HISTORY OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY RUGBY LEAGUE The Beginning.......
Rugby League was first played as a competition in Tennant Creek in the 1938 - 39 period. There were two or perhaps three teams who contested for the `Dolly Pot Cup'. Survivors of that competition are Len Kittle and Jack Nelson now living in Alice Springs. The Dolly Pot Cup is still in existence and is usually held at the Tennant Creek Memorial Club. It is competed for Baseball.
DARWIN RUGBY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The game commenced in 1940.There were three teams which grew to about 10 - 12 by 1941.The newcomers were service teams. Regular games were held throughout the war years and included an `interstate' visit to Mount Isa. The players were all service personnel with former International Ray Stehr paying the administration / organiser role. Stehr spotted Lionel Cooper in Darwin games and encouraged him to try out in Sydney after the war. Cooper went on to play for Australia.
VENUES DURING THE WAR YEARS
Local identities state the area near the Ski Club was used for Rugby League. It is said that at extra high tide the pitch was subject to flooding. Ray Stehr said the game was played at the 13 mile and 27 mile camps.Formers N.S.W secretary Ken Stephens told the author he played at coconut Grove.
During 1949 there were one or two "Scratch" games organized by expatriate N.S.W and Qld men who has arrived in Darwin to take part in the post war reconstruction.
The Commonwealth Public Service expanded rapidly with both administrative and day labour staff. The Armed Services still had a strong presence and firms such as John Stubbs and Co imported labour from their Sydney workshops to build such constructions as nurse's quarters at Larrakeyah, Peel Street Hostel and Woods Street Flats. Stubbs billeted their single in what is now the Officers Mess at Larrakeyah Barracks. Darwin in 1950 has a population of 7000 of whom a large population were single men. Qantas had a large contingent who services B.O.A.C and Qantas piston engine aircraft who used Darwin for a refuelling base. Qantas also maintained a large hostel at Berrimah which double as accommodation for staff and emergency stopovers for overseas passenger. Accordingly when enthusiasts called a meeting late in 1950 there was little difficulty in forming 5 teams.
These were: Wallabies, Qantas, Army, Navy and R.A.A.F
THE PLAYING VENUES
In 1950 the Rugby League gained permission to use Kahlin Oval from the Army which was responsible for that area. Kahlin was used until the end of the 3rd season. (1952/1953)In the meantime the Northern Territory administration had prepared and oval at Gardens. Rugby League together with other major sports was given permission to use gardens from 1953/1945 and onwards. Rugby League being played on Sundays during the wet season and Australian Rules on Saturdays.
THE GROWTH OF RICHARSON PARK
After a serious attempt to gain a site in what is now the area behind the Sailing Club the Rugby League was given permission to start earthworks the in 1958. However the newly reformed Darwin City Council objected and the Rugby League in 1960 was given the area (section 3712) in Ludmilla. On the west side the Soccer Federation was granted a block (now Pandanus Park) and further on towards the race course the Brothers Cricket Club were also granted a lease. Both these organisations failed to develop their leases.
START OF WORKS
By 1961 Darwin Rugby League had cleared a section 3712 and formed a playing field.
The selection of grass caused a problem as little was known about growing lawn grass in the tropics at that time. Finally Queensland Blue Couch was chosen, great difficulty was caused by grub infestation and it wasn't until the end of the 1963/64 wet season that the League could move onto the field.
START OF COMPETITION - RICHARDSON PARK
The first round of competition commenced at Richardson Park on the 12th April 1964, it was played in torrential rain which caused heavy damage to the playing surface. From then on signs of salt intrusion were apparent at the southern end.
The problem of salt intrusion and expense of running the ground throughout the year proved too much for the League's administration and the ground was abandoned after the end of 1965 season.The game returned to Gardens Oval for the next 3 years before returning to Richardson Park in 1969.
IMPROVEMENTS TO RICHARDSON PARK
1960/64 Preparation of Playing Pitch & Fencing
1965/66 Building of Dressing Rooms
1968 Building of Leagues Club
1970 Erection of Lights
1976 Erection of R.S.L Stand
1979 Erection of Geddes Stand
After three separate abortive attempts, the draining of salt intrusion was moderately successful with a major drain installation on the west side of the playing area. This was carried out by Willing & Partners Engineering Consultants some time in the early 70's. The actual date could be checked through Ernie Wanka who supervised the job. In 1981 the eastern side was drained, the project being carried out by Peter Bruce Nominees with Frank Geddes the supervising officer. In 1981 a major top dressing was undertaken with Frank Geddes the supervising officer.
NOTES ON FUNDING/LABOUR
At no time between the period 1960-1961 were funds made available by any Government body.The construction of the Geddes Stand incurred a debt of $40,000.00 to the Commonwealth Bank. It is understood that about 1982 or 1983 the League gained a non interest loan from the Northern Territory Government in order to pay off the Commonwealth Bank. The development of Richardson Park during the year period 1960-1980 was carried out with volunteer labour and Rugby League Funds. Exceptions were the manufacture of the light poles and the final wiring of the lights. Even then the poles which were transported to Darwin form Brisbane in 2 pieces were welded on site and erected by volunteer labour. The holding blocks were poured by volunteer labour and the wiring access from the control point to poles was dug by volunteers. The R.S.L Stand was built by volunteer labour using materials donated by the R.S.L Club.
The Geddes Stand was designed and built by volunteer labour with the exception of internal plastering and electrical wiring. The major drainage works were to alleviate the salt problem were carried out by contractors however the supervision was done by voluntary labour. Final grassing of the drainage points was carried out by hand (in the rain) by volunteer labour.
CHANGE OF NAME
The Darwin Rugby League was known as the Northern Territory Rugby League until 1989 when the constitution was changed accordingly. This was brought about by Alice Springs beginning its own competition in 1963, graduating to inter-town games by 1965
Its initial success against Darwin came about in 1968
Frank Geddes 21st November 1990