Wickers no basket case

Memorable win: Creswick slammed on 10 goals in the last quarter to defeat Daylesford last Saturday. Photo: SuppliedThe Creswick footy club, which is located 20 kilometres north of Ballarat, spent more than two decades trying to move away from its much-maligned former home ground, Hammon Park.
Nanjing Night Net

”It was a bit of a dung heap, but I think the best way to describe it would be dated,” club president Peter Considine said. ”The fences weren’t far enough back from the playing surface and the rooms were tiny – no more than 10 feet across.

”The ground was too small as well. It was probably 20 metres shorter than most others around here. The 50-metre arcs were only 45, and they were almost on top of the centre square. And the ground was prone to flooding.

”A big problem was that the drains ran into the Creswick Creek. I remember matches getting called off in the ’70s and ’80s because the creek got up and therefore the oval wouldn’t drain.”

Although the idea was first considered in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the Hepburn Shire Council developed plans for a new football oval and community centre to be built at Creswick’s Doug Lindsay Reserve, which is on higher ground and was already home to netball courts and soccer pitches.

Still, many locals considered the plans a pipedream until the federal government announced in 2009 that it would commit $2.24 million in funding from its Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Other funds were subsequently contributed by the ‘Wickers’, the Bendigo Bank and the local community, taking the total beyond $3 million.

Construction began in 2010, but when time came for the club to leave its old oval behind, the break-up was not as clean as had been hoped.

In August 2011, Creswick hosted what was supposed to be the last match at Hammon Park. The ground, on which games had been played since 1869, was given a low-key farewell. Six months later, in round two of the 2012 season, the ‘Wickers’ celebrated a milestone when they hosted their first game at the Doug Lindsay Reserve. But things turned sour when players began finding chunks of quartz scattered across the playing surface.

”The council just put the wrong materials on it,” Considine said. ”They got slack. They decided to use some topsoil from somewhere that wasn’t sieved properly.”

The oval was declared unsafe in July, so the ‘Wickers’ had to stage their last home fixture at Hammon Park. Such dramas overshadowed what was a remarkable 2012 campaign for Creswick’s senior team, which made the Central Highlands league finals for the first time since 1987. It was a particularly special achievement for stalwarts Tim Reiniets and Mick Griffin, who have spent their entire careers with the club, notching more than 200 games each, but had never previously played in a senior final. Although Creswick went down to Waubra by nine goals in week one of the finals, its performance gave many locals a reason to be hopeful about the club’s future.

Later that year the footballers found themselves at Hammon Park yet again for pre-season training, but things began falling into place when the new ground was resurfaced during December and January.

Creswick has played three games at the Doug Lindsay Reserve this year and has won them all. The most impressive performance by the ‘Wickers’ at home came last weekend when they trailed reigning premier Daylesford by 16 points at three-quarter time, then booted 10 goals to two in the final term.

The victory over the Bulldogs came a week after Creswick slumped to a five-point loss to Carngham-Linton. In the days after the defeat, the players and senior coach Len Watson had a heart-to-heart and pledged to turn things around.

One key change prior to the game against Daylesford was the return of Damian Lubeek. A Creswick local whose old man Laurence is a club legend, Lubeek played for North Ballarat in the VFL and Redan in the Ballarat league before returning to the ‘Wickers’ as coach for the 2011 season. He guided Creswick into the finals last year, then relinquished the coaching position due to work and family commitments.

Despite his lack of match-practice, Lubeek was listed as the ‘Wickers” third-best player in the big win over Daylesford. He was expected to suit-up again in Saturday’s game against Ballan, and if he plays most weeks Creswick will be well placed to make the finals for just the second time in 26 years.

”We’ve got a mostly young side, … but you never know what might be possible,” Considine said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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