Quambatook will lose its football-netball clubs this year. This is how the city plans to survive

Quambatook Seniors captain Ricky Wild knew exactly what to say.

As the first rebound approached in his side’s home game against Hay yesterday, their first since football and netball clubs announced they would fold soon, he explained the Saints’ mission.

“This year is about the standards we set for each other,” he said.

The team answered his call with an 86-point win in front of an all-ages crowd of hundreds.

Like the team that bears its name, Quambatook, a hamlet of 200 people on the Avoca River in northwest Victoria, will spend the year finding ways to preserve its social fabric.

Saints of Quambatook
The club had to recruit players from as far away as Melbourne to field full squads.(ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling)

why it had to happen

After five premierships – the most recent in 1997 – and 111 years of playing in various local leagues, the Saints announced in a statement on Friday that they would disband after the 2022 Golden Rivers Football Netball League (GRFNL) season. .

Rhys Carmichael is in his first year as club president and said many locals would not be surprised if this happened.

“The club has struggled for years with juniors and recruiting volunteers and community members. It takes a lot to run a club these days,” he said.

“The community is getting older, there are fewer and fewer people, it’s just hard to get people moving. [The pandemic] certainly didn’t help, but it is what it is.”

He said they plan to keep the social side of the football club alive.

“We’re looking at having a ball – Barley Banquet style – in the future, just to try and keep the community together at least once a year, because it’s the people of Quambatook that make the place so great.

In addition to its pulling force, the municipality has developed a niche broadcasting drive-in films on its silo twice a year.

The main street of Quambatook, with the silos sometimes used for film screenings visible behind the pub.
The main street of Quambatook, with the silos used for film screenings behind the pub.(ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling)

The next steps of the league

Ross Stanton, who chairs the Central Rivers Football Netball Council which oversees the GRFNL, said the league will continue as a seven-team competition from 2023.

“We hope we don’t see any more, but the league will still be competitive with [three matches each weekend] and goodbye.”

Quambatook’s departure will be the first for the Golden Rivers league since the closure of Wakool, NSW, at the end of 2018.

Successful side Nullawill also tried to leave last year out of a desire to play against stronger opposition.

A netball game takes place on a partly cloudy day in regional Victoria
The Saints will disband after this year’s Golden Rivers Football Netball League season.(ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling)

Mr Stanton says the board wants Nullawill to remain in the GRFNL and hopes the number of teams will not fall below seven.

“Moulamein had a brief discussion a few years ago about whether to merge with Swan Hill, but they decided it wouldn’t, and they probably came back stronger than they ever were. as a club.

Is this the end of the city?

This isn’t the first big loss Quambatook has suffered recently, and it may not be the last.

Laura O’Dwyer, chair of the Community Development Association, has lived there for 15 years and has seen the tennis club, school and (temporarily) pub close.

A woman with curly red hair stands behind the counter in a canteen.  There are red white and black streamers above his head
Laura O’Dwyer has seen much of Quambatook up close during her 15 years of living there.(ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling)

“We’ve always had the bocce club, so maybe we’ll all become crazy bowlers or golfers,” she said.

“The ongoing impact of this is that we won’t have any more footballers to volunteer for other things in town.

“Since the tractor pull is working, the football club has security and traffic controllers at the gate entrance, so it will be another struggle to find people to fill those gaps as well.

The town also resisted a proposal from the local council to defund its swimming pool, and Ms O’Dwyer said the end of the Saints will make it even more crucial to maintain this facility.

But there are promising green shoots for Quamby.

Last year, the state government gave the Gannawarra Shire Council more than $2 million to build a weir on the river through the town to attract tourists and jobs.

“As part of that, we’re doing 5km and 2.5km walking trails around the spillway, so maybe we’ll bring in something like a weekly parkrun,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

Ms O’Dwyer, also a former Saints secretary on matchday, said any former residents or players are welcome to return to play for the remainder of 2022.

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