Photo: Mr Joyce with Merriwa Tennis Club members at the soon-to-be-upgraded town tennis courts on King George V Ave.
Membership is booming at Merriwa Tennis Club which has a new lease on life following recent Federal Government funding.
Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, announced the club would receive funding for major upgrades as part of a $738,000 investment to Upper Hunter Shire Council under the Coalition Government’s Drought Communities Program.
Merriwa club president, Jason Bear, said the existing court surface was near unplayable with large cracks which challenged even the town’s best in the game.
“It looks like a fifth-day WACA wicket,” Jason said, referring to the notorious Perth cricket venue.
Dwindling membership combined with worsening drought conditions in the region meant the Merriwa club was on the brink of collapse a few short months ago.
“We’ve been in drought for a long time and as in any small town, sport is very important and without this funding, this tennis club would have had to close due to the state of the surface and lack of interest. But because of the upgrade, interest has increased tenfold,” he added.
The $122,000 facelift includes resurfacing of four courts with a new synthetic surface and re-purposing of the two back courts into multi-use tennis courts which will accommodate basketball, netball and futsal codes as well.
Mr Joyce said the refurbishment at Merriwa complemented more tennis court upgrades, funded by the Federal Government, already underway around the electorate including at Tamworth, Dungowan and Currabubula.
“Rural and regional towns have long, proud traditions with sport and Merriwa is no different,” Mr Joyce said.
“For many people off the land, local sport provides that social connection and rare down time in between long working hours to keep properties going during this drought.
“The delivery of more local infrastructure such as this is all helping to provide a better standard of living for you and your family here in the New England,” Mr Joyce added.
Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood welcomed the funding and thanked the Federal Government.
“Council worked with sporting and other community organisations, to secure funding for
local facilities through the Drought Communities Program,” Cr Bedggood said.
“Sport plays a very important role in regional communities, bringing people together to play, exercise and build friendships. The social interaction is more important than the score.”
With 42 members now on the books at Merriwa Tennis Club, hopes are high for resurgence of the town’s enduring tennis scene.