Athletics ACT History
In 2015 Athletics ACT celebrates its 60th anniversary. The association was first formed in April 1955 and conducted its first ever competition that same year in October at Manuka Oval.
The Early Years
By Colin Robbie
I won a scholarship to attend St Joseph's Collegefrom 1949-53 and had a wonderful 5 years of athletic training in cricket, rugby and athletics. Returning to Canberra in early 1954, I played cricket at A-grade and representative level but really missed the one-on-one contests of athletics. So I started to find out if there was any interest in an athletics competition in Canberra. There was the St. Patrick’s Day professional gift sprint and some organisations such as the YMCA ran an athletics day.
I started to talk to youth organisations such as the CYO and YMCA and football clubs to assess interest and in the process found out that the Canberra High School Phys Ed teacher, Max Landy, was doing the same. I contacted Max and we agreed that we should combine our efforts.
I remember that I drew up the Ad in the Canberra Times to hold an initial meeting to establish an Athletics Association in Canberra.
The meeting was held on 27 April 1955 at Canberra High School (see attached Canberra Times clipping) and we agreed that we needed more than one club so as to generate competition.Most of the office bearers were teachers, which was understandable and it was agreed that Pat Thompson (a teacher at Telopea Park School) and I would start up a club on the south side while Cec Davis and Bob Jay would get the north side going.
Pat and I called a meeting at Telopea Park School in late 1955 when Pat was elected president and I was Sec/Treasurer of South Canberra.
We held our first competition in October 1955 (see attached Canberra Times clipping). I and a number of others entered for the NSWAAA Country Champs in Sydney in Jan 1956and they allowed us to compete as unattached athletes. I had been authorised by the ACT Committeeto talk with NSWAAA about our future. At the age of 18 I met with George Soper the Secretary of the NSWAAA who said that we could seek registration as aState Body or we could become a Branch ofthe NSWAAA and therefore eligible to compete in Country and State Championships. This seemed to be the best option for the ACT at this stage of our development and was agreed. We competed for many years successfully and our South Canberrateam even won a Club Championship.
At the local level North and South Canberra competed for many years with RMC and for a time the Burns Club with Peter Scott as an outstanding sprinter also added to the mix. One of my memories at this time was we were charged with the responsibility of running trials for torch bearersfor the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. I was responsible for running the time trials which we ran over a mile course on the old Canberra - Queanbeyanroad. I qualified under the 6 minute limit but did not participate because I left to attend the Games before the torch came through.
This is a very patchy memory of the early days of Athletics in Canberra and I feel very privileged to have been a part of its development. Needless to say I still get a huge amount of enjoyment out of still competing almost 50 years later.
Formation of Athletics ACT
The Early Days of Athletics in the Canberra