As was the case for the hundreds of clubs across NSW over the weekend, Community Football returned with a huge bang putting unforgettable smiles on every participants faces following the COVID-19 postponement earlier in the year.
Sutherland Shire Football Association’s largest club Lilli Pilli, who have 1700 registered players in its 158 teams, couldn’t hide their excitement as Football returned in a big way.
Long-serving Club President Greg Storey commented to Football NSW on the historic weekend that was for the entire sport and Lilli Pilli who also celebrated a particular club milestone.
“Wow, we saw pure joy across our home grounds this weekend as all our teams from the new Under 6’s through to our ‘golden oldies in Over 45’s play their first game since last August.
“It was a bright sunny weekend in the Shire with the whole local community involved, whether it be playing, coaching, volunteering or simply relishing the spectacle. The whole family were engaged and supportive of our efforts to get football back onto the playing field.
“We saw plenty of teams have great games
“Wins this week by our reigning local first grade champions, several of our great junior and senior women’s sides and our mighty 21D’s even scored a win against our arch-rivals.
“We also had a remarkable milestone achieved this weekend. Peter Liddy, a local businessman (who coached at our club for decades as well as providing accounting services for many years to us) played the first game in his 50th season with the Lilli Pilli Berries. Peter’s 8am game on Sunday was against our other Over 45’s team, so it was a great morning for all to be part of Round 1 and Peter’s great achievement.”
Storey paid special tribute to his amazing club volunteers that have continuously worked overtime ensuring all their teams and participants were ready to go once more for the recently rebooted season.
“We are a volunteer-based operation with over 1700 players registered in 158 teams – I think that makes us the largest kids club and the largest club in the Shire.
“This year we have a great line up of junior and senior girls sides. In some junior age groups, we’re proud to have as many girls sides as boys.
“The effort involved by our two volunteer registrars, our uniform manager, our gear steward, our ground marking team and the whole executive committee at Lilli Pilli has been epic.
“We had limited time to fire up and complete our season preparations and it went amazingly well. Our canteens were in full flight, player of the match awards and all our duty rosters worked well.
“We’re blessed with over 200 awesome coaches and managers and we’re looking to grow our committee from its current 25 active members. The additional demands on our volunteer team have been considerable this year.”
One such observation made during the club’s home matches over the weekend were the strict COVID-19 safety measures Lilli Pilli had in place ensuring the safety and well being of the sport was put first before anything else.
“Of course, we had many extra considerations with COVID-19. Our MiniRoos were spread out over more space with longer gaps between games.
“With 1000 active kids, we were concerned at one stage in planning, we’d be playing the kids until after dark.
“We can see people are aware and respectful of social distancing rules, but old (good) habits take time to change. Players in some sides (of all ages) were so excited to be on the bench together, metres between them proved hard to maintain.
“We established hand hygiene stations at our home grounds, and these were well received.
“We wanted to set the best example possible within the boundaries of our tight budget for 2020.
“Whilst on funding, it will be a difficult season for us. We’ve got new costs and new challenges to stay on top of. We’re delighted our leading sponsors (Alex Pitsis Real Estate and Highfields Caringbah) both signed on for 2020 this week.
“Fingers crossed the rest of the season goes this well.”