stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
Today Pioneer Oval is the home of the Parkes Spacemen – the Shire’s representative team in Country Rugby League (CRL) Group 11. However the land known as Pioneer Oval has had name changes and indeed many uses for other sports and recreational activities. History Parkes continues to look at the people and events relating to Pioneer Memorial Oval.
1990s The World Cup comes to Pioneer Oval
The success of hosting a Panasonic Cup game was to lead to future involvement with hosting top class rugby league fixtures. The Challenge Cup, Schoolboys internationals and Group 11 grand finals would be held at Pioneer Oval in the 1990s. 1990 would be a very busy decade for Pioneer Oval. However the highlight of the decade occurred in the first year of the nineties – when Pioneer Oval hosted a World Cup game between Australia and France.
Praise from Australian Rugby League chairman, plus photographs from the crowd. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday February 21, 1990
The first rugby league World Cup fixture to take place outside of either Sydney or Brisbane required a team effort. Jock Colley and Michael Greenwood led this team and earned the praise of rugby league officials and fans alike. Even arctic conditions couldn’t cool the excitement of such a historic moment at Pioneer Oval.
Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday June 22, 1990
While winters in Parkes can get particularly chilly (average minimum temperature for June is 5.3°C /41.5 F Source: weatherzone.com.au) June 27 was a particularly cold evening. Sleet and a cold southerly wind made for inhospitable conditions (Parkes Champion Post reported the weather that night at -6.5 degrees). When HistoryParkes caught up with former Parkes Promotions Officer and current Councillor Michael Greenwood, he recalled a conversation with Laurie Daley and other Australian footballers who played that night. They informed him that for cold you can forget about European winters, Pioneer Oval in Parkes was the coldest conditions they had experienced as players!
Pioneer Oval was a chilly place to be, but the weather didn’t deter a record crowd turning out for this historic match. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday June 29, 1990
While 1990 may have been the highlight year of the decade, Pioneer Memorial Oval was continually in use for high quality rugby league matches. For the remainder of the decade, the ground would host:
More special guests and plaudits for Pioneer Oval. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday July 16, 1993
2000s Pioneer Oval in International Spotlight
Throughout the nineties many Parkes Shire residents would have thought that Pioneer Oval could not host a bigger event than a rugby league World Cup match. However aspirations were raised when it was announced that Sydney would be hosting the 2000 Olympics. Pioneer Oval, and Parkes Shire, would again be in the international spotlight as the Olympic Torch relay would make a stopover. There was a lot of media speculation and a huge community involvement to get all the preparations ready. Throughout the new millennium, Pioneer Oval would continue to host top class rugby league matches. These included three games as part of the NRL’s Country Carnival plus Country Rugby League matches and two NSW Cup matches. However the highlight of the last twenty years for Pioneer Memorial Oval was hosting a section of the Olympic Torch relay.
After the euphoria of the Olympic Torch relay, Pioneer Memorial Oval has continued to host high quality rugby league matches. Parkes Shire Council and Parkes Sports Commission continue to maintain the amenities. An additional use of Pioneer Oval has been the Central West Car Club’s Annual Charity Show ‘n Shine which raises money for Can Assist while showcasing some of the best classic and vintage vehicles west of the Blue Mountains.
Pioneer Oval has played host to the following:
A fitting tribute to the enormous efforts that Wayne ‘Jock’ Colley made during his time as sports administrator. Photograph by Dan Fredericks (Parks Shire Library)
While the loss of Jock Colley was sudden, his legacy will not be forgotten. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday February 10, 2014
Such was his impact on the rugby league community, the passion of Jock Colley was featured in Big League magazine’s 2014 Season Preview. Further tributes were made to Jock Colley here. This article is from Michael Greenwood’s personal collection.
The long list of famous community pillars who have contributed to Pioneer Oval – and sport in the Parkes Shire – was added to when Jock Colley Field was named in honour of long-time administrator Wayne ‘Jock’ Colley. Colley’s passing in 2014 was a huge loss to not only regional rugby league but was felt throughout the whole rugby league community. It is fitting that Jock Colley’s name sits alongside with Frank Spicer, Ron Harrison, Bernie Wright and Charlie Dwyer – the sporting pioneers of Pioneer Memorial Oval. Many of the huge matches that Pioneer Oval hosted in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s – including the World Cup fixture – were a result of Colley’s planning and negotiating skills.
Video footage of Western Rams vs France, which was streamed live on October 29th, 2019. This footage includes the whole program including Woodbridge vs Wiradjuri Goannas 15s WWRL; Orange Vipers vs Wiradjuri Goannas Opens WWRL and the feature match. Western Rams vs France commences at 3:07:30 Source: Western Rams YouTube Channel
Throughout its time as a public reserve, People’s Park/Pioneer Memorial Oval has shown that it really is the people’s park – having hosted Sunday School picnics; countless international rugby league and union matches; Scouts Jamborettes and high school athletics carnivals; and being part of the historic 2000 Olympics Torch relay. It is hoped that these four blogs focusing on the wonderfully diverse history of Pioneer Memorial Oval have rekindled memories and stories from the past, as well as renewing our present pride in living in the Parkes Shire.
If you have stories, images or information that you are willing to share, please either comment below or contact Parkes Library (6861 2309 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank Michael Greenwood for sharing his time, knowledge, resources and memories in assisting with this blog.