ON SATURDAY the Abermain Weston Hawks footy team were elated to make the grand final, by Monday night that feeling was replaced with devastation as their clubhouse burnt to the ground
Less than two weeks out from the Newcastle Hunter Rugby League grand final and the Hawks have lost all their training gear, the canteen, clubhouse, medical gear and equipment in what police believe to be an act of arson.
The fire that tore through the sports building was deliberately lit some time before about 6pm Monday.
It started in five plastic wheelie bins, but quickly spread to the clubhouse causing an estimated $20,000 in damage.
“We are pretty much completely gutted,” captain coach of the NHRL south division team Dean Peterkin said.
“To go from such a high on Saturday when we got through to the final, to finding out about the fire, we are just shattered.”
The blaze took Fire and Rescue crews from Abermain, Kurri Kurri, Kearsley and Cessnock more than four hours to bring under control.
The building has since been cordoned off as a crime scene and Hunter Valley police are investigating the circumstances leading to the fire.
Firies who attended the scene were shocked by the thoughtless damage and destruction.
“I don’t have words to describe those who think it is okay to burn down a sports clubhouse that so many locals rely on to enjoy themselves every weekend,” a spokesman for the NSW Fire and Rescue crew at Kearsley said.
“Our hearts go out to a community, players and volunteers who have lost their great club house.”
Club president Ray Foster said the team planned to gather at the field on Tuesday night to survey the damage and commiserate with a few cold brews. He said the clubhouse, which was less than ten years old, was a great loss but the immediate impact on the team was the destruction of the equipment and training gear.
Local clubs have already come to the aid of the Hawks, including Kurri and Kearsely which have both pledged equipment to help the team train in the lead up to the grand final at Raymond Terrace on September 8.
“Our thoughts are with the Abermain Weston Hawks RLFC, we will do everything we can to support the boys in the next two weeks,” a statement from Kurri Kurri Bulldogs read.
While the rebuild will be a daunting task for the club, Mr Peterkin believes the fire will only spur the team to victory for the final game of the season.
“We will rise from the ashes.”
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.