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Sports academy also anxious over status of centre of excellence

Last week two Kontos Report missives hit a raw nerve or three.

One was the bold suggestion that the annual Fisher’s Ghost art award be restricted to local artists and, therefore, keep the $25,000 prizemoney here.

The second report to make some waves was our revelation that there isn’t much movement when it comes to starting construction on the much talked about sport centre of excellence.

Mention was made that delay in completion may affect one of the big stakeholders, Macarthur FC Bulls, our A-League club, which starts competing with the big boys next year.

However I should have mentioned that there are others in that boat, including our brilliant sport academy led by long time CEO Gerry Knights.

It goes without saying that South West Sydney Academy of Sport is one of our favourite local organisations here at the Voice in Macarthur.

The reason is simple: the academy can regularly point to outstanding achievements even though it operates on a shoestring.

It’s quite amazing the way it quietly goes about developing and fast tracking the future of our region’s talented young sports stars and we kind of like that sort of quiet achiever approach.

And the academy provides these opportunities without our young athletes having to move away from their family, friends, school, or religious organisation – it all happens right here at home for talented athletes from Liverpool to the Southern Highlands and everyone in between.

Gerry Knights tells me that the academy, a not-for-profit community based organisation, is eagerly awaiting the outcome of a decision by Campbelltown Council on its operational future.

And specifically, its move to the Sports and Health Centre of Excellence, to be located within the grounds of Western Sydney University’s Campbelltown campus.

Moving from its current fibro cottage located on Queen Street to the Centre of Excellence would be like relocating from the basement to the penthouse, says Gerry Knights.

It would be a huge boost to academy athletes like 18-year-old Australian wheelchair basketball sensation Jess Cronje, pictured above, who is shooting for a place in the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Our investigations identify that NSW Regional Academies are held in high esteem by their local regions,’’ Knights told the Voice.

“And nearly all other Academies are located and use the training facilities available within appropriate major sports venues, like Penrith’s Panthers Stadium, Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium, or the likes of Charles Stuart and Wollongong Universities.

“We all know that our region is one of the fastest growing populations in Australia and that the call on the Academy will grow dramatically over just the next three to four years,’’ he told me.

His point is that our talented local athletes deserve to be able to receive a similar level of athlete services available to other NSW Regional Academy athletes.

He is hoping that council can quickly make the right decision regarding the Academy’s future and the future of our local high achieving sports stars.

Well, we all are.

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