This could be the year Gerry Emery Oval in Gerringong becomes one of the first regional sports clubs in NSW to have women’s changerooms.
It might be 2024, but the majority of community sports facilities have only one set of changing rooms, leaving women’s teams out in the cold when there are scheduling clashes.
Gerringong builder John Trevenar was behind the original facilities at the oval 22 years ago, and began the push to have them upgraded in 2021.
“There was a catch-up game on the same day as the ladies, and I asked them where they were getting changed,” he said.
“They told me they had to change in the carpark or behind the trees.
“I thought that was no good, so I told them I was going to build them their own changerooms.
“It’s not just catch-up days – girls up to 12 can play co-ed football and they have no changeroom either.
“I rang the council and asked what I had to do to get it happening and after two years, seven months and 21 days we’ve got everything we need to get underway.”
The oval is used by Gerringong Primary School, local high schools, and football, cricket, touch and junior rugby league sides.
Between those organisations more than 4000 women use the field and facilities each year, John said, and they include big names, such as surf legend Sally Fitzgibbons.
Some days see up to 200 women on the field.
Not only do they lack dedicated changerooms, there are just four women’s toilets on site.
John’s plans for the site include another six toilets, upgrades to the men’s changerooms, the addition of a dedicated women’s changeroom (including showers), two accessible toilets and a lift so the elderly and people with disabilities can access an expanded clubhouse with space for members and guests to watch games, meet and have presentations.
The Gerringong District All Sports Committee was born.
Once John began to champion the issue, the Gerringong community rallied quickly, with local tradies and businesses pledging cash, labour and materials and discounts to the tune of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
“I’ve been a builder here for 37 years and I couldn’t be prouder,” John said.
“We’ve had a buy a brick program happening; we’ve got advertising signs around the field for $2500, and so many people have jumped on board we almost need a bigger field!
“There are lots of people who want to help and many hands make light work.”
John estimates the project will cost about $1.4m, and the overwhelming community support has put the Gerringong District All Sports Committee in the position to make successful grant applications.
One of the grants will enable the upgrade of the field, including secure fencing and lighting for night-time training sessions.
“I want Gerry Emery Oval to be a safe haven for all members of the community,” he said.
“Every kid here plays half a dozen sports, and we’ve got a facility that has come off the ark.
“We’ll be the first club in regional NSW to have dual changerooms. It makes a statement, and it’s something we need to do.”
The start of the new year has seen the site cleared – thanks to Gettin’ It Done Tree Services and Lumberjack Firewood – and concrete flooring cut ready for footings and piers to go in.
To see how the project is progressing, or offer support, head to their Facebook page.
If you’d like to contribute to the project, you can make a donation to Gerringong District All Sports Inc’s Bendigo Bank account: 194 995 338; BSB 633 000 or call John Trevenar on 0408 423 080.