Sport within the northern suburbs of Wollongong is a precious commodity. Many residents of the area partake in various sporting endeavours. Whether it being at a professional level, an occupational level or simply social the associated benefits can not be underestimated. Interactions with others, health improvements or even a greater sense of well being is what attracts thousand to their choose sport.
The northern suburbs offers a wide range of sports due to their popularity and the geographical location. The beach and surf lifesaving can be widely enjoyed due to the nature of our coastal beaches. Other sports such as rugby league and cricket remain strong. Developing sport like Australian Rules is growing in popularity, as demonstrated by the new girl’s league. Due to such a vast array of options other enterprises, tennis for example, are experiencing a reduction in numbers.
This area covers the suburbs from Corrimal, to Balgownie and north to Helensburgh. For the last century the area has produced many athletes who have gone on to an international level. Local sporting attractions include the rival fixtures between the suburbs regardless of the sport.
A product of the ingenuity of two northern Illawarra residents is the South Pacific Bowls Carnival. Frank Rafton of Corrimal and Tom Withers of Wollongong were both local lawn bowlers who wanted to put the Illawarra on the map in regards to Lawn Bowls. The concept has been running for over 50 years and is widely considered one of the premier bowls events within Australia.
Tom Ellem in 2007 was the last northern suburbs bowler to win the prestigious event. The region has also produced arguably Australia’ finest lawn bowler, be it male or female. Merle Richardson played out of Bulli and Corrimal. Whether it be winning club or international titles the local was content with promoting the game in the area. She received an OAM for services to the game and winning the world singles titles.
The surf lifesaving movement has been particularly strong within northern Illawarra. Surf clubs such as Austinmer and Bulli perform strongly at national events. Two such competitors who hale from the Thirroul surf club are the Mercer brothers, Dean and Darren. Both won the Australian Ironman series in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
Soccer also has a proud history within the northern suburbs. The soccer club of Balgownie claims to be the oldest register club in Australia. The home ground is at Judy Masters as too the cricket ground. Masters was an Australian soccer player during the 1920s.
Like the typical working class area, rugby league plays a prominent role in the lives of many. Two current NRL players grew up in Corrimal and played for the club. Ben Hornby and Luke Pattern are both regarded as the most consistent players in the comp. Hornby has represented both NSW and Australia.
Local sporting attractions centre on the aesthetically pleasing qualities offered by the sea and escarpment. The beaches offer a wide range of activities that local residents can enjoy. While local crickets will have you believe that there is nothing more serene that looking up into the escarpment. The Russell Vale Golf course offers both these views and has recently held the Australian Short course Championships, attracting the world’s number two female.
The redevelopment of North Dalton Park has allowed for state cricket matches to go ahead. Most recently NSW played South Australia on Australia Day. It was a great chance for the nation’s top players to experience a regional cricket atmosphere.
Some of the most exciting sporting events involve old traditional rivalries. Such as the Corrimal versus Thirroul rugby league matches. The crow become vocal and the players respond accordingly. The world’s largest Touch Football tournament is staged in Wollongong on a yearly basis, providing economic benefits for the local community. However funding remains a serious issue. While the council provide maintenance to the grounds many believe that more needs to be done. Hefty fees are charged for the usage of these grounds and have particularly affected the cricket scene, where the majority of club funds are transferred straight to Wollongong Council.