In the early 1960s the Frenchs Forest/Belrose area was developing to be much the way it is today. Davidson was rapidly becoming established and the population was mostly young families.
In 1965 the Wakehurst Rugby Club was formed and since then many boys and young men have learned to play rugby and benefited from the participation in this great team sport with our Club. In many instances their families have benefited socially from their participation.
During its first eighteen years the Club had the use of three Warringah playing fields for its weekend home games and training sessions. These fields were shared with Belrose Rugby League on a week about basis. The grounds were the two at the eastern end of Lionel Watts Oval and the one at Bambara Oval.
The Club had a specially modified caravan that served as the canteen and the canteen was, and continues to be, the major source of fund raising throughout the season.
During this early period the Club obtained a thirty-year lease on the site it now occupies on the corner of Forest Way and Waldon Road, Belrose. At this point the land was just a rough hillside and a master plan was prepared to establish playing fields. Firstly large drainage pipes were laid across the area in two directions in place of the natural watercourses and a hard-fill tip was operated on the site. Fill was progressively deposited and compacted until the present level playing area was formed. Grass and trees were planted and a low fence erected along Waldon Road. Originally there were two north-south fields but they were both under size. Later our splendid goalposts were obtained and one field was set in an east-west direction. Several years later the field was moved closer to the clubhouse due to the number of balls that were lost over the embankment.
Whilst the ground and playing fields were being developed the clubhouse was planned and built. To supplement funds raised through the canteen, annual dinners and other social events, several members of the Club provided personal guarantees when a bank loan was arranged. Then in response to our third application the Club received approximately $28,000 from the NSW Government Sporting Grant fund which enabled construction to commence. The Building Apprentices Training Limited company was engaged and together with a lot of voluntary and at cost labour by members and tradesmen, the clubhouse was built. Business people associated with the Club generously donated significant amounts of building materials and other items. And so Wakehurst Rugby Park and the clubhouse were established.
Although many members were involved in the building of the clubhouse the driving force was the late Mike Harley and the room upstairs is appropriately named after him.
Everyone associated with Wakehurst Rugby Club at the time was very proud that after eighteen years the Club had established its own “home ground” sporting complex which it has been pleased to share with others over the years. Significantly, this was at no cost to Warringah Council and by completing this project the fields it had previously occupied at Lionel Watts and Bambara became available for use by other sporting clubs.
For many years all teams trained under very inferior lighting at our new ground and steps were taken to install quality lighting. In the late eighties quotes were called for and NSW Sporting & Recreation approved a grant of $6,000, which was to cover 50% of the cost of the installation. However little progress was made until 1998 when some members took up the challenge to complete the project. Warringah Council made some funds available for us to further improve our facilities and with the grant, and our own reserves, the excellent lights we enjoy today were installed, but at a cost far in excess of the original quotes. The Club was fortunate to have Don Miller, an experienced lighting engineer as a parent and Don was instrumental in the design and installation process.
At the same time as the lighting project was being undertaken steps were taken to drain the playing area. The ground became a bog every time there was a downpour and it detracted from what was otherwise an excellent facility. Once again the Club looked to its members to provide the expertise and Maurice Robinson, a Club stalwart and a plumber, obtained quotations for the project. The quotes were far greater than the Club could afford and Maurice undertook to do the job himself. As a consequence lateral trenches two metres apart and 500 mm deep were dug the length of the field. Four-inch ag-pipe was laid (a total of more than three kilometres of pipe) and the trenches refilled with gravel and soil. An eight-inch pipe runs the length of the ground on the clubhouse side and the water drains into it and thence into the stormwater drain. Consequently the Club now enjoys an almost all-weather playing surface and not one game has been called off due to inclement weather since the drainage was installed.
After all its use the clubhouse was looking very shabby upstairs and a Golf Tournament was organised in 2001 to provide the funds to refurbish it. Once again the Club looked to its members to help out and the Rawson family, who are builders by profession, took charge and installed a new kitchen and bar. Carpet was purchased and laid and some quality furniture was purchased. Bob Lee, another very active member, spent many hours painting the ceiling, tiling the kitchen and fixing anything which needed fixing. As a result the clubhouse facilities are the envy of all other clubs and team photographs from the mid eighties until the current season are proudly displayed upstairs.
In the early 1980’s Wakehurst Rugby Club was very strong and at one point having twenty-six junior sides. The code was well supported in those days and our neighbouring clubs, Terrey Hills and Forest had similar team numbers. Our numbers gradually declined and in 1997 we had only four junior teams (under 7’s, 8’s 9’s & 11’s) and a total of sixty-one players in the club. Our neighbouring clubs were also struggling in some areas and in order to put some age groups on the field in 1998 we fielded combined Wakehurst/Terrey Hills/Forest teams in the under 10’s and under 11’s. These teams were the first Garigal teams and the 10’s played in the Forest strip and the 11’s in the Terrey Hills strip. Forest were able to rebuild their numbers and continued to play as Forest but Wakehurst and Terrey Hills combined their player resources and from 1999 played as Garigal Junior Rugby. We were very proud in 2002 to field at least one team in all ages from under 7’s through to under 16’s and in 2003 we had an under 17’s team for the first time in many years.
Although our Club exists to provide rugby for all local children we have produced players who have gone on to higher honours. Amongst those are Ian Miller who became a Wallaby in the early 1980’s and Nick Styles played at least one season in our under 8’s side and, of course, went on to become a Wallaby, along with current Wallaby Pat McCabe who played for Wakehurst in his youth. We have produced many grade players and an honours shield hangs in the clubhouse listing all their names
Readers will realise from this brief history that the success of the Club has been a result of the effort put in by many parents over many years. It has not been possible to mention all the magnificent volunteers by name but many hundreds of parents have made a significant contribution to the success of the Club. If you are able to assist in any way please contact one of our very hard working committee.
Our thanks to life member Ralph Schubert for providing the early history of the Club and all past members and parents for providing the excellent facilities we enjoy today