THE year was 1968. Mankind (and womankind) was 12 months away from landing on the moon.
John Gorton was the Australian PM. Richard Nixon won the US Presidential election.
Hey Jude, by the Beatles, topped the charts. The Olympics were held in Mexico City.
And in Chatham, this then 8-year-old wandered into the Group Three Leagues Ground (now Jack Neal Oval) for the first time. Taree United was playing Wingham in Group Three Rugby League. Geoff 'Jake' Kennett was a ferocious front rower for Wingham.
Ron Boden was captain-coach of United, where Kevin Hardy and Errol Ruprecht were described as 'young players with potential'.
We can't recall who won, although it may have been United - they made the grand final that year.
The reason for this meander down Memory Lane? Well, this now aged correspondent wandered into the Jack Neal Oval last Saturday for the clash between Taree City and Wingham.
And it struck us. And apart from a bit of paint, new fences and a uniquely designed 'grandstand' nothing much has changed there since '68.
The ground was once grandly known as 'the headquarters of Group Three Rugby League' and as such all major games were played there.
We recall a letter writer to this paper back in the mid-1980s disputing this claim.
"Headquarters?'' the writer wrote.
"More like hindquarters."
The reasons for the lack of progress there are way too numerous to go into here. However, we hasten to say this is not the fault of the current lease holders, the Taree City Bulls. In fact the only real progress there has been under the club's reasonably brief tenure.
And we can't really point an accusing finger at local government either, as no council body has ever owned the ground. Anyway, the Blame Game is pointless, unless of course we blame John Howard or Tony Abbott.
That's not going to bring the Neal Oval up to 21st century standard. At the moment it's barely up to 19th century standard.
At best the facilities are an embarrassment to the town. At worst a disgrace.
So what to do? Perhaps the Neal Oval could be converted into a museum. It's a ready-made snapshot of what life was like in the 1960s, when the ground was constructed. Or maybe members of the community could band together and work constructively to facilitate much needed improvements.
A group was formed here amid much fanfare a couple of years back. Up Taree? Go Taree? Tip Top Taree? Team Taree?
Whatever. Maybe this is a worthwhile project that could interest them if they really want to do something for the town.
Just a thought.
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