DPNA History

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DOWNEY PARK NETBALL ASSOCIATION

1974-2014

 by Graham White OAM


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FIRST STEPS

The Downey Park Women’s Sports Reserve was officially opened on the 4th April 1959 and the Queensland Women’s Basketball Association (the forerunner to Q.N.A.) was a foundation tenant with the Qld Women’s Sports Council (QWASC) obtaining a lease of the park.download ( 1)



Background

Queensland Netball Association (Q.N.A.) ran fixtures at the Downey Park complex until the end of 1973 when steering committees for the establishment of the Downey Park Netball Association (D.P.N.A.) and the Metropolitan Districts Netball Association (M.D.N.A.) were formed and these two associations both operated at Downey Park in 1974 before M.D.N.A. moved to their Coorparoo Grounds in 1975.

 

It was an inauspicious start with the complex inundated by the 1974 floods.  Prior to the floods there were 27 grass courts at Downey Park – during the height of the floods the only visible feature was the tower and after the floods subsided three courts behind the green buildings were lost. 

 

On 11 February 1974 a variation in the lease between Brisbane City Council and QWASC was made to include the old Northey Street Council Depot at Victor Park which was made into a canteen area and all weather bitumen courts for netball. The initial bitumen courts were financed by Q.N.A.  While DPNA occupied the Downey Park and Victor Park complex, QNA maintained responsibility for maintenance of the area through its membership of QWASC.  There were no written agreements between QNA and QWASC or between QWASC and DPNA.

 

D.P.N.A.’s inaugural President in 1974 was Mrs. Lesley Cooke from the Gap Pastime Club and the Foundation Patron was Mrs. Bertha Elder who had been the Q.N.A. appointee on the Steering Committee for the establishment of our new association. A number of the Clubs that competed at Downey Park in 1974 & 1975 later moved to M.D.N.A. or to the Western Districts Netball Association.

 

A comment from Joan Pentecost at the 25th Anniversary – “Lesley Cooke was an inspirational leader who cared for the players and the sport, a great innovator, always prepared to try something new, a talented organiser who inspired others to give of themselves as well.”

In 1977 Valleys won the second of their now 32 A Grade Premierships at Downey Park and what a team it was comprising Coach Pam Barham (Queensland and NZ Coach), Fran Wiringi (NZ International), Liz White (Australian player and Australian Vice-Captain 1980-1983) and Sandra Fullaghar (AA selection 1978), Marianne Pomonas, Gail Harris (nee Hourigan) and Desley Stone (all Queensland State players) and Linda Pentecost.

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1981 - 1991

In 1981 Graham White took on the presidency after Michele Buck and Joan Pentecost had each held the position for one year.  Graham continued in this role over the next eleven years.  During this period the Association had many successes at the state level and provided many state representative players.

 

1983 saw Downey Park host the Australian Open & U/21 National Championships. Jack O’Mahoney and Neil Derrington lived on-site in a caravan to deter any would-be vandals and to ensure tight security for the duration of the event.  The Championships were a great success and, while the Queensland team did not win, Downey Park players had some great individual rewards.

 

In 1984 the entire Queensland State Open team was from the Downey Park Association with Liz White as Coach; Helen Stevens as Manager; Joan Pentecost (AA Umpire); Vicki Wilson; Janelle Soden; Melissa Jones; Annette, Maria & Donna Smith; Janelle Derrington; Denise Sawtell; Karen Stevenson; and Judy Marsh. Liz had been Vice-Captain of the Australian team from 1980-1983; Vicki later became Australian Team Captain and the world’s best goal shooter and Janelle Soden went on to become the Australian Wing Attack and vice-captain, while Annette Smith and Janelle Derrington both became AA Umpires after their playing careers ended.

 

Downey Park has had three other AA Umpires over the years in the persons of Michele Buck (former Queensland Netball President and Australian Delegate to IFNA), Joan Pentecost and Valda Williamson. All five mentioned have made an outstanding contribution to the Sport of Netball at Downey Park, in Queensland, and around the world.  Robyn Doolan, an AA Umpire from NSW, also umpired at Downey Park for a number of years after moving up to the Sunshine State.

 

Maureen Atkins, Life Member, said of Michele Buck at the 25th Anniversary – “Michele Buck was umpiring the Grand Final on Court 40 at 3.00pm. At full time it was a draw so they played extra time. It was still a draw. So, into ‘First team to 2 goals ahead’. It started raining just enough to wet everyone and went for 15 goals before a result was obtained. Players were walking and at least one umpire was exhausted. I did not ever see Michele umpire a Grand Final after that”.

 

 

In 1985 the Valleys Blue team won the Esso Cup at the Australian National Club Championship Carnival defeating the famous Melbourne Blues in the final on the Gold Coast. The team was coached by Liz White and was made up of Annette, Maria & Donna Smith; Janet Bothwell; Janelle Derrington; Janelle Soden; Sue Knight; Kylie Sleep and Chris Bell. This was the first Queensland Netball team to win such an event. Valleys represented Queensland at this event over a number of years and were often placed in the top 3 or 4 teams competing – In 1986 they were defeated in the semi-finals by the Australian Institute of Sport 49-40 in Sydney.

 

By the 1988 season Arana Netball Club (which began at DPNA as a 1 team club in 1976) had easily become the Association’s largest club with 31 teams participating in the 139 team competition. The Gap was the second largest club with 14 teams that year. Valleys won their 11th A-Grade Premiership in 12 years by defeating Police Youth Club by 47-27.

 

In 1991 Downey Park obtained a sponsor for the Association for the first time as Campbell Brother’s at Bowen Hills took on this role and continued to do so over the following 10 years. The Downey Park team which represented Queensland on a number of occasions in the Mobil Championships became known as the “Fluffy Ducks” – the fore-runner to the Queensland Firebirds.

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1992-2000

Elizabeth White took on the Presidency in 1992 from her husband Graham (President from 1980-1991) and this, added to her extensive coaching roles, took up much of her spare time. The 1992 season saw Canons, led by Vicki Wilson, finally wrest the A-Grade title from Valleys winning a hard-fought Grand Final 52-47

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During 1994 and 1995 there were extensive negotiations between QNA and DPNA for DPNA to take over responsibility for the complex.  For some years DPNA had been concerned about the state of the grounds and buildings and had wanted to take over the tenancy but QNA had not been interested.  The extensive negotiations in 1994 and 1995 were finally successful.  QWASC accepted DPNA as the new tenant body instead of QNA and also agreed to split the Victor Park area from their lease of the Downey Park area as it had not been a part of the original Downey Park lease.  DPNA was then able to negotiate the lease of this area with the Brisbane City Council.  The granting of the lease was a momentous occasion for DPNA as the Association was finally responsible for its own facilities and could take action to improve and develop them.

 

1995 saw Maureen McCartney at the helm at Downey Park having taken over the Presidency mid-way through 1994 from Elizabeth White. The Executive was looking at the implementation of a 5 year plan for the development of Downey Park to follow the grant of the lease.

 

1996 saw Judy Chapman become President of Downey Park after having served 6 years as our Fixture’s Convenor. She served as President until the end of the 2000 Season. Prior to the season’s commencement Courts 35, 36 & 37 all had new surfaces laid.

 

The 1997 season was again interrupted by wet weather. A pop-up irrigation system was installed on the grass courts, new turf was laid and top dressing carried out which really improved their condition. Three of the old grass courts were re-surfaced with bitumen (26, 27 & 28) providing the Association with more all-weather facilities for the future.  Again our thanks went to the Brisbane City Council for the allocation of subsidies which allowed us to carry out this work.

 

At the end of 1997 Michele Buck was honoured with the award of Honorary Sports Administrator of the Year in Queensland by the Australian Society of Sports Administrators-Queensland Division. Michele was President of Netball Queensland and played a leading role in bringing women’s sport to the forefront in Queensland. Michele also held the position of Chair of the Sports Federation of Queensland and Chair of the Sports Advisory Board – her leadership skills were without peer and her ability to motivate her staff and fellow Board Members to the highest level of achievement was a credit to her personal self discipline – she was the ultimate professional and had an enormous impact on all who came in contact with her.

 

DPNA hosted the State Age Championships in 1998 and, despite the wet weather, the hard work and dedication of the DPNA Netball Community made the carnival memorable for all concerned.   Campbell Brothers were again the Association’s major sponsor and Kedron Park Medical Centre came on board by sponsoring our First Aid Service provided by St. John’s Ambulance.

 

1999 was our 25th Anniversary year and the Association held a number of celebratory events including a 25th anniversary function held at the Brisbane Softball Headquarters which saw a lot of old faces get together to mark the occasion. Congratulations were extended to Lyn Fryer, the planning committee chairman, and her committee members for a very successful round of functions.

 

Wet weather disrupted fixtures throughout 1999 making it necessary to have three wet days to make up games. The season was marked by a further decrease in the number of senior fixture games. Courts 38, 39, 40 & 41 were reconstructed prior to the season and special thanks were extended to the Lord Mayor, Jim Soorley, and to Alderman Maureen Hayes (our local councillor) for their help and financial support for this project.

 

The year 2000 was very kind, weather wise, but D.P.N.A. was going through a period of uneven competition, especially in the middle age groups. After many years in control of the canteen Mrs. Maureen Peters finally hung up her apron at the seasons end – everybody who came in contact with Maureen has appreciated her efforts over many years, and after 11 years of serving Downey Park (6 years as Fixtures Convenor and 5 years as President) Judy Chapman also stood down.

 

 

2001 - 2008

In 2001 Kenlie Williams took over the reins as President – a position she held for the next three years. 14 Clubs and 186 teams participated with 13 of the Clubs being represented in the finals series. The capital works on Courts 42 & 43 were completed prior to the season commencing and again the Brisbane City Council contributed greatly to the payment for this work.

 

Downey Park suffered a great loss with the passing of Mr. Jack O’Mahoney - Life Member. Mr. O, as he was affectionately known, had been associated with the Association since its inception. Jack was like a father to many of the Clubs and Players and was the caretaker of the Downey Park complex for many years. He first became interested in Netball in 1965 when his daughter Judy started playing for Land Rovers – at the time he was coaching a Brothers Rugby League team but he was bitten by the Netball bug. With his wife Eileen he coached teams at Downey until her passing in 1980 and continued in his own coaching role until 1985. Jack often attended the National Netball Championships at different venues around Australia and maintained a friendship with many of Australia’s leading players for many years. Jack was 87 years young.

 

2002 saw a 10.75% increase in the number of teams (206) competing at Downey Park. Thanks to the Brisbane City Council and the State Government/Sports Commission the Association was able to carry out remedial work on Grass Courts 12 to 15.

 

2003 was a year of growth and consolidation at Downey Park with 209 teams participating in our fixture games. Fire Systems Supplies Pty Ltd was again our major sponsor and it provided our Sports Medicine Officials for each Saturday as well as new Representative Team Kit Bags.

 

The year also saw a huge increase in spending on the grass courts with the Brisbane City Council and the State Government providing us with 8 new grass surfaces as well as a lit, concreted driveway through the complex and a completely revamped toilet block - a situation that we would never have been able to afford on our own. The Brisbane City Council also provided funds to have murals painted on our buildings and the buildings themselves were extensively upgraded.

 

D.P.N.A. hosted the Challenge Cup in 2004 and we were blessed with perfect weather and received numerous compliments about the state of our grounds, our impeccable organisation of food and other facilities, and the friendly attitude of our officials, players and parents.

 

2004 saw the passing of the Association’s newest Life Member, Barbara Hawgood, after a long battle with illness. Barbara had been strongly involved with the Canons Club and as D.P.N.A.’s Junior Registrar from 1995 to 2002.  She also contributed considerable time to netball at every level as a team manager - from state teams, to regional teams to association and club teams.  

 

Using a Grant from the Brisbane City Council, the Association in 2005 undertook a renovation of the building on the site, with major redevelopment of the registration area and the canteen and conversion of the back room to an air conditioned office.  Having the office at the courts meant a significant saving in overheads as we no longer needed to rent space at a different venue.  It also provided for much more efficiency in administration and with the conduct of fixtures.  Kenlie Williams was the driving force in getting this project off the ground and Jane Seawright took on the task of supervising the construction. The project might never have proceeded without their drive and support.

 

The 2006 and 2007 years were ones of much change and growth with changes to the former Premier League (now the Mt. Franklin’s Challenge) and the implementation of Regional Academies and other Regional activities. These all led to an increase in workload for D.P.N.A. executive and members and with a new Association sponsor (Eagers Mazda at Newstead) onboard things were looking rosy.

 

2007/2008 saw the winding-up of the Queensland Women’s Amateur Sports Council and the establishment of our own Association lease for all of the netball area at Downey Park as well as Victor Park without interference from outside bodies.  DPNA had taken the lead in pressing for this change in 2002 when insurance changes made it difficult for QWASC to maintain appropriate insurance coverage.   Convincing QWASC of the need for change and then negotiation of the final format of the leases had taken five years.  QWASC was wound up the following year in 2008 after a looming insurance claim was withdrawn.

 

In 2007 Eagers supported the DPNA Carnival and the 12 years Development Day in August and the Association was also fortunate to obtain a Gaming Community Benefit Fund Grant to enable the resurfacing of courts 35-37.  During these years DPNA developed a new Player Development Program (PDP).  The program for 14 to 17 years talented players was run by Elizabeth White and Amanda Vanderwal.  Incorporating a training session one night a week and match play in the BNA night competition, it gave the participant players the opportunity to develop their game in the off season.   This program was part of our increasing focus on the development of players and coaches.  In 2008/9 training programs for non-competitive coaches were held and in 2009 Julia Wadham developed an extension of the Junior PDP to 12 and 13 years players.

 

Brisbane Girls Grammar School decided to base its netball training and home matches at D.P.N.A.

 

2008 was another year of development and saw Jane Seawright complete a five year term as President of the Association and her contribution to Downey Park and to the consolidation of the Brisbane North Region has to be acknowledged.

 

In late 2008 one of our life members, Michele Buck, passed away. Michele was involved with Downey Park from its inception as a player, umpire (AA) and an Administrator and was always on hand when needed, even when she was President of Netball Queensland for many years. She played a major role in the Association’s development and she will long be remembered for her innovation and administrative skills and for her contribution to our sport.

 


2009 was the year of the floods (not one but two) and they certainly had a great impact on the playing season. After major damage caused by the May flood the repair work carried out by the Netball community was outstanding and with the help of a great many business supporters, Brisbane Girls Grammar School and the Queensland Government we were able to recover as soon as was humanly possible.

 

Whilst there was no Brisbane City Council funding for flood recovery works, there was help from the City Council for the total reconstruction of Court 42 (now Court 4). There are still problems with the concrete blocks under the surface on the Courts which were on part of the old City Council Depot which had been built directly on the water table and thus move around but remedial work planned for completion in 2014 should overcome this problem.

 

After the flood disasters of 2009, 2010 was a year of consolidation and much of the lead-in to the playing season, and throughout the year, was devoted to the repair of the fabric at Downey Park. Much of the furniture in the office had to be replaced and two courts damaged by the floods were resurfaced. Investigations showed that the Association could proceed with adding a second story to our building and a third project to resurface courts 26-28 was well underway.  Toll became a sponsor, with a contribution to the PDP program and continued to sponsor the Association for the following three years.

 

Downey Park escaped major damage in the 2011 Brisbane floods. The grass courts were inundated but the complex; well sand bagged, was not affected and suffered no damage to buildings or hard courts.  A  record number of teams (and players) registered with D.P.N.A. with the Gap Club leading the way with 38 teams and All Hallows (32); Valleys (30) and Pine Hills (28) all registering over 25 teams for the season.  A total of 298 teams participated in Divisions from A-Grade to Nippers (8/9 years) and an extra round of Junior Fixtures had to be instituted to accommodate the additional teams with fixtures now commencing at 9.40 am.   

 

In 2012 the number of teams continued to grow with another big increase, this time of 24 teams, and by the end of the season the playing numbers had passed the 3,000 mark.  Plans continued, although slowly, for the development of three additional hard courts in the grass court area.  A small amount of funding was obtained from the Gaming Benefit Scheme with major funding to come from the Association itself.

 

Approval, which included extension of the leased area, was granted by Brisbane City Council but before work could commence a new proposal was put forward by the Council.  The whole of Downey Park is a contaminated land site and the Council plans to redevelop the area over a three year period.  As netball already had plans for new courts in place, Council decided to begin the work in netball’s area.  Planning commenced for rebuilding the area with nine hard courts, not three, and replacement of all remaining grass courts.  Council was to remove contaminated soil from the whole of the area and reconstruct 16 grass courts.  DPNA was responsible for the construction of the nine hard courts with funding from Council, the Gaming Benefit Grant and Association funds.

 

Sadly, Jackie O’Meara, after whom we have named the hard courts, passed away in September after a short battle with cancer.  Jackie had been grounds convenor since 1998 and had played a major part in ensuring that our complex was of a high standard for playing netball.  Her contribution was well reflected in the many complements paid to Jackie after her death.  All captured Jackie as someone who was always there when she was needed, who was unwaveringly loyal, who could be very stubborn and determined once she had made up her mind, someone with an infectious laugh and someone who always built positive relationship with others. 

 

2013 started very positively but was soon to become probably our most challenging year ever.  The work to rebuild Downey Park courts was ahead of schedule and by the end of the third week in January pouring of the concrete for the hard courts had begun.  At the end of January Cyclone Oswald struck and we were seriously flooded.  Thanks to the persistence of our contractor, the work on hard courts recommenced once flooding receded and they were completed at 4.00 pm on the day before our delayed fixtures commenced on 20 April.

 

Continued wet weather further delayed the grass courts and they were not used during the year to give every opportunity for the grass to develop.  All games consisting of 10 minute quarters were on hard courts for the entire season.  Fortunately there was no increase in team and player numbers.

 

Other major works completed because of flood damage were the reconstruction of court 42 (5) with a new concrete base; resurfacing of courts 38 to 40 (7-9); patching and resurfacing of court 36 (2); laying of power court surface on court 41 (6); resealing of court 27 (11).  Funds for these projects came from Association funds and a grant from the State Government’s Disaster Relief Program.  The opportunity was taken to renumber all the courts starting with No. 1 in front of the club house.

 

McDonalds became a major sponsor, with both financial support and support with equipment.  The generous sponsorship is for a period of three years.  Tweve9teens became a sponsor providing a physiotherapist for both the state age and the challenge carnivals and Toll continued its sponsorship.

 

In 2014, our 40th anniversary year, we have finally been able to play on our grass courts, although not on the first day, as rain during the week had water logged the courts. We have some concerns about the drainage of the area but have not been able to do anything further about this.  There are a record number of teams participating with an increase of 20 teams since last year to 337 teams.  The Gap continues as our largest Club with 53 teams; Valleys and AHS each have 34 and Raiders have 33.  With the biggest increase in the 10 years teams, this bodes well for the future.  Our strength in our numbers is the opportunity it provides for players with a broad range of skills from elite players to social players to play in competitions at their own level of ability. 

 

D.P.N.A. continues to invest in the future of its players through its developmental programmes from Net Set Go for 5 to 7 year olds through to the PDP programmes for the 11 to 17 year olds.  Our development program for umpires is continuing to grow as reflected by the number of “C” badged umpires gaining their accreditation each year.  Planning is currently being undertaken for a new Club House and improved lighting and possibly lighting on the Jackie O’Meara courts at some time in the future.

 

Diana Moore has served as an Executive Member and now as President for so many years and the Association is indebted to her for her invaluable work in liaison with all levels of Government and through her leadership in difficult times with major flooding events and on-going development.

 

A special word of thanks to one of DPNA’s Foundation Members – Mrs Elizabeth White. Liz has been a player, coach, mentor, president and executive member at Downey and is still totally involved through DPNA Executive and the Valley’s Netball Club which she helped start way back in 1974. From a husband that has lived through all her dedicated service you cannot measure her contribution.

 

In conclusion we are all proud of the work undertaken at DPNA over the past 40 years. It has been a labour of love for those who have been involved and we trust that it has given thousands of hours of fun to all those players who have participated.

 

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For more information on the History of Downey Park and the importance of Downey Park in the history of Women's Sport in Brisbane, visit: A Women's Place... The Downey Park Story

 

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