Robertson Oval – where Terry Daniher was king

The AFL grounds onslaught into NSW continues with the unveiling of a revamped Robertson Oval in Wagga on March 2 when the Giants play the Brisbane Lions in a NAB Cup game under lights.

More than $8m has been spent on revamping Robertson Oval to meet the requirements of the AFL for hosting matches. It has involved extending the ground, a complete re-turf, upgraded change rooms and installation of lights.

The bulk of the funds came from the Wagga City Council as well as contribution from the AFL of $250,000. Cricket NSW pulled funding at the last minute but will still receive the benefits of the upgrade.

The Wagga Tigers Australian Football Club, which uses the ground for home matches, has taken the opportunity to build new coaches boxes and to make improvements to the club’s social rooms.

The upgrade to Robertson Oval now provides the AFL NSW-ACT with two venues of the required standard for AFL matches in the Riverina. The Sportsground at Narrandera, 120 kilometres west of Wagga, has also hosted NAB Cup pre-season fixtures and was bought up to standard two years ago in conjunction with the local council.

Robertson Oval is located in the Bolton Park sporting complex, situated on the edge of downtown Wagga Wagga.  Football has been played at Bolton Park since the establishment of the game in Wagga in the early 1880s. It has been the home ground for the Wagga Tigers since 1928.

The ground has a rich sporting history having also hosted international cricket and international rugby league matches.

Cricket goes all the way back to 1878 when a Wagga Wagga team comprised of 22 players played an Australian XI that was preparing for the tour of England. Australia was led by Dave Gregory and included such illustrious names as the Bannerman brothers, wicket-keeper JM Blackham, and WL Murdoch who made 93 runs. The visitors won by an innings and 117 runs.

Touring cricket teams from England, New Zealand and India have played Southern NSW teams at Robertson Oval over the years.  Colin Cowdrey took 2-9 and Derek Underwood 2-15  when the MCC beat Southern NSW by 6 wickets in a one-day game in  January 1971. Local skipper Stan Dasey dismissed both openers, Geoff Boycott (76) and Brian Luckhurst (62), stumped by Albury’s Steve “Stumper” Rixon, who, of course, later went onto to play for NSW and Australia, and is now a prominent international coach.

The crowd record is 11,000 which attended the rugby league international between France and the Riverina – won by the French 25-14. In 1954 a crowd of 10,732 attended a match between Great Britain and Riverina won by the Poms,  36-26. Jim Daniher, father of Essendon’s Terry, Anthony, Neale and Chris, scored two tries for Riverina.

Terry Daniher was the “King” of Robertson Oval when he led Wagga Tigers to five premierships in six years in the Riverina Football League in the nineties after finishing his AFL career with the Bombers.

I never got to see many games at Robertson Oval mainly because when I was living in Wagga the Tigers were in the Farrer League and played on Saturdays, the same day I was playing for the Uni Bushpigs in the then Central Riverina League.

However, I do recall being taken to the ground between the wedding ceremony and the reception for my mate, Ab, by Wagga Tigers stalwart Bevan Rowe in the late 80s to see a spindly winger run around. His name was Paul Kelly.  Bev was a Swans recruiting scout at the time and was instrumental in getting “Kel” to have a crack at AFL footy.

Daniher and Kelly are two of the many great players to have played at Robertson Oval for Wagga Tigers. Others include St Kilda goalkicking great Bill Mohr,  imported coach Tim Robb (North/Footscray), John Pitura (Swans/Richmond), Paul Hawke (Swans/Collingwood), local  418 game champion Gerald Peiper (who also had a few games at the Swans), as well as current Hawthorn AFL players Matt Suckling and Isaac Smith.

Lifelong Tigers supporter and one-time committee member Allan Abbott rates Pitura as the best player he has seen grace the ground. “His skills were sublime”, according to Ab, “he always had so much time and he was such a beautiful left foot kick. He played mostly across half back (for Tigers) where he could quickly turn defence into attack. A wonderfully gifted player”.

My favourite memory of Robertson Oval is an entirely social one. My footy team-mates, the socially-addicted Rava brothers, Phil and Col, arranged a “Roast to Rocket” farewell function for me in the Wagga Tigers social rooms when I left Wagga in 1982. About 100 friends attended the function, and at the last count  38 did not go to work the next day!

Comments

  1. Superb profile Rod. And great that the infrastructure is now in place for the next chapters in Robertson Oval’s rich history.

  2. Richard Jones says:

    CAN’T find a Bendigo connection with Robertson Oval, nor players mentioned, Rocket Rod.

    But I do know Narrandera. That’s where Bendigo F.L. great Ron Best nailed 10 goals in an inter-league game against the then South-West F.L. Might have been 1980.
    I went up on the Saturday on the team bus, with stops at Murchison and just over the border into NSW for lunch, before a late afternoon training jog at Narrandera.
    By the way for the NSW outfit on the Sunday a gent named Victor Hugo (no, not the French writer) bagged 6 for the home side.

    How come the powers-that-were at Robertson Oval didn’t attract any State or Fed. funding? For the $2 million re-development in 2010-11 of Bendigo’s Queen Eliz. Oval, the City Council’s contribution was much smaller than the Feds and the State’s.
    Bendigo MHR Steve Gibbons managed to get $750,000 from the Federal Government.

  3. Top stuff ‘Rocket”. Greg Smith, David Murphy, and Neville Miller also would have played there.

    Will you be in Ardlethan, or Corowa, for their Cups in the month of March?

    Glen!

  4. Thanks Glen!

    You’re right that Smithy (East Wagga) , Scratcher Murphy (Turvey Park) & Nifty Miller would have played at Robertson Oval – but as I was only focussing on Wagga Tigers players. Nifty definetly needs to be added to the list.

    Dick Carey played a few seasons with Tigers too, But he was more at home at North Wagga. Saw him dominate the 91 GF for North against Mangoplah-Cookardina United at Robertson Oval. Intimidating.

    Alas, no races this March due to work commitments in Vietnam but down to see the Swans unfurl the premiership flag!

  5. craig dodson says:

    great profile, was lucky enough to spend much time on the ground playing cricket and football over the years. Robbo also hosted a 16 year old Sachin Tendulker in 1991 when India played the Australian Country team and also Taylor/Slater/Lawson appeared in club games for the mighty Lake Albert cricket club. Nifty Miller happens to also be my uncle.. small world. Will be interesting to see what crowd the giants and lions can pull

  6. Thanks Craig,

    The Wagga City Council claim the ground can now accommodate up to 17,000. Its not likely that the Giants and the Lions will put that many. It’ll be interesting to see if they can break the ground record.

    Can you tell me what cricket club Stan Dasey played for?

    BTW, what is your cousin Brad Miller doing now that he’s retired from AFL?

  7. craig dodson says:

    Rocket

    Stan played for Lake Albert (my old club) and played in the golden era of the club. For a small country town club it had an amazing history of players, but alas has not won a flag since the late 80s. Taylor and Lawson played all their cricket at Lake and Slater played a few seasons after spending most of his years at RSL. Derek Rogers from the 70s is always referred to as the club great, unfortunately died in a car accident on the way home from an o’farrel cup match

    I was at the 91 GF and it was pretty much Mango vs North every year in the farrer league during that period. Carey and Phi Cohalin had some good battles.

    Brad is now playing for Heidleberg in metro melbourne footy.

  8. Chicken George says:

    Good one Rocket.

    Brisbane Lions won by 3 points, 100-97. GWS only lost the lead late in the game.
    The crowd was just a little over 7000. A long way off the record.
    The new surface was superb. The lights were fantastic. Game was ok, close.
    The two Leeton boys, Kurt Aylett and Jacob Townsend, got a run for the Giants.
    Really good for the AFL in Wagga!

  9. Stephen Mumford says:

    I remember attending World Series Cricket at the ground. I have an autograph somewhere that I got from Tony Grieg at a World XI vs West Indies match. The annual Toohey’s Cup matches were a must and I remember Doug Walters playing at least one match – are they still played?

  10. craig dodson says:

    No Stephen the Tooheys cup games ended over 15 years ago I’d say.. I remember Steve Waugh getting a golden duck (bowled by Greg Cox – a local wagga player) and Mark Taylor dislocating a finger in one match and asking my old man (who happened to be in the sheds) to put it back in during a match in the early 90s. I was lucky enough to play in the u/16 match during the dinner break. Great opportunities for the local players to rub shoulders with the pros

  11. James Hothersall says:

    Ahh the Riverina….. like Broken Hill it was always so close but just out of reach for NSW footy

    I came across someone’s thesis at University of NE recently…….

  12. Dr Rocket says:

    Thanks James.

    Yes, study of early history in the Riverina has proven to be a pivotal work!

    Even though it was written nearly 30 years ago the clubs in the Riverina all contact me when their centenaries are coming up for info. Its great to share it with them and see them produce splendid club history’s to celebrate their milestone events.

    Juice Newton’s chapter on Broken Hill footy in Daff & Darky’s new book Footy Town is a cracker!

  13. Mick Dasey says:

    Craig
    The game Stan played against the poms at Robertson he had the figures at one stage of 1/12 off three balls, the first two landing on the bowling greens at the now defunct Sth Wagga club. He’s still alive and kicking living near Coffs Harbour.

  14. Rex Wilson says:

    Tim Robb certainly had an impact during late 50’s … as I remember it the importance of handballing greatly changed.

  15. I can remember Allan Parr he dropped kicked a goal from the centre of this beautiful oval.

    I played for the Wagga Tigers in the under 19’s Bevan Rowe was my coach and I can remember having athletic carnivals there.

  16. Robertson Oval is much changed since you ran around for Tigers and at athletic carnivals back in the day.

    It hosted its first RFL grand Final last Saturday, your old mob got up and beat Leeton by 4 points in the wet.

    Alan Parr was a beautiful kicker of the football and great player for Tigers.

    Your old coach, Bev Rowe, is a mate of mine, now on the coaching staff at the Gold Coast Suns.

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