Peter Richards 7 articles
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My day out at the North Sydney Oval

  • Posted by Peter Richards
  • May 23, 2013 9:23 PM AEST

After a quite hectic couple of weeks in Sydney and Melbourne I finally had a day off. Here I am 12,000 miles from home, Saturday afternoon, early autumn, Lions tour imminent – it’s got be a taste of local rugby. So where to go? I was very fortunate that not far from my digs in Mosman was a ‘belter’ in prospect – Northern Suburbs vs Southern Districts at the  North Sydney Oval in the Sydney Premier Rugby Competition. Only a bus ride away we pitched up just before the final match kicked off – basically the 1st XV game. As a Northern Hemisphere aficionado I am used to one venue and one match at a time but on the other side of the world they do something quite different and all the teams or grades perform one after the other. So the  fourth grade play their fourth grade, thirds vs thirds etc until the first roll out to do battle – in this case for the leadership of the Shute Shield – the crème de la crème of Sydney’s RU elite. What this means is that it is a longer day at the bar/BBQ/pitchside than we are used to back home – but what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.

Now – a word a about the North Sydney Oval. The Australian Ovals are often multi-purpose sporting stadia built to host a variety of sports – typically cricket, Aussie rules (footie), rugby union, rugby league and latterly soccer. The North Sydney Oval is no exception and is beautiful, old (1867) and full of character and since 2003 it has even served as an open air cinema.  The venue was renovated in 1931 due to complaints that the surface was 'like concrete' and that the ground was liable to cause serious injury to players. Nonetheless, as late as the 1980s, the ground was sometimes referred to as "Concrete Park". Between 1983 and 1988 major renovations were undertaken. The old grandstand was named after North Sydney Bears player Duncan Thompson. New stands were built and named after cricketers Bill O'Reilly, Charlie Macartney and Mollie Dive. In 1983, the venerable Bob Stand was moved to North Sydney Oval from the Sydney Cricket Ground. The hill became known as the Doug Walters Stand. Ok – enough history – on with show.

After spending ample time at the BBQ we took up our vantage point in the bar - $6 a tinnie was slightly excessive but as it was all in a good cause I didn’t squeal too much. A great view was afforded of the match from a panoramic window and we settled down. Great handling skills and lots of attacking flair were exhibited by both sides. Plenty of local talent was on display by both teams and if Lopeti Timani (Souths Number 8) doesn’t become a fully fledged Wallaby my name is George Gregan. Lots of friendly banter in the bar – particularly concerning the forthcoming British and Irish Lions Tour. The end result was a narrow victory in a finely balanced match which the Souths edged despite massive pressure from Northern Suburbs which kept the home crowd on their feet right until the dying seconds.

So in summary – a visit to the North Sydney Oval is highly recommended even if you are not, like me, the most ardent of rugby enthusiasts. Oh, and my prediction for the Lions vs Australia series – 3 zip to the Northern hemisphere obviously