Jubilee Oval, Kogarah

HISTORY OF KOGARAH JUBILEE OVAL

Jubilee Oval stands on part of an original grant of 87 acres given on the 23rd of December, 1853 to Archibald McNab. Edmund English purchased the grant on the 23rd of May, 1854 for 400 pounds. It became known as Kogarah Park when acquired by the Department of Lands on the 1st of July, 1896 and dedicated as the first public park in Kogarah. Control of the park passed to the Council of the Municipality of Kogarah on the 29th of August, 1906.

During Kogarah’s Jubilee celebrations in 1935, Jubilee Oval was constructed in Kogarah Park. The Saints made a successful debut at Jubilee Oval in 1936 when they defeated Newtown in an exhibition match as part of the celebrations. The gate from the match was donated to the St. George Hospital. Saints at this stage were still based at Arncliffe’s Earl Park and it wasn’t until 1950 that Saints returned to Jubilee Oval.

St. George played their first premiership match against South Sydney before 12,500 fans on April the 22nd, 1950. Saints lost an exciting match 17-15 but defeat would become very rare for the Saints in the coming years at Kogarah. Saints were based at Kogarah during their world record breaking 11 successive premierships from 1956 to 1966. Saints set a remarkable record at Kogarah and were unbeaten at home for 12 years.

Saints were defeated by Balmain on the 26th of June, 1954 at Kogarah. It wasn’t until the 31st of July, 1966 that Saints tasted defeat at Kogarah again, losing 12-9 to Wests.

Saints legend Norm Provan joined the club in 1950, the same year the Saints began their permanent association with Kogarah. Provan, who won 10 premierships with the Dragons once stated:

"The qualities of the club from Kogarah are not easy for me to put into words... Saints are special. I will certainly never forget my years at Kogarah, and at the club across the Princes Highway. At St.George I found qualities that enriched my life - friendship, unswerving loyalty, fair play and healthy ambition, the learning to win, and to lose." 1

St. George were based at Jubilee Oval until the end of the 1985 season. They then made the misguided decision to abandon Kogarah and relocate to the Sydney Cricket Ground, blaming an ‘intransigent’ Kogarah Council. The decision was an utter disaster. In 1985 St. George had been Club champions, 1st Grade Minor premiers, 1st Grade Runners-Up, Reserve Grade Premiers & Under-23s Premiers. In 1986 Saints missed the semi-finals in all 3 grades


for the first time in 50 years. The supporters, furious at the club's decision, stayed away in droves. The Saints remained at the SCG in 1987 and were based at Belmore in 1988. Common sense prevailed in the spring of 1988 when it was decided that the Saints would march home to Jubilee Oval in 1989 with a new stand to be constructed for the 1990 season.

Roy Masters spoke of the benefit of Saints being based at Kogarah:

"It was a place opposing teams didn’t like to play... It intimidated them." 2

St. George continued their happy association with Kogarah Jubilee Oval from 1989 to 1999. During these years, St. George established themselves as one of the most successful Sydney based sides with Grand Final appearances in 1992, 1993 & 1996. Based at Jubilee Oval, St. George-Illawarra made another Grand Final in 1999 before losing in controversial circumstances to Melbourne with Bill Harrigan as the referee. Although 1999 was a successful year for the Dragons on the field, the club administration repeated their mistake from 1985 and abandoned Jubilee Oval.

The club attempted to explain the decision on the basis that Jubilee Oval was too small to accommodate a proposed $30 million stadium complex to meet NRL requirements for playing venues. In a joint statement, Kogarah Council and St. George DRLFC stated that the scale of the proposed 20,000 seat stadium would exceed the size of Jubilee Oval and have an impact on residents. The plan submitted to Council was only a sketch plan and many supporters held the view that the club had not put their best efforts into attempting to stay at Kogarah. The decision to leave Jubilee Oval upset a vast majority of St. George-Illawarra's most loyal supporters and in July 2000 the supporters held a rally in support of their favourite ground.

The rally put the issue of a St.George District homeground back on the Club's agenda. At the AGM on the 5th of December 2000, members of the St. George DRLFC were informed that the Dragons would return to the St.George District at Barton Park when and if the ground was built. This was on the assumption that Barton would meet the NRL criteria and that the lease costs were feasible.

Following the failure of the Barton Park and Cahill Park projects, R2K (Return To Kogarah) began a revived campaign to lobby for the Dragons' return to an upgraded Jubilee Oval. R2K launched a website with a mailing list, organised an Information Night and ran candidates for the St.George Leagues Club Board on the issue.

Following the reignited campaign that was strongly supported by St.George-Illawarra fans, Kogarah Council's Jim Taylor and St.George DRLFC's Robert Stone worked hard to ensure the return of the Dragons became a reality. On 5 September 2002, the Dragons announced that 5 NRL matches would be played at Kogarah in 2003.

As a result of the September 2002 announcement, Kogarah received a $2.4 million upgrade for the 2003 season. Funding was contributed by the NSW State Government, St.George Leagues, Kogarah Council, Rockdale Council, Hurstville Council and the St.George community.

OKI became the venue's naming rights sponsor in 2003 and the ground is referred to as OKI Jubilee Stadium. In 2004 the Legend's Walk was opened following support from the local community, the wider St.George support base and local businesses.

In October 2004, the Federal Government announced an $8 million upgrade which led to improved facilities including the installation of permanent lighting, improved seating and a higher ground capacity. SX Projects did a fantastic job with the Federal upgrade and consequently Kogarah is regarded by many as the NRL's premier boutique venue.

In June 2006, the NSW Government announced that it would contribute another $7 million to OKI Jubilee Stadium. In the same year a Masterplan for OKI Jubilee Stadium was endorsed by Kogarah Council that identifies five further stages of development and provides a blueprint for Kogarah's long term future.

A set of OKI Jubilee Stadium FAQs can be found here:

http://www.r2k.info/faqs.html

While Jubilee Stadium match records can be located here:

http://www.r2k.info/matchrecord.html

 

1 Ian Heads, "Saints: The Legend Lives On" p.12
2 Ian Heads, "Saints: The Legend Lives On" p.253

 

© 2001-2007 Copyright R2K
R2K - PO Box 765, Kogarah NSW 1485