FRUSTRATED:Griffins president Shaun Yates whose club has been denied access to King Edward Park for a month. Sports clubs are calling for Maitland City Council to reinstate powers rescinded in 2007 regarding the state of play on sodden ovals.
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The recent closure of grounds – that many deem unnecessary – has created a backlog of games affecting players across numerous codes.

The council was forced to defend its blanket ban approach this week as clubs became increasingly angry.

“The ground closure procedure is currently under review and, should it result in any amendments, any changes will be communicated to the affected sporting bodies,” community and recreation services manager Lynn Morton said.

“Council officers are always prepared to meet with sporting bodies to discuss their views on opportunities for improved service delivery.”

Maitland Magpies and Thornton Redbacks, members of the North Coast Football League, have lost multiple games to ground closures.

Maitland Pickers have lost two games; the second of which was a catch up scheduled for June 9 and enforced despite a day of drying conditions.

In AFL, Maitland junior Saints have lost half their training sessions to ground closures.

But junior rugby league has been one of the sports hardest hit.

Maitland and District School Boys Rugby League president Dave Watson said clubs should have their powers restored and enable them to override council when conditions improve quickly.

“We want to send a message to council that the community should be running this,” he said.

“We just want it put back the way it was prior to 2007.”

Up until that point council would determine closure before the weekend, but if clubs felt the grounds had dried sufficiently to allow play, presidents and secretaries had the power to overturn the council ruling.

More than 2500 players are registered in the junior league competition making the sport one of the hardest hit by the cancellations. Parents, who invest hundreds of dollars in registration and kit, travel from as far as Dungog for training to find grounds closed at the last minute.

Ms Morton said council staff were simply following guidelines.

“Council’s technical staff assess each of the sports grounds on the Friday morning using a risk assessment matrix with a decision made by mid Friday afternoon as to which grounds are fit for play,” she said.

“This in turn is communicated to the sporting bodies so that they have sufficient time to advise their club members.”

Thornton-Beresfield juniors president Peter Martin said the closure affected the bottom line of the cash-strapped clubs, run by volunteers, dependent on canteen sales.

“We have to pre-order all supplies for the canteen; you don’t just call up Friday night and because the ground closures aren’t decided until 3pm, it’s just impossible,” he said.

The Griffins, one of the largest junior clubs in Maitland, have been denied access to King Edward Park for a month.

Club officials hope to squeeze in two days of play this weekend but clouds on the horizon have the council ready to shut them down.

Meanwhile it’s been game on at Kurri Kurri and Cessnock where grounds have received as much rain, if not more.

Griffins president Shaun Yates said the clubs could be trusted to make the call on play.

“It should come down to the president and the secretary to look at the ground and make the call,” he said.

The closures have disappointed the Griffins’ 340 registered juniors eager to engage in some healthy competition and activity.

“On Monday both grounds [Shamrock and King Edward Park] were closed again,” he said. “It’s only grass, it will grow back.”

Sitting on the sidelines has been a disappointment for the juniors, who idolise their National Rugby League stars.

“Kurri and Cessnock are training and we’re not, so we’re at a disadvantage,” he said.

“We’ve got nine representatives who can’t train and have barely played.”

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