Helping hands get Mooroopna back in the game after floods

250 volunteers gathered in Mooroopna Football and Netball Club's car park for the working bee.

After the October 2022 floods, an army of local volunteers sprang into action to help get the Mooroopna community back on its feet.

For clubs like Mooroopna Football and Netball Club (FNC), the road to recovery from last year's floods was made easier thanks to the efforts of local volunteers, and support from the Victorian Government.

The 150-year-old club was one of many that suffered extensive damage last October.

'The main oval was covered in water, except for the cricket pitch, and the second oval was under about 5 feet of water,' said Mooroopna FNC President Bill Dowling.

'Our change rooms, gym, kitchen and office were also flooded, ruining the equipment, uniforms, carpets and cabinetry inside,' he added.

Today the club is well on the way to recovery, thanks in part to a $5,000 grant from the Victorian Government's Community Sport Emergency Flood Assistance Program to replace items that had been lost, damaged or destroyed. The club is looking forward to a regular season of footy and netball this year.

'I think the promise of a normal season reminds people that life does go on after these events,' said Bill.

Supporting sports clubs to get back on their feet can play an important part in disaster recovery, showing the community that life is returning to normal.

Springing into action

A country town flooded

Sporting clubs can also play a huge role in initial response efforts, as the Mooroopna Cats proved last October.

As soon as the rain stopped and the floodwaters peaked, the club put out a call for volunteers to help kickstart recovery efforts.

‘Everybody wanted to do something to help but nobody knew exactly what,’ said Bill.

When the Saturday working bee arrived, an army of 250 volunteers had gathered in the club's car park.

Cats members were joined by people from across the local community, including the City of Greater Shepparton Mayor and councillors. By day's end, around 500 loads of water-damaged items had been cleared from local homes and businesses, electrical safety checks had taken place in some properties, and the town’s recovery was well and truly underway.

This effort – which from the outside seems nothing short of heroic - was considered just part of the job by Bill and Mooroopna FNC.

'That's what local sport clubs are about, being there for the community in times of need,' said Bill.

People power

Lots of people helping clean up after floods

It's no surprise that the Cats were able to organise such a strong response.

Like many community sport clubs, they rely heavily on the work of volunteers throughout their sporting seasons.

'Volunteers do so much to assist our club's success and longevity,' said Bill.

'From helping manage teams, to coaching, running the canteens or working behind the bar, they do everything,' he added.

‘A lot of people with a lot of skillsets just wanted to do the right thing for the community.’

A regional support system

That’s a sentiment shared by David Quinn, Executive Officer of Valley Sport - a not-for-profit organisation that supports community sport and recreation clubs in the Goulburn region, including Mooroopna.

‘It has been heartening to see the best that a natural disaster brings out in regional and rural communities, with so many sports clubs doing a lot to help local communities,’ said David.

After the floods, they were part of Regional Sport Victoria’s (RSV) Community Sport Flood Recovery Program, which helped Mooroopna FNC and 90 other Goulburn region clubs get back on their feet.

Through the program, clubs received advice from their regional sporting body on completing clean-up efforts, resuming competitions, and identifying and accessing grant opportunities.

RSV’s successful response has been nominated for the Leasexpress Sport Initiative of the Year award at the 2022 Victorian Sport Awards, and David is proud that Valley Sport was able to play a role in helping regional clubs.

‘These clubs are the heartbeat and the meeting place for so many of our communities, and efforts to get members playing again has been inspiring to watch,’ said David.

Looking ahead

While Bill Dowling is quick to stress that Mooroopna’s road to recovery only truly ends once everyone is back in their homes, he is looking forward to seeing his footballers and netballers shine this season.

He’s also taken an important lesson from the events of last October.

‘A strong sporting club, where people are generous with their time and want to help each other, can go a long way towards fostering community spirit and keeping people together through the good times and the bad.’

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