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We've Got Balls!

For many generations in towns across Australia local sporting clubs have played the important role of bringing people together socially to contribute to the community's sense of place and belonging.

Many areas in the Hills developed sporting teams quite early, from at least 1900. Popularity of different sports grew and by the 1950s and 1960s sport was central to the community. The most popular were football and hockey in winter, and cricket and tennis in summer.

Read on to find out more about the Importance of Play!

Many clubs, then and today, rely on working bees by club members to maintain and improve playing grounds and clubhouse facilities. However even by the end of the 1960s there were very few Hills sports club which could boast a grassed oval. That was a privilege generally enjoyed only by people down the hill, around Perth.

Chidlows Well Football Team 1914 : Only identified player is Alf Cook, sitting in front holding ball. 

In 1954 the Mundaring recreation ground was described as ‘a quagmire in the winter and a dust patch in the summer’.


A prominent local footballer, Ben Seabrook, recalled the state of various playing grounds of the area during the 1960s:

“The ovals and changerooms were terrible, abysmal. Every oval was gravel pitted, sandy, with poor drainage and gutters through some of them or – in Mundaring’s case – a slope from one side to the other. Most ovals were not long carved out of the bush….Changerooms were almost non-existent. Wundowie had a wooden changeroom made from face-cuts from the mill, crumbling, falling apart. Showers were cold, although some had tried to rig up a home-made system. Most clubs had some type of wood-framed, iron-clad shed. Mundaring, I recall, had a changeroom (if you could call it that) of hessian bags on bush-wood poles with sawdust floors.”

Quoted in Ken Spillman’s Life Was Meant to Be Here

Chidlow Recreation Ground, Rosedale Road  : Parkerville vs Chidlow football game 1948

Chidlow Rec Ground Rosedale Road Parky vs Chidlow 1948 B.jpg

The poor playing conditions were in no way an indication of neglect by the clubs, on the contrary the club members were fighting the natural conditions of the area including rocky terrain, clay soils and lack of rain.


In the summer of 1959-60 Mt Helena’s hall and recreation ground committee tried to upgrade  by repainting the outside of the hall, purchasing new seats and installing a septic tank as well as erecting floodlights on the oval and trying to cultivate grass. They were hopeful of being the first to have a grassed oval in the Hills.


Unfortunately the oval did not get the rain they needed, and on a Saturday night in March a local hoon ‘decided to make Mount Helena Oval a speedway…and the antics by this car and its occupants left deep ruts all over the oval’. Sadly this condemned the club and any visiting teams to at least another year without grass.

Mt Helena Oval 1960.jpg

Mt Helena Oval 1960 : Ladies (J Farrell, S Smoker & G Jeffrey) preparing for hockey practice and marking out field for Sunday's match.



These setbacks did not prevent the local teams from being successful on the field. The weekend hockey and football fixtures would highlight the rivalries between local teams.


During the 1950s the Mt Helena women’s hockey team had several strong players in Joan Illich, Val Peet and Lyn Trew. When the team defeated Chidlow 1:0 in the 1955 semi-final a local reporter wrote “Well done girls, in your quiet inoffensive way you are keeping Mt Helena in the running and on the map.”

On Sunday 13th September 1959, after much hard work, the Mt Helena women’s team won the grand-final against Parkerville.

Mt Helena Women's Hockey Team.jpg

Mt Helena Women's Hockey Team 1959 Champions

L-R: E Stokes, Leigh Grovenor, K Wright, C Watson, K Kennedy, Janet Husham, Lyn Trew, S Smoker, L Duncan, J Smoker and E Fogarty



The men’s football was similarly competitive, but on occasion much rougher.


After a Mt Helena v Parkerville match in May 1955 (which was won by six goals to Parkerville, despite Mt Helena’s best efforts) it was reported that during the final quarter:

“Instead of one umpire for football, about a dozen referees right up to the latest in Marquis of Queensbury rules would have been an acquisition. During the interval between box-ons, quite good football was played.”


This was not an isolated incident with some clubs developing grudges, with some very rough play reported between Mt Helena and Mundaring in 1959 which meant ‘the first aid men of both sides were kept going’.


A similar relationship developed between Bellevue and Wundowie during 1960-63, with each club losing a player to suspension after a second semi-final clash in 1960. This damaged Bellevue’s premiership prospects as they lost their star captain who received a six week penalty for laying out the competition’s fairest-and-best winner, Ben Seabrook, ‘like a corpse at the morgue’. Fortunately Seabrook recovered in time for the Grand Final and helped Wundowie to a win over Bellevue.

Mundaring Football Team c1950.jpg

Mundaring Football Team c1950



Cricket was generally less comedic and less aggressive than either hockey or football. Being a summer sport it was played in generally dry and dusty conditions.


Mount Helena had two out of the fourteen concrete pitches in the district, with the others being at Helena Valley, Parkerville, Swan View, Glen Forrest, Darlington and Mundaring.


Much of the competition was social with local RSL clubs and the school’s P&C association being the main fixtures.

The Mount Helena Cricket Club lapsed during 1955 but was reformed in 1956 and in1959 a Mt Helena team, captained by local teacher Leo Haughey, was entered into the Hills Cricket Association competition, and won its first match against Wundowie. The Swan Express newspaper reported that the strong performance ‘should help to develop interest in cricket in Mt Helena and the hills’.

Hills Cricket Assoc Country Week 1955_ed



Generally the games were non-violent, many played in the spirit of good sportsmanship. For most players sport was for enjoyment and to be part of the team, and therefore involved in community life.


This made finals games of many sports occasions for whole community celebrations. It wasn’t just for the benefit of the players either, spectators were integral in the unifying experience of the celebrations. Many were often in fine form at the games, shouting encouragement to their favourites.

Mundaring Football Team Premiers 1956.jpg

Humour was also an important part of the games, often arising out of difficult conditions.  In June 1959, Chidlow’s ground, which was notoriously flood-prone, was described as ‘the perfect conditions for a swimming carnival’.


The following year when the Glen Forrest women’s hockey team arrived there for a game they found it to be three feet underwater. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity for an important game the ladies played on. A match report described, and probably exaggerated, the conditions of the grounds:

“The players, instead of running out, swam strongly to the centre for the toss-up. The coin was jacked and one of the players had to put a snorkel on to find it in the mud….From then on it was “man the life boats”…Players were into it. Water flying everywhere and the ball just floating around in the water. The spectators were roaring with laughter and the players were having the time of their lives…”

Quoted in Ken Spillman’s Life Was Meant to Be Here

In addition to fun had while playing under difficult conditions, many clubs also had ‘Fun Days’ or special fundraising events. These often included fancy dress, sometimes mock weddings and other novelty games.

Mundaring Community Tennis CLUB Fun Day A.jpg
Mundaring Community Tennis CLUB Fun Day B.jpg

Mundaring Community Tennis Club 'Fun Day'

Male players dressed as women, and female players dressed as men.

Past Exhibitions

Click on exhibition image for more information

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