Western Sydney's sporting reputation at risk without investment boost

Nicholas Rupolo •
October 04, 2022

Greater Western Sydney’s reputation as a breeding ground for the best sporting talent in the country is at risk of being lost without investment in new community playing fields.

On the eve of Sunday’s NRL Grand Final showdown between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels, the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue is calling on both sides of NSW make up the shortfall in community sporting fields in Greater Western Sydney, so we can continue to produce the next generation of Jerome Laui’s and Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s.

The current number of playing fields cannot support the expected population growth in most of the local government areas of Western Sydney.

As the 2023 NSW State election approaches, Dialogue Executive Director Adam Leto said the NSW Government’s $5 billion WestInvest Fund, which will hopefully address some of the public amenity issues in the region, was a good start, but a more sustainable, ongoing solution was required to ensure Greater Western Sydney remained a major incubator for Australian sporting talent.

“WestInvest funding is a great start, but the region needs more than just a one-off ‘sugar-hit’ if it wants to continue to produce the best sporting talent in the nation,” Mr Leto said.

“There’s a shocking shortfall in the quality and quantity of community sporting fields in the region, and when you combine a fast-growing population, with increasing junior participation rates for both boys and girls, a long-term solution is needed.

“The onus shouldn’t just be on local councils to provide and maintain these assets, they need State support and investment.

“In some areas, codes are forced to battle each other for space, facilities and grounds are degraded and the facilities are either non-existent or crumbling”.

In Penrith, the existing sportsground facilities won’t meet the demand from their population boom and will need an additional 84 hectares of active open space in the next two to three decades.

In just under 20 years, an additional 217,000 people will live in the Parramatta LGA however the majority of the council’s sportsgrounds are either at capacity or experiencing overuse.

Parramatta City Council needs the practical capacity of 106 sporing fields by 2041, an increase of 51 fields just to meet forecasted demand. In the region’s burgeoning South-West, Campbelltown local government area needs an estimated 121 playing fields to service the new population, while two thirds of Camden Council’s winter sportsgrounds are currently severely overused.

“Penrith Panthers have proven that grassroots and youth investment is the blueprint for success in the NRL especially this season with their SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup triumphs,” Mr Leto said.

“How can the next generation of our region expect to make their sporting dreams a reality, if they can’t even get out to the local park to kick a ball around with their mates.”

“This is not just about providing talented kids with the infrastructure to support their ambition, it’s also about promoting more active lifestyles for all kids in the region, providing locals with the opportunity to socialise, make friends and stay healthy.”

For media information Belinda Wallis – Media & Communications Manager Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue belinda@westernsydney.org.au 0466 386 887