Pristine West Wyalong knocks out competition

THE NOTEBOOK

THE West Wyalong Knockout is proof that something done well will endure as others fall by the wayside.

What started decades ago as a small pre-season rugby league competition in the wilds of the Riverina has blossomed into one of the best and most successful football carnivals in regional Australia.

- RELATED: Riverina football signings

- PICTURES: West Wyalong Knockout

And, when I say "football carnivals", I mean all the different brands.

Big statement, but the facts are pretty overwhelming.

There is definitely nothing else like it in country NSW and I'm betting it rivals anything in the bush in any other state or territory.

Significantly, the West Wyalong Knockout has comprehensively outlasted Wagga's vain attempts to grow a rival pre-season event.

In the old days Wagga flirted with a Sevens tournament, but it went down the gurgler in much the same way as Wagga Leagues Club.

Similarly, the Wagga Tens carnival was a brave attempt to take up the slack and deserved better than it got.

Ultimately, the Wagga Tens floundered because of lack of interest; not lack of enthusiasm from the organisers.

Nowadays, of course, Wagga is devoid of a pre-season rugby league competition of any description, which is a depressing situation.

Worse still is the Group Nine All Stars game has also been shunted from Wagga to Albury, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will be an unmitigated disaster.

As much as some unfair critics are saying the All Stars concept has run its race, the decision to shift the game from Equex Centre to Greenfield Park is not a step in the right direction.

Taking the All Stars promotion to Albury will only drag it down, not give it a chance to flourish, maybe even survive.

Anyway, enough of Wagga's woes and the city's frustrating football arm-wrestle with Albury.

There will always be those who think Wagga is merely treading water and not making great headway as a rugby league stronghold.

Leaving aside the fabulous Robertson Oval upgrade, Wagga has fallen behind when it comes to sporting facilities, particularly in the realm rugby league.

With the utmost respect to Wagga Rugby League and Wagga City Council, Equex Centre pales in comparison to Ron Crowe Oval in West Wyalong, the venue for the wonderful West Wyalong Knockout.

Put in perspective, Equex Centre is a quite adequate rugby league facility, but it still needs plenty of work, none more so than a hill at the northern end of the ground and cover for more than 20 per cent of the crowd.

There are also issues with the infrastructure at Equex Centre it is ageing badly rather than gracefully.

Despite these failings, Equex Centre is far and away the best possible venue for the Group Nine grand final for this year and the years beyond.

Naturally, Wagga City Council will need to do its bit and make a concerted effort to keep the Equex Centre up to the mark.

Understandably, council has been seriously distracted by the Robertson Oval upgrade in the immediate past, but the time is now opportune to move on to another deserving project.

Wagga mayor Rod Kendall must ensure there is funding provided to Equex Centre to allow the urgent works needed for it to become another sporting landmark in the city.

As Equex Centre stays locked in a time warp, Ron Crowe Oval continues to prosper under a sustained development program by Bland Shire Council.

From what I've been told, a million dollars has been poured into Ron Crowe in recent times and it shows.

The venue is nothing short of magnificent pristine even.

The entire look is 2013, not 1993.

The beauty of Ron Crowe Oval is that it is now a great multi sports facility and will perfectly serve the West Wyalong community.

On the football side of things, Ron Crowe Oval is a mighty edifice to the Mallee Men and rightfully so.

For too long, West Wyalong was treated as the poor relation of the Griffith-based Group 20 clubs.

It is now so far ahead it isn't funny.

Winning the Group 20 premiership last year was a huge step forward for West Wyalong and it will take a dramatic turnaround for the title to leave the town.

*****

WE'VE all used it.

The line about someone or other being "the nicest bloke in the world".

Truth is, few can live up to the tag.

Joe Howard could and did.

In rugby league or business, Joe Howard was universally admired and respected.

There was never a bad word uttered about a great young bloke, husband and father.

As the tributes flow, there is not much more to say than the world has lost one of its finest.

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