League greats weigh in on Scully fight

A GROUP of rugby league greats has crash-tackled its way into the Scully Park debate, backing calls for the historic ground to be saved.

The high-profile comments, made in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, will add fire to the controversy surrounding West Tamworth League Club’s proposal to bulldoze Scully Park No. 1 to make way for a $12 million motel development.

Former Aussie international Steve “Blocker” Roach said the plan would close the book on an important chapter in bush rugby league.

“It is terribly sad,” Roach said.

“We should be trying to hang on to our heritage. These country grounds have a lot of history and charm.

"A lot of great players have graced Scully Park.

“How can you keep telling stories about a famous ground when the ground itself has gone?”

Former Tamworth local and ex-Canberra Raiders star Alan Tongue said a host of golden memories would go with the ground.

“There are plenty of special memories at Scully Park over many years,” he said.

“It is a great little oval.”

Scully Park, boasting arguably the best playing surface in country NSW, has hosted countless classic matches, including Northern Division’s stunning 15-13 upset of a touring Great Britain side in 1966.

But the Wests board and motel backers say the ground cannot survive on sentiment alone, claiming the motel and function room development will ensure the club continues to support sport for generations to come.

Wests has vowed to develop an even better playing surface on the revamped Scully Park No. 2 if its development application is approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel in the new year.

Former four-time Wests premiership player and NSW country representative Ken Thompson said the “elephant in the room” was the state of local rugby league.

“It’s at the lowest point I’ve ever seen,” Mr Thompson said.

“It’s deteriorated every year and we haven’t seen a good year for a long time.”

He said the league club needed to evolve to survive.

“We’ve seen the Workmen’s club go and there aren’t too many clubs in Tamworth flourishing,” he said.

“I love the ground but you have to look to the future.”

Wests’ chief executive officer Rod Laing said local rugby league crowds were on the wane but believed the revamped Scully Park No. 2 would give the sport in the region a “shot-in-the-arm”.

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