Site under construction

CONSTRUCTION of Sale’s new synthetic hockey pitch is underway.

The first part of the project — upgrading the carpark — has begun, and clubs are hoping the pitch will be ready before the end of the 2018 season.

The new facilities will include includes men’s and women’s changing rooms, umpire rooms, a first aid room, public amenities, storage, a kiosk, and social room, as well as player shelters, field lighting, and fencing.

It will be the third pitch in Gippsland, joining Drouin and Churchill.

Sale Hockey Club is one of three clubs that will share the pitch, along with Wellington and Maffra, in the East Gippsland Hockey Association.

Sale president Mark Benfield said it has been a long time coming.

“It’s about accessing a modern facility — the game’s been played on synthetic surfaces since the 1970s, and getting locals to access the preferred ground for the sport instead of travelling for an hour plus is great,” he said.

“It’ll be able to host Premier League and Victorian League games, and it’ll have national-level certification.”

Benfield added the fixture for season 2018 had been developed so that games could be played as soon as it was finished.

“A dozen games or one game, we’ll be there,” he said.

“The current schedule’s running on time, we’re on track for an opening in July or August.”

Wellington president Craig Holmes said it would be a fantastic resource for the district.

“It should be pretty exciting for all our guys, and it’ll bring more people in to get involved in hockey and other sports,” he said.

“There’s lots of kids that are keen to take their first steps on the new pitch, and under lights as well.

“It’s been a long road, but it’s looking good for the future of Gippsland hockey.”

Maffra president Rodney Clarkson noted the club might lose some of its identity by playing home games in Sale, but the amazing facilities would make it worth it.

“We’ll still use our grass pitch for training, because half the league will still be playing on grass,” he said.

“Right now we don’t have a pavilion, we have to share toilets with the football club, and our canteen’s a gazebo.

“I hope Melbourne competitions will come down to use the ground when it’s finished, we’ve had a lot of conversations with Hockey Victoria.”

Benfield hoped more people would get involved when the pitch is finished.

“With the new facility, we’d be hoping to grow our member base and community support for hockey,” he said.

“There’ll also be expanded social opportunities, with alternate forms of the game like Hockey 6s.”

Clarkson agreed, adding he was looking forward to establishing a night competition, possibly in the summer, and building on last year’s Hook in2 Hockey success — Maffra was awarded club of the year for its Heyfield youth initiative last year.