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September 13, 2010

As we wrap up the finals for winter sports and begin preparations for the summer season, it’s timely to reflect on the importance of team sports in our community and the role that governments can play in promoting greater participation.

I believe that participation in team sports as a player, umpire, club official or supporter is one of the greatest learning experiences for young people and provides enormous opportunities to build stronger regional communities.

Training and playing within a team environment to achieve results teaches people the skills of discipline, self-respect and the value of hard work. As club officials, we learn to get along with other people and negotiate outcomes for the greater good of the team.

Anyone involved in a club needs to learn very quickly that no individual is more important than the team and the only way to get results is to work within the team environment.

Importantly, the joy of success is increased when you celebrate with your team-mates and the despair of a loss can be reduced by sharing the load throughout a club.

Given the importance of team sports, governments at all levels have a key role in using taxpayers’ money wisely to invest in new facilities and supporting volunteers – rather than obstructing them with endless bureaucracy and red tape. 

Over the years, we have seen massive investments of public funds on mega-stadiums in the cities and huge events like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Targeting government funding at the elite level, often at the expense of grassroots participation, is a flawed policy which needs to change.

It’s not just the traditional sports. Here in East Gippsland, we need increased investment in facilities such as a synthetic hockey pitch to encourage greater participation and assist young players to achieve their full potential.

With the continued success of the netball competition, we need to provide better facilities for female players and officials at our football clubs. The lack of change rooms and decent playing surfaces is a major issue for many clubs which have welcomed the greater participation of netballers but haven’t had the funds to upgrade facilities.

Ironically, it’s going to take a team approach from local, State and Federal Governments to secure the funding required for grassroots sport. As a Member of The Nationals team I am keen to work with my colleagues at State level along with the East Gippsland Shire on projects that will deliver long-term benefits for our region.

The only way to reduce the Melbourne focus of State and Federal Labor Governments is for regional MPs to work as a team and demand a fairer share for country Victoria.