Club plans to revive community crop

Corrina RidgwayCountryman
The West logo

Oval lights dimly illuminating Gibson Football Club training could soon be much brighter with the initiative for a future community crop.

Located 30km north of Esperance, the club is fervently supported by the surrounding community and provides a focal point for sport, leisure and social activities.

Rotarians in the field for Esperance |

For about 20 years, the club has undertaken a club shearing day in lieu of a community crop.

Making do with what is on offer, the club continues a long line of rural fundraising.

Club president Mark Quinlivan said the group had a crop back in its North Gibson days.

"Now we do the shears and an auction," he said.

Mr Quinlivan said he believed there were reasons for the movement away from community crops.

"For us, the shears are easy to organise and it can be done in a day," he said.

Mr Quinlivan said the club used all of its strengths, including manpower and available resources.

The shears take substantially less upfront capital to implement.

The shearing day is held annually with local producer Ray Sullivan donating shed use while all club farmers donate older sheep - some 100 to 500 animals.

Mr Quinlivan said the club sold its fleece to wool buyer Mike Smithson.

"Ken Reeves, at the local abattoir, buys the sheep and offers the club a bit more than market price," he said.

"After, we have an auction at the footy club of anything we can get our hands on."

Mr Quinlivan said all the labour involved in the shearing was done on a voluntary basis.

"We have two professional shearers come, the rest are club members," he said.

The event raises between $20,000 and $25,000 in wool and sheep sales.

For the club president, the shearing day is precious for more than funds.

"It's a hard day's work but it's great for club spirit," he said.

"Different guys come each year as well as those who always contribute. It's also a great way for those based in town to get involved."

Penning, sorting and pressing is carried out with enthusiasm. Volunteers get much more than a sense of satisfaction. The social fleece of the community also benefits - a common theme in the community fundraisers.

"It's a social event, great for the young guys to get involved," Mr Quinlivan said.

"We have a meal and a few drinks back at the club and a few laughs."

The proceeds bagged off of the day are a solid contribution to the infrastructure of the club.

"The funds go straight into the club," Mr Quinlivan said.

"There's been a lot of capital improvement, including the grandstand, rendering, retiling and revamping of the kitchen - and the general appearance overall."

Mr Quinlivan believes the large sums pulled from the shears are vital for the club's survival.

"It's something we need, clubs can't run on bar takings alone," he said.

"There's been footy here since 1956 - it would be very sad if that ended.

"The club needs to remain financial, and there's always ongoing repairs and maintenance."

However, with expenses growing each decade, efforts to come up with the funds for major works also increases. To build on their club and its community use, the club is seeking avenues to fund full outdoor lighting so night games can be added to the fixtures.

"They're a major investment - it's around $70,000 to $100,000 for the lights," Mr Quinlivan said.

A community crop is touted as a major funding tool to make this happen.

Establishment of community crops, however, face much stronger hurdles than a few decades ago.

As farms grow and margins tighten, time for community efforts dwindle and available land is hard to procure.

"We are having problems finding available land at the moment," Mr Quinlivan said.

"We'd be happy with anything size wise. We'd be happy even to lease."

The club has ready access to equipment and manpower.

Seed and chemical are expected to be secured by donation, sponsorship or purchase if necessary.

"It's just been an issue finding some dirt," Mr Quinlivan said.

"We aren't far off, we hope to have something within the next season or two."

Mr Quinlivan said he believed club efforts were integral for the community's survival.

"It benefits everyone, not just the footy club," he said.

"You need good facilities to draw people in here, so you can't just have money sitting in the bank.

"We need to fight for our community."

Though major funding for the club still rides on the sheep's back, hopes for a future crop is bright.

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