From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


Greetings from the Riverina district of NSW. I am down at Forbes at the moment to watch my grandson captain the Parkes U/18’s in the preliminary final against traditional rivals Forbes who have been premiers for the last three years in their age group.

I must take a paragraph to comment on the absolute brilliance of the countryside throughout the Riverina. They have had good rain now for a few months and the scene is idyllic. Such a contrast from 12 months ago. Everywhere you look you can see the fields of green wheat alongside the golden canola crop. Not satisfied with that you have the contrasting Cootamundra wattle and the purple haze of Patterson’s curse (or as Nigel would describe them from his days as a florist Riverina Bluebells).

Back to the footy. What a scene it was. The ground was packed but like an era of bygone days. COVID regulations meant the grandstand was closed and tickets were limited so families stayed in their cars. We had two concentric circles of cars around the ground itself, the second circle on the raised area around them. Cars horns were blaring in approval or disgust, but you couldn’t tell which. It was a high-class game and with Dubbo playing Bathurst in the earlier game we had the future of the game on show for all to see, with many players already contracted to Sydney clubs. What’s more we had a female referee who did a very competent job in what was after all ‘Women in League’ week.

Of course, everyone who visits the Riverina must spend time in Wagga. I bet you didn’t know that Wagga Beach (yes lifeguards and all) is rated #9 in the all-time list of best Australian beaches. That means it beats anything at Yamba or along our coastline. Hard to believe I know and just quietly I don’t believe it. It’s a pretty spot on the Murrumbidgee, but that’s about all.

We took time to visit the museum as all old folks generally do and they recently had an exhibition on famous Wagga sporting stars. Wagga is the self-proclaimed capital of sporting legends but unlike the beach tag this is hard to dispute. Consider this list for starters in a town not much bigger than Grafton. Greg Brentnall (League), Wayne Carey (AFL), Steve Elkington (golf), Mortimer brothers (League), Paul Kelly (AFL), Geoff Lawson (cricket), Jim Lenehan (Union), Tony Roche (tennis) Michael Slater (cricket), Peter Stirling (League), Mark Taylor (cricket).

Actually, I’ve only listed the top ten that you may know. There were over 100 people who have represented at state and National level. It’s not a bad record but I didn’t see one lifesaver or ironman mentioned (if you get my drift). 

For the record the grandson scored the first try after ten minutes and then was concussed soon after while they were leading and never came back on. His team went down valiantly to what was a cracker jack side.