A Step Back In Time

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.

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 One place where you can find information out about sport in the northern Illawarra is the Wollongong Council website. While it does not provide information on specific sports it does direct you to areas of interest, such as recreational activities. It is a useful link to locate sporting ovals and venues. As well as this it provides a current account of the fees and measures required to use these places. Through the council website these fields can booked. A new initiative introduced is a messaging service to find out whether or not a particular sporting ground is closed. By texting a code, the relevant ground and its availability will be made known.


The website listed above is the home of all cricketing aspects of the Illawarra. Both senior information and junior information is available. Fixtures, club contact details and the latest in results are provided. Whether you are an interested member of the public seeking to watch a game or a participant craving your match figures, all needs are taken care of. Through the site a link to all the clubs are provided, so the search for a more specific item can be undertaken.


The Northern Leader is a weekly paper, which is distributed free to citizens from Wollongong to Helensburgh. Its sports section appropriately focuses on local issues and events and provides coverage of these. Depending upon the season the information on a particular sport may vary, for example very little is published about cricket during the Winter months. The paper’s sport section also maintains an interest in local sporting stars who have broadened their careers further a field.


 The Illawarra Mercury provides a diverse range of sport within the area. The weekend edition gives far greater prominence to local sport, providing match descriptions and predictions. On a Monday a comprehensive list of virtually all Illawarra sport is published in the results section. It covers bowls results for individual clubs to golfing scores.


 The Wollongong Library website provides documents detailing the history of sport within the northern suburbs of Wollongong. These are limited and for more information some of the books are far better use. One such book is by Brian Surtees, who is a former journalist and broadcaster or sport within Wollongong. He documents his encounters with many of the areas finest athletes. Books which deal with the area’s history in a broader sense make mention of sporting endeavours.

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Blake Mott profile

. Question and answer with Blake Mott

 The following is an extract of the question and answers with tennis prodigy Blake Mott. He bases himself at the Bulli Tennis courts but regularly trains in Sydney, with top Australian coaches.

 Nathan: You have just returned from China, where you represented Australia, how was it?

Blake:  It was great, I got to see a country I have never seen before and play tennis for Australia. I was not sure what to expect when heading over but it turned out to be a fantastic couple of weeks.

 Nathan: How did you go?

 Blake: We played well as a team and individually. The reason we were there was to play in the under 14s Asian qualifiers, to hopefully progress to the World Junior Championships. We won the event so we now head to the Czech Republic in August. I won all of my singles and only dropped one set in the doubles.

 Nathan: On a personal level the results now indicate that for your age ( 14), you are the number one ranked boy throughout South East Asia/Pacific. Your thoughts on this?

 Blake:  It’s a great feeling, to know that you are the best for your age in the region. It gives me a lot of confidence to continue into the future. In saying this I do not want to get ahead of myself at this stage. 

 Nathan: A lot has been made of your rise; how you manage the expectations you have of yourself and placed upon you by Yonex.

 Blake: I try to not put too much pressure on myself, a few years ago it was difficult but now I am managing it better. The moment I start not enjoying my tennis is the time when I give it up. Yonex have been fantastic, they signed me when I was 10, that is the first occasion where they have signed someone up so young.

 Nathan: How long have you been playing tennis for?

 Blake:  I started when I was three, just hitting with Dad. He then realised that I had some potential and I started getting lessons with Mr Barclay. When I turned five I began playing competition against much older players and my love for the game grew from there. So I have been playing for about 11 years.

 Nathan: So far you have been helped by some of Australia’s greatest tennis coaches, can you explain who they are.

 Blake:  Yeah, so far Wally Massur, Jason Stoltenberg, and John Newcombe. I have also had hit ups with Sam Stosur, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt. They have all given me advice on how to develop my game and encourage me. The hit up with Sam Stosur was probably the highlight /

Nathan: There is an interesting story behind your first meeting with Lleyton Hewitt, can you explain?

 Blake: Yonex were coming to look at me at Bulli, and with them was fellow Yonex sponsor, Lleyton Hewitt. However one of the local high schools had the courts booked and the teacher was persisting that we could not use one of the courts. When Hewitt showed up he eventually backed down.

 Nathan: What are goals in tennis?

 Blake:  I really want to make the top 100 then progress from there. That would be a great launching pad to hopefully the top ten. At the moment though, I am just trying to improve my game all round, maybe become a bit stronger so I can take it the bigger boys.

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Girls KIcking Goals

A first for the northern suburbs occurred on Sunday 18th April. An all girls Australian Rules side competed.

 The Northern Tigers Illawarra Youth Girls team took to Bonaira Oval against Kiama in the state’s only under 18s girl’s AFL comp.

 The establishment of the Illawarra competition in unprecedented at state level and has provided local girls with an oppurtunity to participate in a once closed off sport. It highlights the growth of the game in a rugby league dominated arena. Only two members of the Tigers team have played AFL before last Sunday. Despite this limited experience the girls emerged victors against a much fancied Kiama Power side.

 Illawarra Australian Rules established the competition to cater for girls aged between 13 and 17. The move was in response to the public criticism last season, where two 14 year old girls Maddison and Mullholland were not allowed to continue playing, due to the chances of sustaining an injury.

 While the six team comp is still struggling to attract players, the fact that they can get a run brings a smile to the face of Nothern Districts coach Mal Stanton,” It’s a great initiative and seeing the girls turn up to training with their levels of enthusiasm makes the role so rewarding”.

 Despite that fact that the team has only been together for a matter of weeks, they put up a very competitive display and eventually won by 25 points. The Tigers are also expecting the return of a former state player, which will provide a boost for the remainder of the season.

 Regardless of how many wins the girls manage to accumulate, the club is very proud of their willingness to compete and becoming the club’s maiden all women’s outfit. “ I have been interested in the game for some time and it is great to finally have an opportunity to play it”, stated team member Ashleigh Defrenza.

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Edwin Barclay

If Ed Barclay had a dollar for every tennis ball he has hit, then he would be a very rich man. Yet he does not seek the riches, simply content in providing a future for young budding tennis stars. Whether or not they reach Wimbledon is another matter, as long as they are enjoying themselves then so to is Mr Barclay.

 Edwin Barclay is the head coach for the Bulli District Tennis Association, and has been for over 50 years. In conjunction with this he has also been the president since 1991. These two positions ensure that he is at the Bulli courts, at Slacky Flat, for at least six days a week. A typical day will generally consist of coaching throughout the morning, followed by a few hours over lunch, then to return to coach for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. On average this will constitute a 12 hour day.

 The hardest part about his job, is not the strenuous hours, but the time away from home. Mr Barclay has a wife and three daughters. “ I try to spend as much time with them as possible in my time off, as I do not get to a whole lot of them during the week”. Two of his girls have moved and with one planning to do so.

Tennis within the northern suburbs of Wollongong has maintained a high level of participation and this can be largely attributed to the coaching program Ed Barclay offers. He caters to the young, old and players of any ability. His tennis rhetoric is very much one of the bygone era. While keeps up to date with the latest methods he is still a firm traditionalist on how the game should be played.

 Despite a long and proud coaching career, Barclay was quiet the player in his younger years. He revelled and still does in the intricacies of the game, preferring touch to sheer brawn. While never reaching the pinnacles, he was regarded as one of the best players in the Illawarra at the time. His tennis principles are based around his famous AIS- attitude + intensity = superstar. One of his favourite methods for the younger students of the game, is Charlie the Cockatoo.

 As well as tennis coaching Mr Barclay was a high school teacher who taught at various schools within the Illawarra and also spent time in Canada. While living in Canada he coached tennis on a part time basis.

 His work in the local community stretched beyond sport, with his coaching providing employment in the form of assistant coaches. Church is also a big part within the Barclay family, with Edwin organising services for the Corrimal Anglican Church. Also, he enjoys time away from the courts playing golf. Cricket is another passion of this dedicated man, who represented the Illawarra for a number of years during the 1960s.

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Cougars Could Be Extinxt

  1. The future of the Corrimal Cougars first grade team remains uncertain beyond the current season.

 The rugby league club is experiencing severe financial problems and may not be able to field a competitive side in next season’s Illawarra Carlton League.

 A lack of big name sponsors coupled with no definitive committee ensures that survival is taken only a few weeks at a time. One thing though that the club has in favour is a group of dedicated players who have grown up through the junior ranks of Corrimal rugby league. Former Cronulla Sharks player Don Tweedle is a local icon who has taken it upon himself to resurrect the club. “Mate, I’ve been here for 25 years, the players are like family and we will do everything in power to remain viable for the coming seasons.

 Players were required to obtain sponsorship themselves in order to play this year. They raised the minimum amount needed to be granted permission to take part in the competition. For a few years now the first grade outfit have been the only team in the competition not to receive match payments. While this does not necessarily worry the players, it a blatant sign of their financial issues. Coach Terry Westblade credits the club’s survival to the existing players, “They are a great bunch of men, who have gone to extraordinary lengths to play this season”.

Corrimal Cougars Rugby League club currently field teams in the top two grades, as well as the VB Cup (third grade). However, a stark reminder of the financial trouble is that there is no under 18s team. Juniors of the future are looking elsewhere, in their bid to reach the upper echelons that league has to offer.

 Losing the side and possibly the club would impact heavily on the community, especially the junior league players, who will be forced to look elsewhere.

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Mott on Collision Course With Stardom

 Thirroul teenager, Blake Mott has just returned home from China, where he ensured Australia a spot in the under 14s World Junior Tennis Championships.

Mott was competing in the Asian qualifiers, where he comfortably won both his singles events over host nation China. Throughout the tie, Mott did not lose a set. He and his two fellow team mates will head to the Czech Republic to compete in the World Junior finals, which begin on August 25.

As the number one boy in south east Asia for his age, this result confirmed what those close to the junior have known for a long time: he’s destined for greatness. “Without a doubt he is the best junior I have seen in 50 years of coaching,” said Mott’s coach and Bulli Tennis President EdwinBarclay. The talented youth is a breath of fresh air for Australian men’s tennis, who relies to heavily on Lleyton Hewitt.

The 13 year old’s potential was recognised four years ago when international tennis sponsor Yonex signed Mott to their brand. Consequently Hewitt, who is sponsored by the same company, has taken time off his busy schedule to hit up with the northern Illawarra junior.

Tennis Australia echoes Barclay’s sentiment, regularly providing Mott with access to Australia’s top coaches, including coaches Jason Stoltenberg, Pat Rafter and Wally Masur.

The future success of the Thirroul junior is in the hands of his entourage. The Mott team comprise of Blake’s father Terry, coach Ed Barclay and hit up partner Matt DeCloutte. Terry Mott says of the team, “A lot of time and effort is put into Blake, so hopefully it will be all worth while”. It is regularly stated amongst the Bulli tennis members that the dedication of Blake is evident through the wearing out of court 5. He will take part in next week’s Wollongong Australian Money Tournament at Beaton Park.

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