From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


I am in Sydney at the moment and one of the lead stories is the fact that the Mayor of Sydney now wants to take a big piece of land around Moore Park (sic inner-city areas) for general recreational use. She claims that the 45 acres taken up by the golf course is not productive enough when you consider playing numbers and memberships are on the decline. The course itself is surrounded by high rise apartments. It’s a strong argument and gets a lot of support (from non-golfers mainly).

Last weekend too there was an article in a weekend magazine about ‘abandoned cricket pitches’. It has an Instagram title of that name if you want to have a look. The photographer in question sees it as the intersection of sport, history, geography, archaeology and art. He has illustrated over 200 such pictures and the scenes are marvellous and varied. Some are covered in moss, others surrounded by wildflowers, wheat fields or just red dirt. It’s quite a scene. More importantly they all have a ‘story’ whereby vehicular transport made it easier for small towns to compete and make a statement.

It made me think about the sporting arenas in the Lower Clarence area. I know for a fact in Iluka there was a cricket pitch used up till the 1960’s adjacent to the old road into town (Riverview St.) The park itself was named Marandowie park and given to the town in 1910. It fell into disuse when the new road into town was built during sandmining era and the current sporting fields also appeared on those same mining leases. The area now has horses on it, old boats and nets and is leased by crown lands department to a local resident. Some people would like to see it grow into botanical garden setting.

The new sporting area has recently had a bit of money spent on it and more to come with the building of change rooms etc. The area has been laser levelled and irrigation pipes installed. Already some wag has written on the light pole ‘Iluka Hill’ which is fair enough as it is the only raised area in the complex.

So where are our other nostalgic pitches. There is a good deal of history surrounding the Harwood oval. The local sugar mill donated the land and provided funds for its establishment. The masthead for this very column is of that grounds grandstand. It’s a beauty. At the moment they have attracted funding to build three wonderful nets for practice to complete the surrounds.

If ever you are in Lawrence playing golf or croquet you will soon see the area is part of what was the old racecourse and the whole area had multiple uses including a cricket pitch. I’m sure I am only touching the surface here and the local historical societies would have more information.

So, whatever the arena you play on, genuine sporting people see such areas as sacred ground.