Family, connection and a sense of belonging is why Loren Neville loves community football.
Loren started her association with Southern Lakes United FC when she began volunteering in the canteen more than 10 years ago.
After a short time away from the club, Neville returned to join the Hurricanes officially as part of the committee. This year will be Neville’s sixth as registrar.
It is truly a family effort at Southern Lakes. Neville’s husband Adam is president of the Macquarie Football club, her father the former president while her mother works in the canteen.
“To me it’s not just a football club but more like a family. A real community,” Neville said.
“People always help each other out. There is that real sense of togetherness. We’re not the biggest club around but we’ve got so many families here that always help out if you need. They’re always there.
“When I started there was a mum who had a baby that was a couple of months old. Last year he played for us. It’s so surreal. When I first met him he was just a baby but the family has stayed with the club and now he’s playing with us.
“You get to see little brothers and sisters come through the ranks. They start out watching their older siblings then they fall in love with the game which is what we all want.
Sense of Community
The Cooranbong community is a tight one but one that is growing every year. That growth was the reason behind Southern Lakes United’s move to its new facility at Cooranbong Park.
“That link with the community gets bigger and better every year. It’s why I’m so glad we’ve got the new facility because each year we continue to grow. Looking at our registrations so far compared to this time last year we’ve doubled that number already,” Neville said.
“I grew up in the Cooranbong area and people I grew up with who have kids of their own are messaging me asking if their child can come and play. It’s really touching sometimes, you can’t believe they have kids old enough to play but also that they trust us enough to look after their kids in our environment.”
While there was some sadness about leaving their old home at Douglass Street Oval, their new home at Cooranbong Park is a game changer for the club.
As well as two full-sized football pitches, the Cooranbong Park facility boasts changerooms, referee rooms, storage sheds, bathrooms and amenities plus all weather courts and playgrounds.
The incredible new facility has helped secure Southern Lakes United’s future in the area.
“We were told a fair while ago there was going to be substantial growth in Watagan Park. We worked with Northern NSW Football and Macquarie Football to make sure our application was perfect. With our numbers our growth over the last five years was about 300 per cent,” Neville said.
“We haven’t been in there yet, it’s still in the construction phase but it’s huge compared to what we had at Douglass Street. It’s going to be so good for our football community. We’ll be able to have more women’s football thanks to the two lots of changerooms. It’s a real game changer for our community. We’re hopeful it will be ready for the start of the season.
“The playing surface looks really good. The facility itself is massive. There is still a little work to be done. As much as a I love Douglass Street I don’t think we could fit any more in.”
NNSWF Community Football Manager Ross Hicks and Club Development Officer Phillip Andrews were integral to helping Southern Lakes United gain access to the facility.
“Ross and Phil were always touching base with us,” Neville said.
“I contacted Ross after the original meeting with council and knew it was going ahead. He said he had all the stats and data ready to go because he’d been working on it for the last few years to get us ready for that facility.
“He helped us fill it out and fine tune it as much as we could. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Southern Lakes United are preparing for another big year on the pitch as well as some big changes off it.
Neville is confident the supportive club environment and strong community ties will help the club overcome any challenges.
“What I love about our club and I guess community football just in general is the feel of it and how good it makes you feel,” Neville said.
“You get to socialise with people but also get out there and stay active if you’re playing. The reason I do it for our club is that we’re a family. Adam no longer plays and my brother hasn’t played for a few years now but you see the kids and players come off the pitch with a smile on their face every game it makes you fall in love with the sport all over again. Everything has been totally worth it for me.
“Without community clubs you’re not going to get the next Sam Kerr or Ellie Carpenter. They are the lifeblood of football.”
Registration information for Parents
Want to sign up your child for football in 2022? Register HERE
Having trouble? Parents can contact the PlayFootball team directly if they are having issues with registering by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 02 8880 7983.
The support team will be available from 9am until 9pm throughout January and February, with the potential for the extended service to continue into March.
While registrations for some community clubs will open from the first week of January, NNSWF’s annual official date for open registrations is 1 February. Contact your club for more information.