Kangaroo Island’s ‘club in the scrub’ unveils new facility

SATURDAY marked a momentous occasion on Kangaroo Island as the Western Districts Football Club, affectionally referred to by locals as ‘the club in the scrub’, unveiled all-new facilities that were built following the bushfires that devastated the club and community back in 2020.

The new pavilion will be an important hub to bring the local community together.

The development includes amenities that accommodate all four user groups being football, cricket, netball and tennis, meeting rooms for sport and community use, a large commercial kitchen, social spaces, and spectator amenities.

AFL investment in the project totalled nearly $1.5 million, which included a contribution made through the AFL Community Relief Fund. Total project investment from all stakeholder groups was nearly $4.5 million.

SANFL Chief Executive Officer Darren Chandler said SANFL was delighted to see this long-awaited facility completed and we’re extremely proud to have worked in partnership with the AFL and Western Districts Sporting Club in bringing this vital project together.

“Sport is the lifeblood of regional communities like Western Districts – it increases social connections, improves mental health and wellbeing and contributes to economic activity across the whole island,” Mr Chandler said.

“This outstanding new facility will ensure Western Districts and the broader Kangaroo Island community have the opportunity to thrive through their love of footy and sport in general after such challenging times.

“Together with the AFL, we look forward to continuing to support all five sports clubs on Kangaroo Island and to continue to grow participation in footy, from Auskick to senior competitions.”

“This outstanding new facility will ensure Western Districts and the broader Kangaroo Island community have the opportunity to thrive through their love of footy and sport in general after such challenging times.''

SANFL CEO Darren Chandler

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon attended the event at the Western Districts Memorial Community Sports Club before the home side, the Saints, took on rivals Wisanger Panthers in the men’s seniors A Grade clash in the Kangaroo Island Football League.

“It has been a long journey for the local community to get to this point since the fires in 2020, but what a special occasion, unveiling the new clubroom facilities for all those involved in the mighty Saints to enjoy and benefit from,” Mr Dillon said.

“Outcomes of this magnitude require collective efforts, and I would like to acknowledge and thank the South Australian Government, Western Districts Memorial Community Sports Club Rebuild Committee, the Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund Committee, the SANFL and Cricket Australia through their Community Bushfire Relief Fund, for the roles they have played in making this happen.”

“The establishment of the AFL’s Community Relief Fund back in 2020 was only made possible through industry-wide support of our AFL clubs, players and commercial partners who all played a role in helping to raise funds to support bushfire relief efforts.

“There are around 2,600 community football clubs in Australia. In the past four years, more than 500, or around one in five footy clubs, have experienced the devastating effects of bushfires, floods or cyclones, a huge number. I am proud to say the AFL has been able to offer help to each club in some form, including Western Districts.”

An aerial view of the redeveloped Western Districts Memorial Community Sports Club. Photo: Sean McGowan

South Australian Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Katrine Hildyard said the State Government was proud to support the Western Districts Football Club’s redevelopment.

“The devastating bushfires had a monumental effect on this community but amongst such hardship what has been really evident and inspiring is the strength, kindness, courage and determination of the people who make this sporting precinct and broader community the special place it is,” Minister Hildyard said.

“The State Government investment, alongside generous contributions from so many partners, allowed this club to quite literally rebuild from the ashes and provide a way forward following this terrible event.

“Local clubs play an extraordinary role in building and maintaining community – providing a safe space where locals can enjoy the physical, mental and emotional benefits of being involved in sport. The Western Districts clubs are a shining example of providing, through sport, a sense of community family that is there for you at the hardest moments.

“I am thrilled for the players, coaches, administrators and the broader community – and wish Western Districts the very best in this exciting new chapter for their beloved ‘club in the scrub’. I am so grateful for and inspired by the hardworking volunteers who have persevered toward this really important reopening; they are at the heart of this club and I wish them and those who will enjoy this facility for generations to come the very best.”

Western Districts Saints hosted the Wisanger Panthers in the Kangaroo Island Football League A Grade match before a bumper crowd at the club’s official opening event for the new facility. Photo: Sean McGowan

Past President of the Western Districts Sports Club and President of the Rebuild Committee, Greg Bald said:

“It has been a long process and I must thank the many generous groups who have provided support to help us get to this point.

“The community lost so much in the bushfire and still have scars but to have these new facilities will have a significant impact on our clubs and community, after spending three winters in the cold with limited facilities.

“The day marks a major milestone in rebuilding our community meeting place. It has been a long four-year job for many volunteers who have given a huge amount, but there is an enormous sense of pride that we’ve come together, with so much outside support, to achieve something for the people of Kangaroo Island.”

The new Western Districts Memorial Community Sports Club facility. Photo: Sean McGowan

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