A Sense of Belonging at Rugby Park
BY ALEX TIGANI
For almost half a century, Singleton’s Rugby Park has proven to be a landmark in town.
The home of the Singleton Bulls has played host to many memorable rugby union clashes and, each season, the bond shared by those within the club strengthens with memories.
Local businessman Peter Dunn was one of the many former Bulls to pay their respects to a club great earlier this month.
“I stood at that club at the wake after Russell Rapp’s funeral and I thought about just how much that place does mean to me because you see so many familiar faces over so many years and there is such a sense of belonging to the place,” Mr Dunn reflected.
Ironically, Rapp scored Singleton’s first ever try in the Bulls’ historic 8-3 win over Muswellbrook on May 6, 1967 and continued to star when the Bulls first opened Rugby Park on Saturday, June 9, 1973.
Stands were later built on the northern side of the field as 6,000 fans gathered on Wednesday June 28, 1988, for NSW Country vs. New Zealand (the All Blacks won 29-4).
They were later named after Rapp and Bill Sutton, with original seats from the SCG (and later Stadium Australia) inserted in the stands.
As Singleton continued its on field dominance at the turn of the century, off the field Mr Dunn, Bill Sutton, Michael Kelly and Ian Grey formed a committee for the club’s ‘Lunch with a Legend’ series which commenced in 2003.
Funds from this popular business luncheon would go toward the two-story extension of the clubhouse (eventually opened on June 21, 2006).
“Mick was trying to work out how to raise funds and this series was never expected to go for 17 years but used as an income stream which was used to fund the clubhouse upgrades,” he continued.
“It has been an interesting time from where it started at 160 people to 715 for Bob.”
Famous guests have included former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Tony Abbott, John Elliott, Robbie Deans, Kerry O’Keefe, Wayne Bennett and Andrew Johns.
John Singleton presented the club with a $15,000 painting (2.4 x 2.1m) of the club’s first Wallaby Steve Merrick when he was the guest. It now features in the clubhouse.
Last month, the Rapp and Sutton stands were taken down to make way for a new grandstand.
Nevertheless, a large crowd is still expected to watch on from the same spot when the Bulls play host to Maitland for the club’s Old Bulls Day (Saturday, June 26).