NSW Rugby League proposal to Lease Redfern Park

25th April 1908

In the early 1900's Redfern Park had started being used as a sporting venue. Bounded by Elizabeth, Redfern, Chalmers and Phillip Streets, Redfern Oval was designed and constructed during the late 1880s as a typical Victorian pleasure ground with ornamental gardens, cricket pitches, bowling green and a bandstand.

The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. The land that incorporated Redfern Oval is often referred to as "Eora Country". The traditional owners of the land are the Cadigal band of the Eora people. However with the arrival of the British settlers the traditional owners of the land were decimated by disease or relocated. The land which included Redfern Park was granted to Edward Smith Hall, editor of the Sydney Monitor newspaper in 1822. He immediately sold it to Solomon Levey. Redfern owes its name to Dr William Redfern who arrived in Sydney as a convict in 1801, having been court-martialled for his part in the great British naval mutiny of 1797. He won the friendship of Governor Macquarie, becoming his personal family physician. Land for the park was dedicated on 11th September 1885 with the Burroughs Council of Redfern as trustee and named Redfern Park on 20th NOvember 1885. Redfern Park originally was a tract of land that was once known as a ‘dangerous pestiferous bog’ known as Boxley’s Lagoon, in addition to also being known as Nathan’s Cow Paddock, later.

So in April 1908 the NSW Rugby League put forward a proposal to fence the ground so that it could be used for future matches.

On April 25 1908, the Redfern Council accepted a proposal from the Rugby League to fence the Redfern Oval. The league was prepared to bear all the expense of the work, and asked in return for a lease of the oval for three years for the football season commencing on April 1 and ending September 30. 1908-09-10. The league offered 20 per cent, of the gross takings, and at the end of the lease the fencing would become the property of the Redfern Council. At the last meeting of the council Alderman Howe moved and Alderman Holden seconded, -"That a recommendation be made that the terms of the Rugby League should be accepted, subject to certain alterations. They consist of 25 per cent, of the gross takings being handed over, instead of 20 per cent., as offered, for 16 Saturday afternoons, between April 1 and end of August; that 14 first-class matches be played each year; all improvements to be made under the supervision of the council; and no complimentary tickets be issued " The motion was carried by six votes to four.

Redfern Oval has been secured by the League, and will be enlarged and fenced in, with seating accommodation provided. This should be a great home ground for South Sydney.

On April 30 the Redfern Council confirmed the park committee's report that the sport oval on Redfern Park should be enclosed for revenue purposes, but considerable discussion ensued on the proposal of the Rugby League to fence in the ground and lease it for three football seasons. It was stated that the spefications of the League would not be accepted, but it was decided to grant the lease if the League allowed the council 25 per cent of the gross takings, and carried out all the structures to the satisfaction of the foreman of the council. As showing how successful the innovation promises to be, a letter was received from a gentleman offering to lease the oval on Wednesday evenings for moving pictures and band concert entertainments, for which he was willing to pay a rental, and allow the council 20 per cent, of the gross gate, That matter, however, was referred to the park committee.

May 19, Though the course of negotiations concerning the closing of the Redfern Oval between the Redfern Council and the New South Wales Rugby league has been made somewhat rugged by opposition, satisfactory arrangements will probably soon be arrived at. The delqy has been caused by several considerations. To begin with, the Redfern Council had to submit the scheme to a committee, and the committee's report had to be referred to tho council, and the same debate occurred in each place. A more important question then arose. At the beginning, of each season, both summer and winter, the Redfern Council clerk has to consider applications for the use of the park. At the beginning of this winter these were more numerous than usual, so Mr. Grierson called together representatives of the various sporting bodies concerned, and allowed them to come to an amicable settlement as to dates. This was done, and the arrangement was duly confirmed. When the League's offer to lease the ground for three years was accepted, it was stipulated that arrangements should be made with the clubs who had contracted for certain dates. The League authorities entered into negotiations, but the negotiations disclosed the fact that the various sporting bodies were determined to insist upon what they had contracted for. Though it is against their financial interests the Redfern Council refuses to break its word with the bodies who have engaged the Oval for various dates. Mr. Grierson points, out that no public body such as the council could be guilty of such a breach of faith. The result is that the Leuguo will not have the use of the ground, for the present season. Under such conditions it is proposed by the League to erect a fence around the Oval as soon as the agreement to be prepared by the council's solicitors is drawn up and agreed to. It may be said that the League has agreed to all the council's conditions as to the percentages of the gate and the stability of the structures, but as the council has to make embankments and so forth, the delay will enable that body to carry out the work far more effectively than if the matter were rushed. It is understood the playing area will be somewhat enlarged, to enable a full-length football area to he established. Though it is possible that the League will be enabled to use the ground for a few of the late fixtures of the present season, the real tenure of their lease will not commence till the beginning of the next winter carnival, when everything will be in full swing for a successful season.

Last Friday evening a meeeing of rate-payers decided to take action against the closing of the Oval, but the law enables the council to grant, the permission, and, what is more, the Minister for Lands has urged the aldermen to that course.

Mayor Explains Enclosing Redfern Park

29th May 1908

At the last meeting of the Redfern Council, a deputation waited on the Mayor to protest against the enclosing of a portion of Redfern Park as a football ground, and leasing it to the Rugby League.

The Mayor, in explanation, said that, speaking on his own behalf as an advocate of the scheme, and on behalf, of the majority of members round the table, that every argument used by the deputation had been already raised and fully discussed. It was entirely incorrect that the people were being robbed, as a speaker suggested. The enclosing of the playing portion of the park was only an experiment for three years, and if it were not a success at the end of that time it could be wiped away. Instead ot taking anything from the people, under the proposed improvement the beauties of the park would be increased, and enhanced pleasure given to the women and children of the district. The enclosure would not be confined to any particular sport, and the people who proposes to expend £500 on it would have only the right to it for some 14 or 16 Saturday afternoons during the football season. With the increased revenue, the park would be lighted up at night, as it should be, and it would become a beauty spot for residents and the council would be placed in a position to get bands playing for the enjoyment of the people. It would become a desirable spot for the residents to go to tn the summer evenings, and flower beds, etc., would be laid out. There was not one person round the table, explained the Mayor, who wished to take one iota of sunlight from the people.

Union secues Redfern Oval

5th March 1909

Rugby Union however snuck in undr the guard of the Rugby League and in 1909 had secured the use of Redfern Oval.

NSWRL Concerned over Redfern Oval

16th March 1909

During the 1909 NSWRL annual meeting a delegate was highly critical of the running of the league in 1908. One item that cme up was the agreement with regard to the Redfern ground and the guarantee that had been arranged by Mr. Hoyle. All the books were deemed above board, but progress was now delayed.