Footy codes on collision course
By STEVE SPINKS
SIXTY years of sporting tradition has been thrown out the window by a Lismore City Council policy on ground hire.
For more than half a century, Marist Brothers rugby league club has played all its semi-final football at Oakes Oval.
That won't be the case this Saturday against Cudgen in the NRRRL play-offs.
For the first time, Brothers will play a minor semi-final at Crozier Field.
Brothers officials have been left bewildered after their request to use Oakes Oval was turned down by the council.
The council had pre-booked the ground for use by Soccer Far North Coast ? which will hold its Under-10 and Under-11 grand finals ? by virtue of the 'right of way' policy formulated in 1997.
The right of way policy means a sport that is usually played on a particular day has first right to the venue on that day.
Soccer is a Saturday sport and therefore has the right of way, and Soccer FNC has a history of playing all its grand finals at Oakes Oval to make the events a highlight for its players.
Marist Brothers have been forced to use the smaller Crozier Field, which may struggle to fit the large crowd expected.
"We're pretty disappointed," club president Steve Campbell said.
"One reason is that Oakes has always been our home ground.
"I have a picture of Charlie Wade in the early 1940s at Oakes Oval.
"Our history with the ground goes way back.
"But we also have an issue with the booking system. Our understanding was that Oakes Oval would go to the sport that needed the facility the most."
Campbell said a big crowd would be on hand for the minor semi-final on Saturday, while Oakes Oval would be sparsely populated for the junior grand finals.
"This is not a fight between soccer and league," Campbell said.
"I love soccer.
"I am a registered player, but we are going to have close to 1000 people there on Saturday and the soccer will draw Mum, Dad and Uncle Bob."
According to records kept by Brothers secretary Karen Campbell, the rugby league club tried to tentatively book Oakes Oval for the possible Saturday game as far back as April.
She was told of soccer's right of way booking priority, even though Soccer FNC hadn't yet booked the facility.
After soccer signalled its intention to use the ground on that date, Mrs Campbell wrote to the council, but to no avail.
Lismore City Council grounds co-ordinator Martin Soutar said the policy meant the council's hands were tied.
"I sympathise with Brothers," he said.
"But we're following the policy set up by the Sport and Recreation Policy Advisory Group."
The advisory group, which was previously known as the Lismore District Sports Association, will hold its next meeting tomorrow night.
"It will be brought up at the next meeting, but I think it will be too late for Brothers," Soutar said.
"But at least it's an issue that needs to looked at."