This Sunday (8 March) the GWS Giants will play reigning premier Richmond in a March Community Cup match at Robertson Oval, Wagga. The oval has a rich history of hosting international cricket and rugby league matches but it is as an Australian football ground that it is best known. It is the home of the Wagga Tigers and hosts the Farrer League grand final each year. Over the years various matches involving VFL/AFL clubs have been played at the venue as well as local representative games and the Carroll Cup schoolboys’ competition.
Football History Society vice-president Dr Rod Gillett sets out the ten most significant facts about the history of Robertson Oval below:
1. Robertson Oval is the premier cricket and Australian Football venue in Wagga. The enclosed ground is located in the Bolton Park sporting complex where it was previously known as #1 Oval. A grass embankment runs around three-quarters of the oval with a 350-seat grandstand and social club on western side of the ground. The ground has a capacity of 12,000.
2. The ground has a rich sporting history having also hosted international cricket and international rugby league matches. The crowd record is 11,000 which attended the rugby league international between France and the Riverina in 1960 – won by the French 25-14.
3. 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 the Bannerman brothers, wicket-keeper J.M. Blackham, and W.L. Murdoch who made 93 runs. The visitors won by an innings and 117 runs.
4. It became an Australian Football ground 1911 when the Newtown club (Wagga team) made the ground its home-base. Federals (formed in 1887) were renamed Wagga in 1928 and began playing home games at the ground. They became known as the Tigers in 1949 when they acquired guernseys from VFL club Richmond.
5. The ground was named after prominent Wagga businessman Cameron McLean Robertson who as the president of the Community Advancement Fund donated funds to Council for redevelopment of the ground. He was the father-in-law of ex-Tigers player and football benefactor John Braid. It was named Robertson Oval in 1963.
6. Two Wagga Tigers players were named in the NSW Greatest Team: ex-Sydney Swans captain and 1995 Brownlow medallist Paul Kelly and former St Kilda champion full-forward Bill Mohr who topped the VFL goal-kicking with 101 goals in 1936. Terry Daniher, who was also named in the team, coached Wagga Tigers to five premierships in six seasons in the 1990s after finishing his illustrious career with Essendon.
7. Twenty players from Wagga Tigers are on the list of NSW’s 500 Greatest Players including Harry Lampe (South Melbourne), John Pitura (South Melbourne-Richmond), Paul Hawke (Sydney Swans-Collingwood), Neville Miller (South Melbourne), Brad Seymour (Sydney Swans), Matt Suckling (Hawthorn-Western Bulldogs), and Kim Kershaw (South Melbourne-Hawthorn).
8. Previous matches involving VFL teams played at Robertson Oval included a combined Wagga team v Hawthorn in 1952 and an Albury & District (forerunner to the Farrer League) representative team took on North Melbourne in 1954.
9. The Farrer League plays it grand finals at Robertson Oval and the final of the Carroll Cup for the secondary schoolboys’ competition is also played under lights at the ground and attracts crowds of up to 1500 spectators.
10. Robertson Oval was revamped in 2012 to meet the requirements of the AFL for hosting matches. It involved extending the ground, a complete re-turf, upgraded change rooms and installation of lights. Two NAB Cup Challenge matches have subsequently been played at the venue, GWS Giants against St Kilda (2013) and North Melbourne and Collingwood (2016).