History Parkes

stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past

Pioneer Memorial Oval – 1990s to Present

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.

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Challenge Cup Double Header. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 16, 1990

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The Challenge Cup double header at Pioneer Memorial Oval meant a huge crowd was anticipated. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 16, 1990

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A big event at Pioneer Memorial Oval and another example of the community working to make the event a success. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 16, 1990

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Highlighting the efforts behind the scenes to organise yet another successful event at Pioneer Memorial Oval. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 16, 1990

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The best in the State? The article emphasises the high esteem that Pioneer Memorial Oval was held in, plus highlighting other hosting events for the year. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 16, 1990

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Praise from Australian Rugby League chairman, plus photographs from the crowd. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday February 21, 1990

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Less than two months after hosting a rugby league double header, Pioneer Memorial Oval was hosting the NSW Country Rugby Union carnival. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday April 11, 1990

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A top venue. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday April 11, 1990

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Showcasing the best rugby players and more improvements to the facilities. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday April 11, 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.

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The dynamic duo who helped campaign for, negotiate and then successfully organise Pioneer Memorial Oval hosting a World Cup fixture, Wayne ‘Jock’ Colley (left) and Michael Greenwood. They are seen here holding a copy of the Souvenir Match Program (colour cover below).  Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday June 22, 1990

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Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday June 22, 1990

Australia vs France 1990 Program Cover

Front cover of the official match program from Australia vs France. This copy is part of the reference section (not for public borrowing) in the Family & Local History room of Parkes Library

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!

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Parkes Champion Post Friday June 29, 1990

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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

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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:

  • July 18, 1992 NSW Country vs Great Britain (attendance 8,014)
  • July 20, 1993 Australian Schoolboys vs Great Britain Schoolboys
  • February 18, 1994 Tooheys Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
    • Canberra Raiders vs Illawarra Steelers
    • Brisbane Broncos vs North Sydney Bears
  • June 12, 1994 MMI Western Districts Knock Out
  • July 24, 1994 Australian Schoolboys vs Junior Kiwis
  • August 25, 1996 Group 11 Grand Final (1st & Reserve grade won by Parkes Spacemen)
  • February 22, 1997 ARL Country Carnival St George Dragons vs Western Suburbs Magpies (attendance 8,407)
  • July 6-13, 1997 Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League Championship
  • May 16, 1998 NRL Round 10 Parramatta Eels vs Adelaide Rams (attendance 8,030)

The facilities earn respect from Sydney broadcaster. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday June 15, 1992


Top marks to those who continually keep the ground and facilities of Pioneer Memorial Oval in tiptop shape. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday June 15, 1992


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.

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Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday August 16, 2000

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The pinnacle for Pioneer Oval! Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday August 21, 2000

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Parkes Olympic Torch Bearers. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday August 21, 2000

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Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday August 21, 2000

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:

  • March 2, 2002 NRL Country Carnival Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks (attendance 10,490)
  • February 2005 NRL Country Carnival Parramatta Eels vs Sydney Roosters (attendance 11,000+)
  • February 2007 NRL Country Carnival Parramatta Eels vs Cronulla Sharks (attendance 8,071)
  • April 2009 CRL Under 18s Regional Championships
  • June 26, 2010 CRL Tier 2 Final Group 11 vs Group 20
  • September 4, 2011 Group 11 Grand Final (Parkes 1sts Runners Up, Under 18s Premiers)
  • June 2012, NSW Cup Newtown Jets vs Windsor Wolves
  • June 9, 2013, NSW Cup Newtown Jets vs Windsor Wolves


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)

Jock left mark on community PCP 2014

The tributes for Jock Colley, starting with Parkes Champion Post editor Roel ten Cate. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday February 14, 2014

Vale Jock Colley PCP

While the loss of Jock Colley was sudden, his legacy will not be forgotten. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday February 10, 2014

Rise to Glory of Parkes Rugby League_Page_4

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.

2019 Western Rams vs France Chanticleers

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 library@parkes.nsw.gov.au)

Parkes Shire Library would like to thank Michael Greenwood for sharing his time, knowledge, resources and memories in assisting with this blog.



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This entry was posted on November 19, 2015 by in 1990s, 2000s, famous people of Parkes Shire, Jock Colley, Olympic Torch Relay, Parkes, Uncategorized, World Cup and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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