Vandalism dribbles down

Riddells Creek Junior Mixed Basketball Association president Debra Taylor at the Riddells Creek lesiure centre (Damjan Janevski). 383359_02

Zoe Moffatt

After school sport training, weekend games, and club functions are activities synonymous with childhoods across Australia.

With facility shortages throughout the state putting strain on sports clubs which continue to grow as Melbourne’s population balloons in the outer suburbs, the last thing any club needs is existing facilities being unusable.

This nightmare situation is one which local sporting clubs in Riddells Creek face after the town’s leisure centre was vandalised in December, rendering it inoperable until February at best.

Riddells Creek Junior Mixed Basketball Association (RCJMBA) operates out of the venue and president Debra Taylor has been busy re-organising games, training and clinics so children still get to play.

“The week of December 5 we didn’t play… We had a full week off with no basketball and then we organised it with the shire to play the last week of [2023] out of Romsey,” she said.

“We’re running a clinic out of Romsey that should have been in Riddells Creek…. But we hit finals in March.”

Ms Taylor said they are very grateful for the use of Romsey’s facilities, but the extra travel and time changes add to the juggle faced by parents.

She also said it is disappointing they are in this situation because of vandalism.

“It had a bit of the COVID feel, where it stopped suddenly, we didn’t want to finish the year off with our kids not being able to play.

“The sport is important to the kids, it’s their social thing.

“It’s very frustrating, it’s disappointing that it happened through somebody’s choice to do something. It’s an unnecessary thing that’s happened to the community and it’s impacted a lot of people.”

Ms Taylor said she was in contact with council and was told the reopen timeline will be around eight weeks.

“Best case scenario won’t be back till the start of March,” she said.

“We were able to play in Romsey the last week but we found out that Romsey’s program are back up and running.

“[We] have a different age group every night of the week, so we’re hoping we can get them into a stadium somewhere, but it will be harder for our parents.

“It definitely has added a lot more work and is hard for us… but it’s important for our kids to play so we’ll make it work.”

Macedon Ranges council was more optimistic about the timeline, with director assets and operations Shane Walden saying he is hopeful the issue will be resolved sometime in February.

“Council was notified by Powercor early on Sunday December 3, 2023 of the vandalism and theft of electrical systems at the Riddells Creek Recreation Reserve,” he said.

“[It] has significantly impacted our community, as user groups are currently unable to operate out of the impacted facilities.

“Unfortunately, the damaged switchboards and electrical pillars are custom built which makes it hard to predict exact timeframes.

“The full extent of the cost is not yet known and we are currently working with our insurance provider on a possible claim.”

Council is responsible for restoration of power to the various buildings at the site, and Mr Walden said they are working with impacted clubs and associations to offer alternate competition venues where possible.

“Our primary focus is on minimising the impact on community activities and reinforcing security measures to prevent future occurrences.”

Across codes, Riddell cricket has felt the impact in the second half of its season, and secretary David King said it could mean the venue is out for the season.

“We have no power in the club rooms and it makes it challenging,” he said.

“We have a generator to run a fridge on game days, but we had a few functions planned for the end of the year.”

King said they had been lucky that the weather hadn’t been too warm on game days, as the rooms would have quickly warmed up.

Macedon Ranges council said it was actively working with Powercor to expedite repairs.