At a committee meeting earlier this year it was said that the Lower Clarence Magpies Rugby League Club “needs to look to the future, not the past” – and a decision was made to shift the club’s home games to the Ngayundi Yamba Sports Complex.
With a century of history behind the club and with much of that centred on the Maclean showground, it was always going to be a difficult decision to move from the traditional Maclean venue.
There was a lot of sentiment to be absorbed when the issue was discussed at the AGM, but even club stalwarts like life members Ross McPherson and Bill McCarron could see the writing on the wall and supported the decision.
What tipped the scales in favour of the move was the opening up of the showgrounds to the grey nomads who come through the area and are keen to take advantage of the venue. They are not too concerned whether it is game day or not.
So, too, the increasing use of the ground by the equine fraternity. This meant that more and more weekends were unavailable, which resulted in a lot of moving of posts and club infrastructure to the Yamba venue.
The club preferred to have a real home base that it could take ownership of and start putting some funds towards.
There were the workplace health and safety issues, too. After horse and cattle events there were often the remnants of animal eliminations on the field, which, when mixed with top dressing, provided a ready infection base for game day cuts and abrasions. You cannot just say ‘harden up’ in this day and age.
With the bats in the near vicinity as well, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
The Clarence Valley Council has supported the club in its endeavours. They understand the predicament with the showground and are happy to help in any way they can.
Already they have found an old portable toilet block from the south Grafton depot and have installed it at the Yamba ground in readiness.
The board of management for the Magpies has had plans drawn up for club facilities at the Yamba venue. The NRL has expressed support and local politicians are behind the club as well.
Plans are developing with the architect and while it might take a couple of years, amenities will improve every season.
Crowd numbers at the two home games this season have been very encouraging. It lifted the team and they were unlucky to go down by the narrowest of margins on both occasions.
To a relative outsider like me, who only got involved because I love my rugby league and I love my region, it makes sense. It is a ‘Lower Clarence’ team after all.
Over the last hundred years there have been a number of name changes including Yamba itself. It should always encompass the two biggest towns particularly in sponsorship matters, but people in Iluka, Harwood, Lawrence, etcetera, should all see the Magpies as their team.
Just as the Bulldogs have moved from Belmore and the Tigers from Leichardt oval, the Magpies have to bite the bullet and leave sentiment behind. Yamba is the growth area in the region and it makes sense to make the move in the 21st century.
Col Hennessy is the
Magpies publicity officer