West Gambier: The Road to Malseed Park

West Gambier: The Road to Malseed Park

The West Gambier Football and Netball Club celebrates 50 years of football at Malseed Park and 40 years of netball on April 19 and 20.

West Gambier Football Club was formed in 1938 from the old Blue Lake Association team Rosaville, playing at Vansittart Park.


West Gambier and North Gambier shared Vansittart Park with West occupying the northern changerooms.

This was the last season West was to play at Vansittart Park as its home ground.

The Tom Hall Trophy was made available for competition between the co-tenants of Vansittart Park, West and North.

It is still competed for to this day.

With foresight the West Gambier Football Club began a building fund with 10% of all money raised within the club going into this fund.

The aim was to build its own clubrooms on the north-west corner of Vansittart Park.

March 1973

West went before the ratepayers of Mount Gambier seeking their permission to build on Vansittart Park.

The meeting was preceded by a large amount of publicity and public debate.

After a somewhat controversial and heated meeting the issue was defeated by a single vote 51 to 52 and permission was not granted.

The Mount Gambier City Council invited West Gambier to appeal for a ratepayers’ poll if 100 signatures were received.

On receiving 136 signatures council requested a ruling from the South Australian Local Government Minister.

The poll was ultimately held, and the proposal was defeated 584 to 1781.

West Gambier President Gerald (Gerry) Sheehan announced a committee to investigate all avenues pertaining to the building of a licenced clubrooms.

The committee consisted of Barry Maney, Dean Henderson, Eric Lewis, John Fallas, Bob Donovan, John Yeates and Ken Stafford.

Council was requested to provide land to West Gambier Football Club to establish an oval and clubrooms, but council responded they had no suitable land available.

Still in March a special meeting of members was held to ratify the pursuance of suitable land for the proposed venture.

The club pursued its vision and examined alternative sites and 27 acres (11 hectares) of land adjacent the to the old cattle saleyards on White Avenue owned by JPR (Rupert) Malseed was deemed suitable.

West Gambier took out a $17,000 option on the land and with council agreeing in principle to the club’s plans to build an oval and clubrooms on the land, West Gambier became the first freehold football club in Mount Gambier and created the largest ever sporting project in Mount Gambier.

Soil tests were done on the land, plans drawn up in readiness for work to begin.

May 1973

Plans were finalised with the clubrooms consisting of two levels which included licenced clubrooms, changerooms, creche, gymnasium, players race, trainers’ boxes and two toilets.

July 1973

A debenture scheme for $80,000 was launched at $20 per debenture.

The amount was successfully raised with good support from supporters of the scheme.

A further $40,000 was raised by way of a bank loan.

The total development cost of the complex was $230,000.

Club President Gerry Sheehan announced the ground would be named Malseed Park, a tribute to Mr and Mrs JPR Malseed.

The Malseed Park Development Committee was established and comprised Barry Maney, John Fallas, Ken Stafford, David Lock, Brian Umpherston, Ken Coxall, John Yeates and Stan Beaumont.

Development was to take place in two stages:

Stage 1 – Clubrooms, main and second oval.

This stage was completed in August 1974.

Stage 2 – Development of other facilities such as cricket, tennis, and bowling greens.

September 1973

Work commences at Malseed Park with hundreds attending working bees.

They came in all shapes and sizes, from the young to the old.

They not only brought along their own tools to assist, but more importantly, their desire to see West Gambier succeed in the project.

People who gave their tractors, cranes, machinery and professional knowledge, mothers who became painters, clerks who became plumbers, hairdressers who became builders, mechanics who became fencers, accountants who became electricians, drivers who became carpenters and the list went on.

Old fences were removed, trees and stumps pulled out, low areas filled, rubbish cleared and ploughing commenced.

Levelling and filling of the main oval began and 500 trees were planted surrounding the park.

The main oval was somewhat controversial with its raised centre like that used at Football Park, Waverley, Victoria.

November 1973

The new main oval with dimensions of 201 yards (183.79 metres) by 46 yards (42 metres) was seeded and a new bore pump installed.A new management committee was formed comprising President Gerrry Sheehan, Vice-President Merv Johnston, Secretary David Thompson, Treasurer Barry Ward, Committee John Bruggy, Ken Coxall, John Fartch, David Lock, Ray Leibich and Keith Stephens.

December 1973

Work begins on the second oval while work on the new clubroom foundations were set to commence.

April 1974

Kerry O’Donnell was appointed inaugural manager of the new licensed Malseed Park club and Coach John Yeates called training for the first time at West Gambier’s new home ground.

August 30, 1973

The Malseed Park licensed clubrooms opened for business from Monday to Saturday serving lunches and teas as West Gambier hosted North Gambier.

September 1, 1973

The complex was officially opened by Deputy Premier and Member for Millicent the Honourable Des Corcoran.

Gerry Sheehan was President of the West Gambier Football Club and Bob Templeton was President of the Western Border Football League.


The West Gambier Cricket Club moved from Frew Park to Malseed Park, building practice pitches and laying a concrete pitch on the second oval.

Cricket was played on the main oval in 1976 using the controversial matting on turf wicket.

Four lighting towers were purchased from the Mount Gambier and District Baseball League and Bob Martiensen.

The Central Baseball Club joined the complex and night baseball was played on the main oval.

Night baseball was played until 1979 when Blue Lake Sports Park became the home of baseball.


Club colours were changed to those of the Melbourne Football Club i.e.

Red and Royal Blue.

The reason for the change was because of economics, in that by using the Victorian club’s colours the cost of guernsey would be reduced.

The WBFL permitted coloured shorts and West adopted crimson red.


The West Gambier Tennis Club was formed from football club members, with many members obtaining a clearance from their “old” town club.

Four hard courts were laid, with a further two opening in 1981-82.


The Blue Lake Soccer Club joined the complex and developed a pitch in the north-east corner.


The West Gambier Netball Club was born when the Western Border Football League with foresight introduced a netball competition to the league.

It was thrust upon West Gambier Ladies Committee President Judy Summers and Secretary Lynne Johnston, who set about getting players from within the club to form the two teams required to start the season.

This proved to be a hard task as many were apprehensive about joining a new competition.

With only a week to go numbers were still down and both women were granted permission by football club coach Ian Jackman to address the players in the hope of securing wives and girlfriends to play.

This proved successful and two teams played their first games at Tenison College.

The club opened their new courts at Malseed Park on April 9, 1988 after having them re-laid when they were originally laid wrongly in 1987 and had to be ripped up.

Since that time the club has grown to 10 teams playing across 10 grades as Western Border Netball became the dominant netball competition in the South East of South Australia and Western Victoria.

The club has improved the courts by adding lights in 1989, shelters and covered spectator stands.

Just last year they completely resurfaced the four tennis court area to now have three netball courts which also accommodates four tennis courts.

Their current mission is to build a new changeroom facility near the courts.


Malseed Park was sold to the Mount Gambier City Council to enable the council to acquire open space land in the south-west area of the city.

This sale also allowed the club to clear its debts and give the club the finances to increase its spending on the football teams.


West netball won its first A Grade Premiership under coach Debbie Goss.


The Mount Gambier Croquet Club moved from Ferrers Street to Malseed Park.


The Blue Lake Gymnastics Club built its new home at the rear of the football/netball clubrooms.


West netball won the A Grade Premiership with coach Melissa Ryan at the helm.


West football won back-to-back premierships under coach Keith Ransom.


Due to a government grant and generous sponsorship from the Maney family a new electronic scoreboard was installed in front of the old scoreboard.


Lisa McGregor coached West A Grade netball to its third premiership.


New netball courts were officially opened as well as a new beer and barbecue shed closer to the oval, which was used for the first time.

How fortunate we are that those involved over five decades ago had the foresight to build their dream that we have benefitted from for those 50 years.

Surely, they must have said “build it and they will come”.

And come they did.

In 1974 we had 250 members and that number had increased to 1000 in 1975.

With the inclusion of netball in 1984, this has had a huge impact on our club, as wives, girlfriends and children could participate on game day at the same venue, and this has grown steadily over their 40 years.

West Gambier welcomes North Gambier back to Malseed Park next weekend to play again after that inaugural game back in 1974.

Friday night kicks off proceedings at the club with a meet and greet for current and returning past players with teas available from 6pm.

After a full day of football and netball against former co-tenants at Vansittart Park teas will be served from 6pm with the official part of the evening commencing at 8pm.

Highlights of the presentation will be the announcing of five football teams of the decades and four netball teams of the decades.

The inaugural West Gambier Hall of Fame and inaugural West Gambier Immortals will also be announced.

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