How Council and Community Helped Sharks Acquire
|The Sharks "650 proposal" of two years ago - the
selling of half of the playing-field area - prompted questions:
In the 1960s the popularity of League as a winter sport was
rising and inclined Shire councillors to favour the Sharks Club
in the search for suitable fields. Sites were considered at
Caringbah and Sutherland. However, with the population of the
Shire less than half of what it is today, the search soon focused
on an extensive unoccupied area at Woolooware, where Captain
Cook Drive (only opened in the 1950s) passes close to Woolooware
- How did the Sharks' Club acquire such extensive fields
in the 1960s?
- Why has no other Shire sports club been so lucky since?
For many years that area had been the Shire's dump for rubbish
of all sorts, largely builders' waste but also putrescible garbage,
hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, and asbestos. Like other
Sydney dumps up to 1970, it lacked supervision and kept no record
of what was deposited. The area had only been thought suitable
as a site for location of industry.
Lengthy negotiations followed. Council considered a 1965 proposal
from the Sharks to occupy part of the tip site and locate upon
it a first grade Rugby League field. In 1966 Council contributed
$40,000 to develop what was suggested should be called "Endeavour
Field". Through 1966 and 1967 a discussion continued on
how much the Sharks Club would contribute.
When the Sharks proposed about $100,000, the offer was rejected
as far too little by Council's Finance Committee. But politics
came to the rescue. Shire President (mayor) Arthur Gietzelt
(1966-71) and other councillors intervened to support the Sharks'
bid and to offer easy stages of repayment. A triumph. The jubilant
Club in April 1968 managed to pay the $100,000 in full.
A later report by a Council officer estimated that the agreed
site - 10 hectares of the larger dump area, generously providing
for a home ground, two junior grounds, two carparks and club
premises - would have brought between $600,000 and $650,000
if it had then been sold to industry.
Council had bailed out the young Club.
Not surprisingly, sports other than Rugby League had
taken a keen interest throughout the period of negotiation,
in particular Sutherland Shire Soccer Club. But soccer was then
not nearly as strong as it is today. It could not match the
There was also talk at the time of treating the entire area
as a multi-sports centre; but organised backing for such a far-sighted
proposal did not crystallise. The Sharks Club had gained a playing-fields
advantage which has remained the envy of all other codes.
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Interview with Shire Mayor who made the present
playing fields available to the Sharks in 1968
||"I was Shire President [now Mayor] nine times
in the 1961-71 era," says Arthur Gietzelt, who later became
a Senator and Minister for Veterans Affairs in the Federal Government
and who now lives in Caringbah. He was awarded the Order of
Australia for services to local government.
The young Sharks Club urged Council in 1965 to give it a 10-year
tenure of Caringbah Oval for its home and training centre (near
the Kingsway-President Avenue junction). I rejected this as
certain to cause traffic chaos for a popular spectator sport.
|Instead, I thought of the Council-owned tip land
near Woolooware Bay. My Shire Engineer Bill Wood assured me
he could compact 20-odd acres safely for playing fields. So
I recommended to Council that we forego any profit and capital-gain
and sell to the Club a site worth at least half a million dollars
for - if I remember rightly - only ninety thousand dollars.
So the Club got a marvellous site, for a nominal sum, and it
was zoned 'Private Open Space', which I believe it remains to
this day. I sold it in good faith, and doubt if there has ever
been a Council more sympathetic to sport than that one I had
the pleasure to lead. A 'gentleman's agreement' like that should
not be broken because time and leaders have changed. It is a
breach of faith to use the area for high rise development and
I signed a contract together with Shire Clerk Athol Hill
that incorporated Council's decision that the junior fields
would be kept in operation. It doesn't say much for Council's
competence that they cannot find that contract signed back
I appeal to the Club's leaders to reconsider... After all,
the Club knew the zoning was restrictive. The contractual
arrangements should be respected."
[Interviews: 1 September 2001, 7 February 2003]
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