IT’S been a bone of contention for as long as sport has been played in this part of the world. Just which is the most successful sporting town in country NSW?
The title has been long held by many to belong to Wagga Wagga. The Riverina powerhouse has produced a host of Australia’s best known sporting stars in the likes of Peter Sterling, Mark Taylor and Paul Kelly.
But a passionate group of Queanbeyan locals believe Q-Town can lay its own claim to the mantle and what’s more, they want to prove it.
“I personally think Queanbeyan is the most successful country town in terms of raising sporting champions in country NSW,” long-time local Col Berry told The Queanbeyan Age. “We’ve had something like 114 State and National sporting identities come out of Queanbeyan, the next closest is Wagga with about 70 or 80.
“The media constantly refers to the ‘Wagga Effect’ when speaking of the achievements of country sportsmen and women in NSW when Queanbeyan is probably closer to the mark than Wagga.
“Of course there are a number of smaller NSW towns that would argue, per capita, their sporting record in the best in country NSW.”
In order to go some way to settling the debate, Berry and a like-minded group of Queanbeyan sporting figures are proposing a state-wide ‘Challenge of Champions’.
The challenge would pit towns and cities from across the state against each other in a series of sporting competitions to be hosted in Queanbeyan.
According to Berry, a number of local sporting organisations representing basketball, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, lawn bowls, golf and netball clubs have indicated their support for the proposal.
“The idea first came up back in 2007 when a group of us were discussing how Queanbeyan is so successful in gaining representatives in various sports and it developed from there,” Berry said. “We thought, why don’t we introduce a challenge to determine NSW’s champion sporting town?”
It’s not the first time such an idea has been proposed. Berry was behind a similar plan in 2009 but the event never got off the ground.
This time however, Berry said the tournament had been streamlined toward a more achievable goal.
“[In 2009] we just made it a bit too big and a bit too confusing for a first-time product,” he said. “We learnt a few lessons from that. I’m quite confident the refined product we’ve got now is going to get the right people interested.”
Berry also said he was hopeful the re-born concept would tie in with Queanbeyan’s 175th birthday celebrations next year.
Currently, the tournament organising committee is engaged in raising public awareness and plans to survey sporting associations from around the state later this year to gauge their interest.
Queanbeyan Basketball president Jan Browne is one of those supportive of the Champions of Champions project.
“We haven’t had a big sporting carnival in Queanbeyan since the Bicentennial year in 1988 so I think anything that brings sport here is a great initiative,” Browne said.
“Clubs and sporting teams are always looking for carnivals to play in around the state. Certainly in basketball they’re still a popular attraction and I think something like [the Challenge of Champions] will attract interest.”