‘New' oval should honour a legend: McCormack

Robertson Oval should be renamed Paul Kelly Park in recognition of one of Wagga Wagga's favourite sporting sons, according to Nationals' Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.

"At this time when the facility is getting a complete make-over, it would also be fitting for it to modernise its name," Mr McCormack said. 

"New ground, new identity."

Mr McCormack said Paul Kelly's name would forever be etched in Australian sporting annals for his courageous captaincy of the Sydney Swans and for winning the code's highest honour, a Brownlow Medal.

"Not only that, Paul is now an ambassador for healthy living and his personal campaign to raise awareness about bowel cancer and the need for those over 40 to be screened is admirable," Mr McCormack said.

Mr McCormack said he was not a proponent of change for change's sake but cited the recent update of Junee's famous Rugby League ground from Willow Park to Laurie Daley Oval.

"There would not be too many, if any, Riverina sports people who would even know the person after whom
Robertson Oval is named," Mr McCormack said.

"But everyone knows and has the highest respect for Paul Kelly even 10 years after he retired from playing - whether they follow sport or not - and I mean just about everyone in Australia, not just locals.

"Paul Kelly was a fabulous sportsman over a period of many years, renowned for his loyalty and toughness, who helped to put Wagga Wagga and the Riverina to the forefront and at all times was a wonderful role model.

"He is an all-round nice guy and is presently doing fantastic work assisting the Gut Foundation to prevent bowel cancer," Mr McCormack said.

Robertson Oval was given its moniker in the 1950s, honouring Cameron McLean Robertson (1898-1972), who operated the Kelso Bakery in Baylis Street and who was president of the Wagga Wagga and District Chamber of Commerce as well as chairman of the Community Advancement Fund. 

During his time on these committees the City Council received funding assistance which enabled the spectators' embankment at the ground which now bears his name and other major improvements to take place.

"No doubt Cam Robertson made a significant contribution to the city and Wagga Wagga is a better place for his efforts," Mr McCormack said.

"But now is the time, with the redeveloped oval, to give it a name admired by all and which might also enhance tourism with people actually turning off the Hume Highway to have a photo taken at the ground named after someone who thrilled Australian Football League crowds all over Australia."

Mr McCormack also supports naming the No. 1, 2 and 3 grounds at Bolton Park after Wagga Wagga’s Test cricketers Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater and Mark Taylor.

“I wrote about that many years ago in my newspaper days but the overall complex perhaps should retain the name Bolton Park as it honours District Surveyor Constantine Francis Bolton who, as I understand, set aside the land for the primary purpose of Australian football would you believe,” Mr McCormack said.

“It would be appropriate to name the individual fields after our former Test greats given that Lawson, Slater and Taylor played their junior cricket there – I actually remember playing against Mark as a kid … he scored 90 not out for Lake Albert and I made 0 not out for Marian which probably reflected the differences in our respective abilities with the bat!”
 Paul Kelly's first grade football career
Wagga Tigers (Riverina Football League) 1987-89
.     Member, grand final team 1989
.     Joint club best and fairest 1989

Sydney Swans (Australian Football League) 1990-2002
234 games, 200 goals

.     Brownlow Medal 1995
.     All-Australian 1995, 1996, 1997
.     Australian Football Hall of Fame (inducted 2007)
.     Club best and fairest 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997
.     Sydney captain 1993-2002

Cristy Houghton