The countdown to the South Sydney Rabbitohs' very own Community and High Performance Centre is on, with construction set to kick off in the coming months following State Government approval for the project.
Located in the heart of Rabbitohs territory in Maroubra, the project will house Souths Cares' offices and facilities, the Rabbitohs football department and training facilities, administration offices in addition to a new indoor sports hall and gymnastics centre that will be available to the public.
The New South Wales Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres had previously announced State Government funding for the project to tune of $8.7 million dollars. Funds which will contribute directly to the well-being of the area given the role that Souths Cares plays in community outreach programs.
"We know that sporting clubs and big strong brands like the Rabbitohs have a hugely motivating influence on communities." Said Ayres.
"We want to say the doors are open to become involved in the number of community programs that Souths Cares or the Rabbitohs run. You can do that alongside where some of the best players in the NRL are training. It's also a home base for the club and it's firmly planted in the South of Sydney."
"Its also a key part of our overall stadia strategy as more content is consolidated into major stadiums. We want to create opportunities for clubs to have their roots firmly planted in their communities, those being traditional and historical communities. These centres, whether they be for training, administration and community outreach programs, are a firm part of our strategy." Said Ayres.
The Mayor Randwick Lindsay Shurey was a councillor when the proposal was first floated back in 2014. Like Ayres, she too sees the overall benefits that the centre will provide to the community.
"I was there from the start of this concept." She said. "I think it's really important for the people of Randwick. We put in a request for a rate variation to fund the indoor sports hall and gymnastics centre, and overwhelmingly our population agreed to a rate rise because of the quality of facilities like this."
Shurey echoed Ayres comments whole heartedly, particularly given the involvement of Souths Cares and the lack of sporting facilities available to other council areas around the Sydney City region.
"I'm really excited that Souths Cares have a big stake in our community. I think it's a really important initiative by the Rabbitohs, and we're also going to be building our part of it with a gymnasium and indoor sports centre that our community will be able to enjoy forever more." She said.
"People come from all over. They're not just Randwick residents. The city of Sydney doesn't have any sporting facilities, Bayside I don't think has any major sporting facilities. This is the regional sporting facility."
Local boy and Rabbitohs legend John Sutton is someone who understands the important role that the centre will play in inspiring the local rugby league community.
"I played a lot of games for Kensington United against Matto [Matraville] Tigers at this place." Said Sutton.
"From under 7s, we played here a lot. We had a good team growing up. Won 10 straight. This is footy heartland right here. Some people underestimate that. Footy brings a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people in this area."
With the centre set to be completed by early 2021, the completion date looks set to be eclipsing Sutton's playing career at the club.
"I live one minute away," Sutton said. "It's exciting that the new centre is here, even though I won't be playing because I'm not far off retirement."
Sure enough, as a past player or a local, he'll be there along with his family enjoying everything the Centre has to offer.