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Floods and wild weather: Spare a thought for cricket in Lismore

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Roar Guru
28th February, 2022
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I grew up in rural northern New South Wales, about 20 minutes’ drive from the town of Lismore which is currently experiencing the worst natural disaster in its history.

I attended school in the town and played cricket for Marist Brothers Juniors and Lismore Workers’ Club.

For anybody who’s spent a few years living in or near Lismore, flooding is a part of life. Most of the town and surrounding farmlands are low-lying and very flood prone. It doesn’t take much for roads to be submerged and vulnerable buildings infiltrated.

On many occasions, Lismore’s flood levee has served it well. On a few notable occasions, it’s been breached. Again, this is not surprising given I was a local and given the deluge that’s hit us here in Brisbane over the past few days.

But this is different.

I didn’t expect to be shocked by some of the photos of Lismore that have emerged in the past few hours. I knew from media reports and friends living in the area that this was the worst flood yet.

Right now, the priority is the welfare of the town’s citizens and, once the waters subside, returning the community to a functioning state. The locals, supported by their federal, state and local representatives, will make it happen. They’ve done it before and will do so again.

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The physical damage will take months to repair. The psychological impacts could take years to even emerge and start to be addressed.

There are few things more important to Lismore than community sport. Drive around the area between the CBD and Goonellabah on any given Saturday and you’ll see games going on everywhere.

I’m not about to suggest that sport is a cure for social ills. But it is part of the everyday social fabric; something that will make a small contribution to getting back to normal.

The thing that really shocked me in The Guardian’s report was the photo of the McDonald’s outlet on Lismore’s Brewster St.

The fast-food outlet in question is directly across the street from three of the main junior and lower grade cricket grounds in town. The main turf wickets adjoining Oakes Oval are not far behind where the photo was taken from.

When the photo was taken, each wicket was at least two metres below the flood waters, some of them more. These grounds have flooded before, but the scale of the damage to the surfaces and surrounding infrastructure this time will be devastating.

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There’s a high riverbank, a hill and a levee between the river and those grounds. But we’re talking about a 14-metre wall of water this time around.

The cricket grounds in north and south Lismore will have been affected just as badly, as will the football, rugby league and rugby union grounds in these areas.

Many of these grounds are municipal facilities and will be taken care of by the council. But there will be flow-on costs to clubs from repairs, restoration and insurance, plus revenue lost as a result of the disaster.

A certain member of the federal executive drew considerable ire in recent days after setting up a GoFundMe appeal for people affected by flooding in Brisbane.

While I’ve no time for the Minister in question, I’m quite prepared to accept it was a genuine attempt to help his local community.

The problem is the politicisation of community fundraising by a high-ranking politician. The first, second and third priorities of such a Minister should be using the considerable levers of the federal government to help citizens and taxpayers in need.

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When they’ve done the job they owe taxpayers, the community can tend to our private institutions.

If you see a Lismore-based cricket club appealing for help, they almost certainly need it. Please consider a contribution.

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