Sport’s role in rich history

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Cricketers, date unknown. Photo: OXLEY MUSEUM WELLINGTON
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Cricketers, date unknown. Photo: OXLEY MUSEUM WELLINGTON

Sport has always played a big part in community activities of Wellington and district, and one of the most popular sports over the years has been rugby league.

The first football match was played at Wellington in 1879 between the home team and Dubbo. Charles Rygate was captain and Wellington won two goals, two tries to none. 

A newspaper report on the match read: “Next to a prize fight it was the roughest game I know of.”

The Wellington Brass Band played during the game and a dinner was held at night.

Prominant players during the early years – before the Second World War – were Albert and Jack Why who later played for South Sydney.  

Football players from Wellington were also present in the Western Division team who won the inaugural Amco Cup final in 1974.

The tournament was plastered together in the final year of black-and-white television, featuring a full suite of Sydney premiership clubs.

However, many sports have been played both on a social level and as competition with much success by variours teams and individuals. 

Among the most acknowledged successes are Olympic swimmer, Ian O’Brien and more recently 22-year-old ParaOlympian Ben Austin.

In 1906 efforts were made to have public baths established in town and a swimming club formed. Swimming in the Macquarie River was a popular past time. 

In 1905 R Simpson – a prominent Queensland swimmer – moved to Wellington as an employee of the Railway Department. Through his efforts a club was formed with over 200 male members – ladies were spectators only – and a carnival was held at the river below Thorton Street to highlight the need of a public pool to council.

Others have excelled at the highest level in cricket, water skiing, football and schoolgirl cricket.

Foot racing was popular between the 1870s and 1880s, with runners competing for money and prizes. The Wellington Sports Association was formed in July 1911.

The formation of a Bowling Club was discussed in June 1905 and the green was officially opened in January 1906.

The first cricket match played in Wellington was on Roytal Oak Day, May 29, 1850.

The first club was formed in 1859 at a meeting of cricketers held at the Sportsmens Arms Hotel in Montefiores.

In February 1871 Wellington played Ironbark and won. The next year the team was defeated by Dubbo.

An English Eleven played Wellington in 1885.

Horse racing was also popular in Wellington, the first race meeting on the Wellington Flat in 1845. In 1874 it is recorded that races took place along the Bell River, as well as “Black Rock” Neurea.

Prize money offered in 1902 was 35 sovereigns.

Racing continued at Montefiores up until 1902 when land was purchased on the north side of the railway line. The Race Club currently holds race meetings at the Showground site on the western side of the Bell River.

Wellington’s first tennis club held regular practises in a paddock belonging to the Bank of NSW in 1883.

During the 1920s tennis was played on the Municipal Tennis Courts at the southern end of Cameron Park.

In 1927, 19 tennis courts and a clubhouse were built at Rygate Park.