League player wins sporting grant - nine months after he needed it

Murray Bridge's Lachlan Miller attended a national competition last August. In May, his mum got an unusual phone call.

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Eight months have passed since Lachlan Miller represented South Australia at School Sport Australia's Rugby League Championships for his age group.

The South Aussies didn’t fare tremendously, finishing equal last behind teams from the eastern states made up of likely future pros; but it was still an invaluable experience for a 12-year-old from Murray Bridge.

His family footed the bill for the trip to Brisbane after missing out on a federal Local Sporting Champions grant.

So Lachlan’s mum, Jaimie Pearson, was confused when she received a phone call earlier this month

The caller said his grant application had been approved after all, and that the family would receive $650.

“She said there had been a review that had opened up some extra funding for the fourth round,” she said.

“I was actually quite shocked.

“I don’t think I questioned it at the time – I was in between meetings at work and said ‘okay, that sounds great’.”

It was only after she hung up the phone that she really began wondering about it.

According to the program guidelines published on the Sport Australia website, Local Sporting Champions grants may be paid out as a reimbursement after events have taken place, so long as applications were submitted beforehand.

But the guidelines also say the program is administered on an annual basis, and that the championships Lachlan attended fell within a previous "allocation year": March 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

After an enquiry from Murray Bridge News, federal MP Tony Pasin was able to explain.

Money had been left over in the program after so many sporting events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the electorate of Barker, Lachlan and eight other applicants who had previously been told they were unsuccessful got lucky the second time around.

Three new applicants also received funding.

So no, the change of heart had nothing to do with the so-called “sports rorts” of the past 12 months, Mr Pasin said.

“I want to assure you that the LSC program is a separate and ongoing program in no way related to the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program,” he said.

Regardless of the roundabout process, Ms Pearson said she was glad her son – who learned to play league as soon as he could walk – had been able to compete in his chosen sport.

“We’re originally from New South Wales, so we know how competitive those state teams are – living outside of Sydney, the likelihood of kids getting picked up for those representative teams is next to no chance,” she said.

“It was a really great opportunity for Lachie.”

Photo: Peri Strathearn. Video: School Sport Australia/YouTube.