

There has always been an understanding that because the ground is privately owned by the leagues club it does not qualify for government funding. However, Mr Bromhead said this may not be the case.

He hopes to secure funding to bulldoze the current dressing shed area.

"We would look to build new dressing sheds and a canteen as well as seating for 500,'' he said.

"And we would also want lights.''

Mr Bromhead said the Neal Oval can be a community asset. He pointed out that over the years soccer, rugby union touch football and even cricket have been played there. However, Mr Bromhead said Taree isn't in the position to apply for major fixtures because of the lack of a suitable venue.

"The field surface, which is maintained by the leagues club, is one of the best on the coast,'' he said.

"If we can improve the facilities there's no reason why we couldn't get an NRL trial here. The Waratahs could be invited here along with an A-League club,'' he said.

Mr Bromhead added that upgrading the Neal Oval would be a boon for local sports.

"It could be the venue for local grand finals apart from Group Three Rugby League,'' he said.

"And we would be able to provide decent facilities for patrons as well as the players.''

However, he said plans for any upgrade would have to be at the 'shovel ready' stage.

Mr Bromhead said that it is unbelievable that Taree - with a population of 20,000, does not have a decent sports field that is fenced, unlike nearby centres.

Currently no night matches can be played at the Neal Oval as only one of the 16 lights is now works. The lights were installed in 1985 by the leagues club in co-operation with Taree Touch Association.

However, Mr Bromhead added he will also look over the Wingham Sporting Complex next week confirming there has been a push to get funding for an upgrade there.

Mr Bromhead said the sporting complex is owned by Greater Taree City Council.

He repeated a claim he made last September that Greater Taree City Council knocked back an offer from then-sports minister, Graham Annesley for funding for a regional sports complex.

This followed a visit by Mr Annesley, who has since left parliament.

Council later refuted this.