When the whistle blew at half time, participants dutifully swapped sides before the action resumed in the Sunday heat.
With cricket bats and footballs adorning the altar, congregants in netball uniforms, and an acolyte in running shoes, the strong athletic tradition of St John Bosco, Engadine, was on show at the parish’s annual Sports Mass last weekend.
Now in its third year, the Mass was conceived “to celebrate sport and show our gratitude to those who volunteer every week to make the sports happen, the coaches, the parents, the managers, and the umpires”, said parish pastoral council member Maryanne Stuart.
In 1964, the Engadine parish founded what is now known as the St John Bosco Youth Centre, encompassing sporting clubs including cricket, soccer, netball, hockey, rugby league, basketball, Oztag, and gymnastics.
While the parish of St John Bosco boasts more than 40 pastoral and community groups, its sporting tradition – a key link between parish and school – is arguably the most enduring.
“We’re just trying to create a sporting family within the parish and wider community,” Maryanne said.
“There is a sense of pride and also of gratitude, for the ability to be able to play sport.”
Celebrated at the start of the winter sporting season, the Mass was also a reminder of the importance of sportsmanship, “of playing as a part of a team and supporting one another”, she said.
Athletes young and old dressed in team colours, while a water boy kept parish priest Fr Mick Court SDB hydrated.
The Mass represented the lively and faithful parish, Maryanne said.
“It is a very vibrant parish, and it’s the people in those parish groups that maintain that vibrancy.”
Construction of the new St John Bosco Sporting and Community Centre was expected to commence in early 2016, 14 years after fire destroyed the previous clubhouse, a local landmark known as The Hut.
Visit boscoyouthcentre.org.au to donate.