Broken Hill has always had a strong sporting culture and, for its population, a disproportionately high number of successful sportspeople. The remoteness, hardship and necessity for make-do that has made resilience the lifeblood of this town, has also created ground-breaking achievers in the sporting world. This small outback town has been the home of Olympians, medal-winning athletes, countless sports stars and, particularly, professional footballers.
Men’s football began in Broken Hill as early as 1886, but during WWI the first ladies’ football match, a fundraising event for the Red Cross, was played. One of the teams represented the local hospital and the other, Pellew & Moores, a large department store on Argent Street. The Pellew & Moores team won! During WWII, as the Silver City Ladies Band played, the “Spitfires” and “Bombers” women’s teams marched onto the field and raised a significant sum of money.
Sport is so deeply rooted in the history of Broken Hill that it has shaped the planning of the town. Sports grounds and sports clubs multiplied. The legendary Alma Sporting Club, founded in 1924 and always referred to as the “Billy's Club” (after some boisterous behaviour from its founders on one memorable occasion), had the largest membership: 500 people attended the laying of the club’s foundation stone in the 1950s.
Archery, soccer, darts, cricket, tennis, tent-pegging, cycling, boxing, golf and even polo, were enthusiastically embraced and played in Broken Hill. By 1933 the Barrier Miner was describing Broken Hill as a sports-loving community, proud of its athletes, and a town that had produced many champions including Ernie Jones of “demon bowling” fame, and runner Gerald Taylor, known as ‘the bird’, who gained world recognition on the cinder track. Some famous horses were given a mention as well.
Harness racing began in the 1890s in unregistered race meetings with winnings and losses sorted out afterwards in one of Broken Hill’s many pubs. A couple of decades later the “Milko Derbies” were attracting huge crowds watching rival bread and milk carts careen around dirt tracks. The Silver City Racing Club was established in the 1930s. The dream of a St Patrick's Race Club became a reality over a game of golf in 1965 between John Toms, a well-known local trainer and Catholic Priest Father Patrick Murray. Both Clubs now conduct annual racing days with St Pat’s now being a popular nationally recognised race meeting.
Between 1908-1912 Ruby Irene Knipe Ruby was a prolific Club Swinging performer at events in Broken Hill. ‘The star turn was the fire club swinging of a little mite, Miss Ruby Knipe whose execution with the clubs would have done credit to an older artist.’ Barrier Miner Boys Brigade Gymnastic Competition 9 May 1908
Popular local character Rudi Alagich was credited with launching soccer on an unsuspecting Broken Hill audience. He helped to form the Broken Hill Soccer Association, initiated the first international soccer team visit to Broken Hill and, in 2000, received an Australian Sporting Achievement Medal and was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.
Broken Hill continues to produce sports stars. In 1980 gymnast Marina Sulicich represented Australia at the Moscow Olympics. This was the first time an Australian gymnast had made the all-round individual finals. Bobsledder, Jason Giobbi, made his Olympic debut at Nagano in 1998. Troy Andrews, a wheelchair basketball player and shooter, has represented Australia at five Paralympics from 1984 to 2000. AFL stars Dean Solomon, Taylor [‘Tex’] Walker, Brent Staker and Isaac Cummings are all Broken Hill’s own.
The Broken Hill community has always supported the determination and motivation of its sports people and athletes, making sports an important part of the identity of the city and of the region.
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