A good innings at the MCG

Malmsbury Cricket Club stalwart Laurie Marshall discussed some of the issues at the reserve with the minister.

Malmsbury Cricket Club stalwart Laurie Marshall discussed some of the issues at the reserve with the minister.

Malmsbury Cricket Ground may share its initials with one of the top sporting facilities in the state but it's a far cry from sharing similar upkeep.

Malmsbury Cricket Club's recent move to the Gisborne league, from Castlemaine, has raised its profile as the only turf wicket in the Macedon Ranges and now the club is keen to see the reserve overhauled to match its potential.

The club's plea for facility and ground upgrades was heard by Minister for Sport John Eren during a visit to the region with local MP Mary-Anne Thomas last week.

"As the only turf wicket in the Macedon Ranges, the grounds are looking pretty tired," he said.

"The fact that it is here is so important to the community. Cricket is important to the community and to sport in general - the rate of participation has increased across the state. The state government will work with Mary-Anne Thomas and the council to ensure an upgrade is possible."

Mr Eren said there were funding possibilities through the Community Sports and Infrastructure Fund that the club could tap into.

Items flagged for urgent attention included repair, upgrade and relocation of the cricket nets for safety measures and upgrades to ensure people of all ages, genders and abilities safe usage.

Malmsbury Cricket Club vice-president Chris Ganim said the club was growing and needed to support the trend and demand in the community.

"We've got a presence now. People are aware of the turf wicket and want to play at the grounds. The club's definitely on the move and growing," he said.

"Five years ago the club had 12 players - this year there are 50 with two senior sides and one junior side. We hope that can grow to three senior sides, two juniors and one girls' U13 side next season."

Introduction of a girls' side means the club is keen to upgrade facilities to include female change rooms.

An overhaul of the entire clubroom and kitchen area is also on the wish list as well as all ability access, an oval watering system and grounds perimeter fencing.

Shire CEO Peter Johnston said he would like to see an upgrade to the facility before the start of the next cricket season.

Malmsbury's turf wicket has meant the reserve was ideal to host Country Week cricket and it's due to volunteers and club stalwarts like Laurie Marshall who has been looking after the reserve since 1978 but they can't do it alone.

Malmsbury's Chris Bromley was determined to see action for the town and was pleased to see outside support for the grounds.

It was publication of his letter about the state of grounds in the Midland Express that helped to raise the profile and urge greater equity in distribution of sport and recreation funding across the shire.

"Do the ratepayers of our small but growing community simply not count?" he asked.

Shire director of community wellbeing Karen Stevens said there were ongoing challenges in securing funding for small clubs and small towns and welcomed state government support.

Ms Stevens said the council would consider opportunities for the cricket grounds as part of its budget process.

The council is now in consultation with the community and district residents are encouraged to have their say again when a draft is released in April.

Youth justice centre involvement

Malmsbury has seen tough times of late following the breakout of several youths from the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.

The club is eager to move forward and Mr Ganim said there were plans to discuss how the club could include low-risk youths from the centre into the future.

"If there was an incentive for the youths to be involved with the club it could be a great thing for them and for us in terms of growth and support," he said.

Mr Ganim said the club had engaged with low-risk youths from the centre about 40 years ago and there was potential to re-create that positive connection.

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