Two legends of AFL – Jude Bolton and Kevin Sheedy – were on hand to unveil the new $8M synthetic turf facility at Blackman’s Park in Lane Cove on Thursday.
The field, to be officially opened in the coming fortnight, played host to more than two hours of AFL 9s action; the first competitive fixtures played at the venue.
Kevin Sheedy AM, a Richmond Tigers legend and inaugural coach of the GWS GIANTS, now a director at the Western Sydney club, addressed the 100-strong crowd, before Sydney Swans stalwart Jude Bolton strapped on his boots and made a cameo appearance as part of a local Lane Cove Cats outfit, turning back the clock with a vintage display.
Bolton, a national AFL 9s ambassador and Lane Cove local, was delighted with the quality of the facility.
“I am passionate about this area and just as passionate about having fun, playing a team sport, and keeping fit, which is exactly what AFL 9s is about, so the opening of the new facility at Blackman’s Park is fantastic,” Bolton said.
“I’ve got a couple of young children who I know will make good use of this ground in years to come, and it’s an honour to be one of the first to have the opportunity to play here; it was very forgiving on my creaky knees, which is a big bonus!”
While 66-year-old Sheedy didn’t join Bolton on the field, he did echo the former Swans skipper’s sentiment, praising the work of the council in delivering the new facility.
“This is one of the best venues I’ve seen for sport, and I think it’s terrific that it supports so many sports, this place will bring a lot of people together,” Sheedy said.
“There is a fantastic opportunity here for this place to be promoted throughout the country, and I believe people should come from all over to see what this council has achieved.”
Lane Cove Cats is the AFL club local to the area, and a raft of the club’s youngsters were delighted to have the opportunity to meet Bolton and Sheedy, with club president Denis Fitzgerald certain the new facility would continue to drive participation at the fledgling club, which experienced 100% growth across Auskick, junior football, and AFL 9s in 2014.
Deputy Mayor Deborah Hutchens and Wayne Rylands, Executive Manager for Open Space and Urban Services, were integral in the implementation of the project, with both ‘astonished’ at the speed of construction of the synthetic turf, completed just over 18 months after council gave it the green light.
A pavilion including toilets and change rooms, and a Scout Hall is the final part of Blackman’s Park currently undergoing construction, with work slated to finish mid-2015.
AFL 9s is a recreational version of AFL, played with nine players per side, a softer ball and modified rules, head to afl9s.com.au to find your nearest venue.