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    TEAM EFFORT: Hayley Thomas, Thomas Rowe and Damien Crouch plan to run a total 50km to help raise $4000 for a key project to improve sporting outcomes at Natimuk. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Young leaders all in for Nati sport


Combined community efforts will help raise money for a Wimmera sporting precinct in desperate need of upgrading.    

Nhill’s Damien Crouch, Bannockburn’s Thomas Rowe and Kalkee’s Hayley Thomas are pledging to run a combined 50 kilometres to help raise money for Natimuk’s netball and tennis clubs. 

Natimuk Tennis Club has shared courts with the town’s netball club since 2011 after a major flood event ruined the only tennis courts. 

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And after nine years of tennis and netball players sharing the sporting facility, three of six courts need resurfacing. 

Both clubs are combining efforts to seek state or federal government support to fix the courts. 

Natimuk Tennis Club treasurer Cheryl Sudholz estimated the clubs would need at least $50,000 to resurface the courts.  

She said limited court space was making it difficult for both clubs to run competitions between regional teams. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the clubs – three of the courts are unplayable,” she said. 

“This limits us this year with what teams we run. It will be a logistical nightmare with the league trying to work out where we’re going to play.”

She said she had noticed less people were signing up to play tennis each year. 

“At the height of our memberships and when the courts were brand new, participation was at its highest,” she said.

“But now it’s getting harder and harder to get people to play.”

She said she hoped many user groups could benefit from upgrading the facilities.  

“We’ve also got 40 or 50 girls training for netball, so if we can make it a multi-purpose facility, more groups and clubs can benefit,” she said. 

“We’re really working hard with the football and netball club and tennis club to see what grants are available to pool our resources together.”

Mrs Sudholz said she was grateful for the community’s fundraising efforts. 

“They’re going above and beyond – Thomas, Hayley and Damien aren’t even from Natimuk. It just shows that there’s community people out there who are willing to help,” she said. 

“It’s not just the one club it affects, it affects other community clubs together. 

“You diminish how many clubs play in the competition.” 

The trio plans to run 50 kilometres near the Wimmera River in September. 

Mr Rowe said he hoped the combined run would help raise $4000 to complete dual line-marking required once the resurfacing project was completed. He said his involvement with regional sporting clubs drove him to want to help the Natimuk community. 

“We wanted to be able to put our efforts into something we were able to enjoy when growing up. That’s our motivation,” he said. 

“We’re all really happy to help out the sporting club that might not be getting as much attention as other areas.”

Mr Rowe said upgrading Natimuk’s sporting precinct was crucial to the club’s sustainability. 

“Having good facilities creates an environment where people want to go,” he said.

“And if there’s a better court somewhere else, they might choose to play for a club that’s got better facilities. 

“Young people are generally drawn towards going to the city because it has the best buildings – but there’s no reason why that can’t happen in a regional area.” 

The trio will start running from Anzac Centenary Bridge at 8am on Saturday, September 12. The river running loop will be added to a GoFundMe promotional video.

People can donate to the cause at

The trio started the fundraising campaign as part of Wimmera Development Association’s Regional Leadership Skills program. 

The entire July 15, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!