Lighting upgrades for the 125-year-old Nilma Darnum Football Netball Club will strengthen local sport and community ties
125 years is a long time.
If you found a time machine and jumped back to the year 1898, you'd hardly recognise the world around you.
You wouldn't see cars on the road, planes in the sky, and you'd have to wait 3 years for Australia to become a single nation.
What you could find though, would be the early beginnings of the Nilma Darnum Football Netball Club (FNC) in Gippsland.
Formed by the amalgamation of smaller local clubs, Nilma Darnum FNC – known locally as the Bombers - has stood the test of time to become a cornerstone of the local community.
'Not only do we offer great sporting programs, but we also give people the space to get together and chat on a Friday night,' said Secretary Trish Price.
'We've become the main community space in the area,' she added.
But 125 years can take their toll, and Nilma Darnum FNC has needed many upgrades over that time. For several years now, lighting upgrades have been on the agenda.
'For each of my 9 years as club secretary, we've been wringing our hands about what to do with the lights,' said Trish.
'It got to the stage that only 2 of 4 lighting towers on the footy oval would work and, even then, we needed a portable generator,' she added.
This meant the Bombers players could only train on half the oval or risk injuries in the dark.
The situation on the netball courts wasn't much better, with shadowed areas becoming no-go zones for fear of injury and training disruptions.
'It was a bit dismal,' said Trish.
Luckily, brighter days - and nights - are on the horizon, thanks to $200,000 in support from the Victorian Government's 2021-22 Country Football and Netball Program and a $303,000 grant from Baw Baw Shire Council.
Delivered in partnership with the AFL, AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria, the Country Football and Netball Program provides funding to assist regional football and netball clubs, associations and umpiring organisations to upgrade and develop facilities in rural, regional and outer metropolitan locations.
For Nilma Darnum FNC, it will mean installation of new lighting on the oval and two netball courts at Darnum Recreation Reserve.
This will ensure all football and netball lighting is fit for purpose. It will also provide new security lighting and power upgrades for the pavilions.
For Trish and the other members of Nilma Darnum FNC, these upgrades will mark an exciting new chapter for the club.
'It's going to be such a huge boost for football and netball in the area,'
'We'll be able to have full-game training scenarios and won't have to worry about people running into each other in the dark,' said Trish.
'We can have twilight matches and bring the community out to watch games during the week. It also means we can expand our juniors' program,' she added.
Beyond the sport benefits, the upgrades will also mean the club can better support social events for the community.
'There aren't many local venues for people to get together, which is why it was so big for us to get this grant.'
'This will help us offer a better sporting and social venue,' said Trish.
With the completion of the upgrades just around the corner, Trish has some advice for other clubs that might be considering approaching their councils about applying for a grant.
'Just do it. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.'
'It's been an easy process with fantastic results. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.'
The lighting and power upgrades at Darnum Recreation Reserve, delivered in partnership with Baw Baw Shire Council, are due for completion in mid-2023.
These upgrades follow on the heels of the creation of a female-friendly netball pavilion at Darnum Recreation Reserve thanks to funding from the Victorian Government’s 2018-19 Local Sports Infrastructure – Female Friendly Facilities Fund and Baw Baw Shire Council.
The current round of the Country Football and Netball Program is open until Monday 27 March.
Visit the Sports and Recreation website for more information about the program and how to apply.