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Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT (Marrickville) [1.15 p.m.]: I also speak about the Jets but in a different code and a different suburb. Today I talk about the Newtown Jets and, in particular, the upgrade of Henson Park, located in my electorate of Marrickville, and home to the historic Newtown Jets Premier Rugby League team. The State Government has worked in partnership with Marrickville Council. It has provided a grant of $250,000 and the work is now almost complete. This great investment has meant that the oval is now in tiptop shape and ready for this year's season opener in March as the Newtown Rugby League Club, along with a number of other rugby league clubs, embarks on its centenary year.
Henson Park playing field was first laid down in the 1930s and the grant provided has provided for much-needed renovation works, including levelling, drainage, repairs to the irrigation system and returfing of the field. The upgrade, including the new hybrid turf, will improve playing conditions especially after heavy rain. With Sydney having received 159.8 millimetres of rain in just eight days at the beginning of February, these improvements could not have come at a better time.
From the very beginning in 1908 Newtown has been noted for its gritty, never-say-die spirit and the ability to make the best of limited financial resources. The years 1984 to 1990 were dark days for the club when financial woes forced them out of the first grade competition, but in 1991 the club made its senior competition comeback and it now fields a side in the premier league and is building a thriving juniors contingent.
As a patron of the club, during its centenary year I am proud to say that Newtown is one of only two New South Wales rugby league foundation clubs that celebrates its foundation day in the exact venue where the club was formed. The other is South Sydney. I attended the 100-year celebrations at the Newtown Town Hall on 8 January 2008 where many great moments in history were relived. The centenary is also a huge milestone for the fans, many of whom have stuck with the club through all its ups and downs.
Located in what was then a rock-solid working-class district, Newtown was seen as the definitive battlers team and one associated with the best fighting qualities inherent in the Australian character. Newtown's first playing season at Henson Park was in 1936 and except for a very brief period in the early 1950s the Bluebags proudly made Henson Park, as described by others, "the impregnable fortress" up until 1983. Even before the current upgrade Henson Park was considered to be one of the best suburban grounds in Sydney. It has an old-style grassy hill that can comfortably seat a large number of spectators and a heritage grandstand. Anyone attending the ground on any Saturday afternoon will witness the real spirit of rugby league. There is a sausage sizzle, kids can kick balls around on the grassy hill, and the players acknowledge supporters after the game. It is a great and inexpensive way to spend a Saturday afternoon during the football season.
I acknowledge that much has changed in rugby league and much needs to change