Farmers prove good sports

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Raising $500,000 to build one sporting field would be a task of herculean proportions for most rural communities.

But in the small town of Bruce Rock, the local hockey club is so passionate about the sport, they believe it is a project worth all the effort.

Bruce Rock farmer John Chapman, who has been one of the drivers of the campaign since the idea took shape in 2008, believes a synthetic turf facility in the community would have long-term and widespread ramifications for the future of the sport and the morale of the community.

But it certainly has not been an easy road.

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While the group has undertaken a range of different fundraising activities, including calling for grain delivery donations and catering for events, the most significant portion of the funds raised has come from a community cropping program.

So far, the group has raised almost $300,000, with the first crop planted in 2010.

But the vagaries of the seasons have meant some years have been much more profitable than others.

"It's a massive commitment and it's certainly hard to sustain the passion because the end result is so far in the future," Mr Chapman said.

"This year wasn't a great a year because of the seasonal conditions, but we will still raise $20,000 profit because everyone provides everything for free."

Mr Chapman said the group leases the 136ha under a commercial arrangement, and this year planted it all to barley.

"This year was not a good year - we only achieved one tonne per hectare, but the five-year average on that block is about 1.8t/ha," he said.

"Since the crop didn't germinate until late June, it really knocked back the end yield result.

"Next year, we will be looking at a break crop such as canola."

Such is the desire for the new turf that local farmers provide their time and equipment for free, and inputs, such as seed, fertiliser and chemicals, have in some years been donated by local businesses, including CSBP, Bruce Rock Ag Supplies and Landmark.

"It's just a small farm but if it's a good year we can really make a good profit for the bank account," Mr Chapman said.

"In 2013, we achieved a 3 t/ha barley crop, and raised $100,000."

Mr Chapman paid tribute to local farmer Brian Kilminster, who died earlier this year, for starting the project.

"Brian put a little paddock in for the club in both 2010 and 2011, and so while we were doing little bits of fundraising here and there, he really kick-started this fundraising campaign," he said.

While there are other synthetic turf facilities in the central and eastern Wheatbelt, Mr Chapman believes a new playing surface is critical for the future of the sport in the district.

"Surface provision is one of the number one things in regard to hockey participation," he said.

"As a sport, we need to provide spectators with a spectacle, otherwise they will stop being part of the club, and a quality playing surface is essential for that spectacle."

Mr Chapman said encouraging junior players into the sport, with a quality playing surface would also ensure the longevity of the game in regional WA.

"Unless we promote the junior sport, then ultimately it will die in country areas," he said.

According to Bruce Rock Hockey Club president Rodney Thornton, synthetic turf in other regional centres, such as Narrogin and Merredin, had reinvigorated the sport.

"A synthetic turf would allow adults to extend their playing career, and would also provide other opportunities, such as night games and summer competitions," he said.

The club is hoping to receive funding from the Community Sporting and Recreation Facilities Fund through the Department of Sport and Recreation.

The local Shire has also committed funds to complete this final stage of the upgrade to the community recreation facility.

Mr Thornton said if external funding was forthcoming, he hoped the new turf would be game ready by 2017.

He said corporate sponsorship opportunities were also available by contacting the club at bkhockeyclub@hotmail.com .

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