In Nuriootpa’s Centennial Park, tucked away past the netball courts, crickets nets and the Scouts’ hall, sits the Barossa United Football Club’s (BUFC) newly completed synthetic pitch, just in time for the 2023 season to kick off in March.
The re-development was made possible thanks to $3.2m funding from The Barossa Council (as part of The Big Project) and $1m from Federal grants.
BUFC President, George Triandafyllidis, and Administrator, Lisa Ognjanovic, recently reflected on the Club’s journey to this exciting new chapter.
From the Club’s humble beginnings in 1989, it has always strived to provide everyone with an opportunity to play football, and Lisa and George agree that the best way to describe their Club is “inclusive”.
They say, “The culture of the club has evolved around our juniors, making it family-friendly and welcoming.
“The committee have sought to continue this ethos and is incredibly proud of being one of the most affordable football clubs in the league.”
Lisa says, “As a country sport, we want everyone to be able to participate, even though we play in the city leagues.
“So as a committee and executive we try very hard to have everyone who could possibly play, and want to play, to be involved in the sport.”
Over the past few years, the Club has grown significantly, with over 300 player registrations.
With the Junior Club merging with the Senior Men’s Club and the development of multiple girls’ teams, the Club has faced some challenges.
Lisa says, “Over the last so many years we’ve grown quite considerably in the number of teams we’ve been able to fill.
“So with that came pressure on our one pitch – we couldn’t schedule all our games here and were running out of space.”
Both George and Lisa added, “It had become a logistical nightmare to schedule all 22 teams at our existing facility.
“No toilets or changerooms, carpark congestion and the lack of pitches were the driving force in discussions over providing these facilities to our members.”
When COVID hit, BUFC withdrew all of its teams from the Elizabeth and Districts Junior Soccer Association League and established a ‘B20’ local, internal competition.
Many winter nights were spent rugged up in the Club’s tin shed, planning to guide the Club beyond the uncertainty of COVID and into a new direction.
In 2021, BUFC emerged in a new league (Football SA), with new branding, new kits, new sponsors and a drive to improve the facility to future-proof the sport in the Barossa.
Their efforts paid off when the Club secured funding for a $4.2m re-development football precinct, including a new artificial pitch, lighting, changerooms and clubrooms.
Lisa says, “The council have been amazing. They were committed to supporting the Club’s continued growth and understood the importance of the re-development.”
These new facilities will make a world of difference to the Club, enabling them to play night or day, rain or shine.
George says, “The last few years, we’ve had a six-week period in winter where there’s no training, games get shuffled around left, right and centre, postponements and reschedules due to the grass dissolving to mud.
“Now, this second full-size pitch is all-weather, so it could rain all it wants, and we can continue training and playing.”
Despite football appearing as one of the smaller sports in the Barossa, it is growing rapidly locally and nationally, and the Club is glad to be one of the many choices in the area.
The Women’s World Cup this year will continue to build on the appeal of the sport, with 25% of BUFC members being female.
Lisa says, “In smaller regional areas, it’s about creating a community where people have choices of different sporting options.
“We like to make sure that we’re building good relationships across various sporting codes because we’re all here for the enjoyment of kids and adults getting out, playing a sport, being healthy and getting that social connection.”
Through the hard work of generations of Barossa United FC volunteers, they have built a community with facilities that will soon match the incredible spirit of the Club itself.