Crammed on the court

Riddell netballers have been scrambling for training time since their only outdoor court was shut for repairs nearly a month ago.

Weeks of training disarray has amplified Riddell Football Netball Club’s campaign for more netball courts.

Riddell netballers have been scrambling for training time since their only outdoor court was shut for repairs nearly a month ago.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council issued a cease play notice following court safety concerns flagged in RDFNL’s round two senior clash.

On Friday, Riddell Football Netball Club secretary Lauren Nolan said the club still had no answers on when players could return to the court.

Since then, the council has told the Express repairs were expected to begin and be completed today, but the wait and uncertainty has caused upset.

“Due to the lack of outdoor and indoor court space within the Macedon Ranges, we could not be provided with another training venue,” Lauren said.

“The following home game was played on the indoor court at the Riddell Recreation Reserve, however, basketball had to be relocated for that day.”

The damaged court in question is for multi-purpose use located within the Riddells Creek Tennis Club’s facilities at the reserve alongside five other tennis courts.

But recently, both junior and senior netballers have had to train lengthways on tennis courts while tennis nets remain. These courts are also not equipped with appropriate line markings or goal rings.

“When teaching and training young girls, you can only imagine how difficult this has been for the clubs,” Lauren said.

The club has been seeking appropriate courts for training but has been unable to secure them in the Macedon Ranges.

Players have had to travel to Strathmore for training since mid-April.

The club has estimated the financial loss of hosting a home game at about $7000, which includes gate fees, food and beverages.

Pressure is on the popular club to keep up its quality program as the RDFNL increased senior teams to five grades in 2024.

“It means we have a minimum 50 girls training on one court (when operational) for 1.5 hours on a Thursday night,” Lauren said.

“This is a logistical nightmare and made worse when we have no court, no lines and no other area within close proximity that is lit and safe for us to use.

“The club has spent years lobbying for purpose-built netball courts in Riddells Creek (a minimum of two) but has been left waiting.

“The answer we have received is that the Riddell Recreation Reserve needs to have an updated master plan,” Lauren said.

“This process can take up to three years for just the master plan to be approved, let alone the staged works to be completed.”

In the meantime, the current membership base across both RFNC junior and senior netball is about 200.

The juniors are unable to expand their netball program to include under 9s and have to cap numbers across their teams.

“Women and girls will drop out of playing the sport they love as they don’t have access to the facilities or teams will need to be capped,” Lauren said.

“Women and girls will miss out and drop out of playing sports in the most vulnerable years of their lives.

“Why are we continually spending money on a short-term fix for the multipurpose court every six to 12 months and not putting the funding towards an outcome that benefits everyone?”

Council’s director of assets and operations, Shane Walden, said court repairs were expected this week subject to weather conditions.

“The netball court surface has suffered some wear and tear and requires patching in places,” he said.

“Netball facility requirements for Riddells Creek Recreation Reserve will be considered in the future master plan review.”

The RFNC’s junior and senior clubs have requested an urgent meeting with the council to find a long-term solution.