Earl Park Remembered In Kogarah

When the Legends' Walk officially opens at Oki Jubilee Stadium on Saturday (6/3/04), R2K's paver in honour of the late Lancelot Lewis `Daddy' Earl will be unveiled with the host of other bricks and granite tiles. Several months ago, R2K purchased 4 pavers from the Jubilee Oval Community Appeal. While 3 of these will be engraved with R2K's website details, R2K decided to set aside a paver to pay tribute to one of St.George's earliest benefactors.

For a period of 15 years, Earl was to solve a problem for St.George that has plagued the club into the modern age. As an omen of things to come, St.George had difficulties securing an adequate home ground when they entered the Sydney first grade competition in 1921.

Originally based at Hurstville Oval, the Dragons only played two matches at the ground in their maiden year, as it was unenclosed. It wasn't until 1923 that Hurstville Council agreed to enclose the ground, but they soon did a backflip on this promise and the Dragons were unable to play a match in the St.George district in 1924.

However, Hurstville Council was to eventually redeem themselves for this intransigence, when in 2002, they contributed $50,000 towards the Jubilee Oval upgrade.

Born in London in 1861, Lancelot Earl lived an interesting and varied life. After arriving in Australia, Earl worked as a fruit merchant and became a Trustee of Wentworth Park. Between 1906-1909 he was a Glebe alderman and was an asset to the community he represented.

Following the problems at Hurstville, Earl offered his property to St.George as a home ground and headquarters so they could once again be based in the district from 1925. Earl's property, which was located opposite Arncliffe station on Wollongong Road and Bonar Street, became one of the finest rugby league grounds in the Sydney competition. In the `March Of The Dragons', Ian Heads wrote, "The NSWRL signed a ten year lease with Earl, a formidable character with sprouting whiskers and paid him 1500 pounds. He spent the same amount to make the ground and build the grandstand. The ground stood on what was once a flourishing Chinese market garden."

The dressing rooms that Earl installed were the largest in Sydney, measuring 120 feet by 30 feet. The rooms contained lockers, showers and every feature that could be expected by a footballer between WWI and WWII. The `Rugby League News' from May 16, 1925 lauded Earl's efforts and praised the NSWRL for "displaying such great business acumen in securing it".

The memory of Earl Park is assured because of the riot that took place there on August the 11th, 1928. St. George defeated Balmain 21-3 in a spiteful match. The referee, Brannaghan, lost control of the match in the 2nd half. Brannaghan sent off St. George forward Harry Flower but took no decisive action against the thuggery of the Balmain players. After much provocation, hundreds of furious St. George supporters invaded the field and ripped off fence palings to assault the Balmain players. One official remembers a man running around behind the grandstand with an axe, while a fight between a St.George and Balmain player continued in the ambulance when the players were placed in the same vehicle.

Unfortunately when Earl passed away in 1938, the ground was put on the open market after being offered to St.George and the NSWRL for 5,000 pounds. As neither party were in a position to purchase the property, it was eventually sold to Cook's Caramels who constructed a factory on the site.

Despite losing Earl Park, St.George eventually found an even brighter future at Kogarah's Jubilee Oval. While the Dragons abandoned Kogarah after the first year of the joint venture with the Steelers, Kogarah is now back in vogue and the Legends' Walk further entrenches the Dragons at their St.George district base.

R2K's Lachlan McLean said that the R2K committee had trouble deciding on whether to honour Lancelot Earl or legendary St.George supremo Frank Facer with a paver:

"We figured that the St.George DRLFC Board would be more likely to honour Frank Facer through the project than Lancelot Earl who is largely forgotten today as time has certainly moved on," he said.

"If Frank Facer hasn't been recognised through the Legends' Walk, we would like to see the grandstand at Kogarah named after Facer, unless there is a condition in the Oki ground sponsorship which is an impediment to this. As the Club's Secretary Manager, Facer was more responsible than any other individual for St.George's 11 successive premierships between 1956-66."

The Legends' Walk opens this Saturday at 2:30 pm in Kogarah Park.