WET weather will no longer be a threat to Australian rules matches at Sawtell’s Richardson Park.
Coffs Harbour City Council has approved the installation of a $422,084 drainage system.
“With our climate, good drainage at local sports grounds is obviously important,” Coffs Harbour Mayor, Councillor Keith Rhoades said.
“By providing sub-surface drainage at Richardson Park we can ensure that players aren’t faced with the prospect of waiting for weeks after heavy rain for the ground to dry out enough to use.
“It will also give us the security to offer the facility as a venue for more regional events in the future.”
In the past the ground has been closed for extended periods after heavy rain.
During the exceptionally wet 2009 winter, Sawtell/Toormina was able to use its home ground for only four home matches because the surface was unplayable.
Earlier this year the council successfully applied for a $187,278 grant from the New South Wales Community Building Partnership fund towards the cost of the project.
Additional funds were also sought from the state associations of the two key sporting groups that use the ground – AFL NSW/ACT and Cricket NSW.
Cricket NSW’s board will be considering the proposal at its meeting this month, while AFL NSW/ACT has already pledged $40,000.
In a letter confirming the offer, AFL Facilities and Projects Manager Joseph La Posta, said: “The AFL is enthusiastic about developing our code within the Coffs Harbour local government area and we see this $40,000 contribution as another step in a long-standing and mutually beneficial partnership.”
The Saints will be unfurling last year’s premiership flag at Richardson Park this afternoon as the AFL North Coast season begins.
Sawtell will begin its campaign for a record-equalling fourth consecutive premiership when it faces Nambucca Valley. The Lions will feel they have a chance of claiming their first win over Sawtell, because they are facing a Saints line-up that is missing the club’s prime movers over the past couple of years in Simon Taylor, Todd Matthews, Jack Gillingham, Luke Matthews and Mark Couzens.
North Coffs has also lost key players from its defence at the beginning of the year.
Darren Funston has suffered an Achilles tendon injury, while Levi Sands is playing with Gold Coast’s reserve grade team in the NEAFL.
The Kangaroos face a Grafton team that is rumoured to have recruited well at the Sport and Leisure Park.
Coffs Swans, under new coach Rod Mapleson, are quietly confident of causing an upset at Port Macquarie’s Stuart Park when they face last year’s runner-up.
The Swans claim to have unearthed a couple of recruits that will see the club bounce back in 2011.