One of the most exciting things about our return to a more normal way of life post-lockdown has been the resurgence of community sport on our fields, courts, pools and halls across the inner west. We know community sport is vital to improving public health, forging stronger connections and ensuring that people of all ages are able to get fit and stay active. Sporting clubs have had a tough time over the past few years of COVID. It has been harder to recruit and retain players, to organise seasons with any certainty and to fundraise. To add to that, terrible weather over the past year has kept sporting fields closed for weeks at a time, but local clubs across the inner west are bouncing back and showing the resolve and resilience that makes them great.
Last month I was pleased to attend a dinner to celebrate 75 years of the Marrickville Football Club, affectionately known as the Red Devils. Seventy-five years is a lot of football. From humble beginnings in 1945, when the club was founded by Bruce Livingstone and Arthur Ireland, the Red Devils now has over 2,000 registered members—making it one of the largest community sporting clubs in New South Wales. The club has bred champions, including the legendary Tim Cahill. Thousands of players gear up each year. Whether it is to get fit, meet friends, chase dreams or just do what they love, all players are welcome and have a place with the Red Devils. Importantly, the club has worked to tear down barriers and increase participation in sport, rapidly expanding opportunities for women and girls and fielding all abilities teams. That is important because our local sporting teams should be a place where everyone can achieve their potential. I warmly congratulate Gary Schmidt, Georgie Kokokiris and everyone at the club on this remarkable achievement.
There is also considerable excitement about the planned upgrades for Henson Park in Marrickville, which is the home of the Newtown Jets and will soon be home to women's AFL and the women's Sydney Swans team. The AFL NSW/ACT and Newtown Jets were recently successful in receiving a grant of $5 million to improve broadcasting facilities, establish female-friendly change rooms and upgrade facilities and lighting for spectators. The grant comes on top of a $2.5 million commitment from the Albanese Federal Government and $2.85 million from the Inner West Council for upgrades to the oval. The current facilities for women are frankly appalling. These changes will mean that women players can achieve their full potential at Henson Park and that young girls and boys are able to watch elite women's AFL at their local ground. It will also ensure that local teams, including the Newtown Jets and the Newtown Breakaways, benefit from world-class facilities on their own patch. I congratulate the Jets, the AFL and everyone involved in this achievement.
Finally, I am pleased to announce the successful recipients of the local sports grants for the Summer Hill electorate. These grants acknowledge the extraordinary work that local clubs and sports teams do in the community and work to increase participation in sport, particularly for women, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with disability and First Nations people. They seek to address barriers to participation and assist clubs to offer quality service to their members and meet community needs. This year the Canterbury District Soccer Football Association received funds to develop and offer a youth female coach development program, which will develop critical coaching skills in women aged 14 to 22, and to establish a female football festival for girls aged eight to 14.
The Cooks River Croquet Club received funds to purchase equipment to introduce gateball to the club and purchase new mallets. Marrickville Cricket Club was awarded funds to upgrade three synthetic cricket nets at Marrickville Oval that had fallen into serious disrepair. With the huge growth of junior cricket across the inner west, the importance of well-maintained nets for training is important. The Red Devils will replace mobile goals that were vandalised during the COVID lockdown, which will mean that more and more players will be able to take the field at Mackey Park. The Newtown Breakaways will provide players with guernseys for their Indigenous round to mark historic events. The Summer Hill Lakers will invest in young netballers by running skills development sessions. The Western Suburbs Lawn Tennis Association will continue its program of upgrading the historic courts at Pratten Park in Ashfield, replacing the old, unsafe fencing. Finally, the NSW River Canoe Club, based in south Marrickville, will install water tanks to recycle water collected on the clubhouse roof to wash their canoes. Local sport has never been more important. I acknowledge, congratulate and thank everyone in my local community sporting clubs.