BY JAN NARY
For 45 years Judy Holt Park in Birkdale has been the home of the Redlands Rugby Union Club. Hundreds of rugby matches have been battled out to cries of encouragement, roars of approval and groans of disappointment but now the club is entering a bigger battle – striving for selection as a training ground for prestigious international matches. The club management has proposed the fields as a suitable training facility for the 2027 Men’s World Cup, the 2029 Women’s World Cup and the 2032 Olympics – but that can’t happen until the grounds have been saved from their murky history.
The club’s three football fields were built on the site of the old Birkdale tip and their past has caught up with them. Subsidence and leaching from the buried rubbish has necessitated a major overhaul and club President Mike King says that such an upgrade could put the venue in the running for use by international teams.
“Our biggest assets are our playing fields, but the ground needs relevelling and resurfacing at times and the leaching needs to be managed by engineered remedial action,” he says. “Council has initiated an ongoing plan with Stage 1 to start in 2024, subject to a procurement process and subsequent contractor schedule that will see drainage pipes installed to deal with the leachate. The second stage (yet to be designed and programmed) will follow, with the fields being capped and returfed. There will be different impacts on the club at different times but the first stage will have less impact than the second stage. We need to work through this in more detail as the procurement process is finalised and Council will keep the club updated as the schedule is confirmed, following the selection of the contractor.
“Once the work is done we’ll be in a prime position to compete for supplying training facilities to visiting international rugby teams. That will be great for the club and great for tourism to the Redlands.”
As well as their impressive senior men’s team, “The Muddies” have a thriving junior contingent, from under 4 to under 17. There are appropriate modifications for safety of the littlies, such as no tackling, only touch, playing on a half-sized field and having the coach on the field with them. There is also a modified program to cater for youngsters with disabilities, run with sponsor Optimum Movement.
The Golden Oldies (over 35) have their own protections built in: uncontested scrums, no kicking, no clear out rucks – and players that don’t want to be tackled wear red shorts. Given that the 30 members of the Golden Oldies cohort range in age from 35 to 74, that’s probably a good call.
Mike says that the steady growth in the number of women playing rugby has required some building updates.
“We have established an over-18 women’s team and we’re developing a younger team of 13 to 17-year-old women,” he says. “The younger female players are often the sisters of boys who have joined; they watch the game and want to be part of it. We did some major developments to our club rooms in early 2023, with particular attention to the change rooms for the women’s use.”
Even with safety procedures all in place, rugby is not a game for the faint-hearted, though Mike says that the Muddies have been fortunate in having had no major incidents. A coach for 15 years, Mike says that good coaching and training will prevent a lot of injuries.
“To give our senior players an added sense of security, we give them supplementary club insurance on top of the standard Australian Rugby insurance. Fortunately, it’s very rarely used!”.
Understandably, the club has a lot of New Zealand players and a highlight of the club’s calendar is the observation of Waitangi Day, commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in early February. A traditional hangi and a social game of rugby on Saturday 10th February will ease the club into what promises to be an exciting 2024 season. Sign-on days are Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February from 9:00am to 1:00pm as well as Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th February from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
If you’d like to explore being part of the excitement you can contact the club on [email protected] or call Tiki Tuapou on 0439 628 636. Various on-ground sponsorship packages are available for the 2024 season; contact Mike King on 0413 434 800 for details.