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Beazley's Bridge on the run
It doesn’t just take young people to make a thriving Juniors.
At Beazley’s Bridge, the engine is Barry Wiseman who says he’s been running the Juniors “forever”. Actually it’s been 28 years with co-leader Kevin Haynes involved for more than half that time.
At their first championship they were disqualified in the first four of five events.
“There were four Juniors and we didn’t know how to train them,” says Barry. “It’s been trial and error.”
The Beazley’s Bridge Captain Tom Small and all the lieutenants except one have been through Juniors. There’s never been anything fancy drawing them in with the training area just a track, a dam and a tree for the ladder but all Tom remembers is “the fun we had. We were mucking around and squirting each other. But when I went to my first fire before Minimum Skills, we found we had training that others didn’t have.”
Many of the current 21 Juniors come from the Stuart Mill, St Arnaud, Gooroc and Slaty Creek brigade areas. Intensive training for the state demonstrations runs from late January to April with Beazley's Bridge running up to four teams two to three nights a week. (They also manage to put up at least three senior running teams.)
Talk to some of the members today and many will say, “Barry asked me to join”. Hannah Grahame is one of them. She’s almost 16 and moved to the area recently from the city.
“It’s something different and a fun thing to do,” she says. “We meet new friends at the champs and we really don’t care if we win or lose. I’m looking forward to Minimum Skills. It looks harder but when the summer comes I’ll be more handy to help. It’s helping Australia build strength. People at school think that it’s cool and I’m actually proud that I joined.”
Barry is proud of them all, including the four 16 year olds who recently moved up the ranks.
“We try like hell at the champs but we don’t take it too seriously,” he says. “Still, the skills translate really well into fireground practice. I like being at a fire with people who’ve done demos. They know where everything is on the truck: suction, couplings … it just gets done. No one has to ask. We have a lot of trust in each other.
“You give them self-belief. They think they can’t do something and you say, ‘Of course you can’. It gives me and Kevin a lot of satisfaction.
“We like to take the Juniors in the truck to get water and teach them how to access the pipeline. Once the champs are over, we take a couple of local ski boats out to Lake Wooroonook and drag them around on donuts.
“The more fun you have the better. Once you organise a social event, you’ve got them hooked.
“Kids have enough structure in their lives. They already have good connections with adults. They’re already working. We have kids here driving huge tractors on their farms. They don’t need more discipline.”
One of those conscientious young people is Georgie Jackson, 16-and-a-half years old, who loves the day trips to laser tag and go-karts in Bendigo. She joined Juniors at 11 but is now a boarder in Ballarat waiting to do Minimum Skills.
“I’m definitely likely to be a CFA member into the future,” she says. “Everyone is welcome here: the more the merrier.”
Barry’s daughter Rendelle is the third Juniors’ leaders and was “hanging to join” with her twin brothers following two years later. Barry fondly remembers her first demo when he told the team, “Do everything to the best of your ability and make sure you finish each event no matter what might go wrong … and they won the aggregate! They still remind me of that.”
Rendelle now lives and works in Bendigo but helps out with the girls on trips and absolutely agrees with her father’s let’s-have-fun philosophy.
“It’s all the stuff on the side: the mud fights, getting on the bus with everyone, the trips to Maccas and KFC which we don’t have here.
“Juniors is a community thing as much as a brigade thing. This is the only thing as a community that we do together and it gives us the chance to catch up. It’s an extended family and now we have young people looking out for each other in other contexts.”
“There’s no generation gap,” chimes in Barry. “The kids are great to get along with. We all bag each other. I’m selfish: I’m doing it for myself as much as anybody.”