Night’s watch over for Ernie



THE Night’s watch at Latrobe City Sports Stadium has ended for Falcons groundskeeper and life member Ernie Mendez following a $50,000 funding allocation from the State Government last week.

The club stalwart of 30 years has conducted round the clock maintenance at the ground in recent seasons due to a lack of drainage and irrigation infrastructure, but enjoyed relief at last on Thursday when State Sport and Recreation Minister Hugh Delahunty made the long-awaited announcement.

“They’re the heart and soul of sport our volunteers,” Delahunty said.

“He (Ernie) tells me he’s here from 1am some mornings trying to get the sprinklers going and in the heat of the summer some nights he’s cleaning up until 1am; it’s typical of some of our volunteers and we’ve got to try and make it a bit easier on them.”

The funding will go toward two catchment tanks to provide irrigation throughout summer and an improved drainage system to alleviate typically soggy surfaces in winter.

Falcons 2000 treasurer Joe Auciello said the upgrades, which club president Tony Salvatore had long lobbied for, were desperately needed amid internal fears the venue could lose Gippsland Soccer League finals matches and other marquee events.

“In summer it’s very dry, a lot of injuries can occur because of cracks in the ground and so on, and also in winter the amount of rain it holds makes it impossible to play some games; we’re in danger often of games being cancelled or rescheduled,” he said.

“Obviously in soccer you’re changing direction a lot and if you don’t have a stable footing that’s when injuries occur, and if there’s wet and muddy areas that’s when it becomes even more dangerous.

“Both in the summer and winter periods we have great difficulty preparing a pitch that is apt for participation in soccer so it’s nothing but happy news for us.”

Auciello said works were due to commence in December in readiness for the start of the soccer season in March.

The club believes greater pitch consistency will help secure high profile events in future, such as A-League pre-season matches and international sporting events.