The first amateur athletics club in Australia was formed in Adelaide in 1867. Called the Adelaide Amateur Athletic Club it held regular athletics meetings and other clubs were formed soon after.
On 20 April, 1887 the following motion was moved at a meeting held at Levy and Scotts’ rooms in Oxford Street, Sydney:
“It is desirable to form an association to be called the Amateur Athletics Association of New South Wales to take up the management of amateur athletic sports in this colony.”
Thus were the beginnings of Australia’s oldest athletics association – the New South Wales Amateur Athletics Association (NSWAAA). The first NSW championships were held the following year in 1888. The NSWAAA were a founding member of the Amateur Athletic Union of Australasia in 1897, which changed its name in 1927 to the Amateur Athletic Union of Australia, in 1982 to the Australian Athletic Union and 1989 to its current name, Athletics Australia.
Little Athletics evolved, like most voluntary community organisations, through the mind and conscience of one man. Trevor Billingham followed the pattern set by many pioneers in the field of community service. He recognised a need and introduced an idea designed to meet that need.
On an October day in 1963 three boys turned up at an athletics meeting in Geelong. They were ready to compete. On approaching an official they were told that they were too young to take part. That official was Trevor Billingham. The disappointment, evident in the boys, left a marked impression on his mind. The thought was forgotten; it came alive again several months later. At a coaching clinic designed for secondary school students it was noted that the majority of children were of primary school age. Reminded of his earlier experience, Trevor Billingham had an idea. The answer to the need expressed in the children would be a simple Saturday morning competition.
On the first Saturday of October 1964, he met with a small group of children on a Geelong oval. They took part in a short program of running events. From that simple beginning, athletics for boys and girls under the age of 12, developed at a phenomenal rate. Little Athletics created tremendous interest; by 1967 the Victorian Little Athletics Association was formed.
It was not long before Little Athletics spread to other parts of Australia. In 1968 the Randwick Botany Centre was commenced. Behind the scenes Dick Corish was the driving force in starting Little Athletic s in this State. He worked quietly and efficiently from 1967 after he had decided that it was time NSW followed Victoria’s lead. The centre was soon firmly established.
Just prior to the commencement of the 1970/71 Track and Field season moves were made to establish more centres, and from October 1970 to January 1971 inclusive, competition was commenced at Blacktown, Sutherland, Eastern Suburbs, Deniliquin, Murrumbidgee (Narrandera/Leeton), Manly Warringah and Hornsby.
An interesting observation from the Association’s First Annual Report in regard to the above centres, reads “all of these centres, with the exception of Manly Warringah, which may still need a little supporting, are now firmly established………” (Manly Warringah is now one of our largest centres in NSW with over 600 registrations each season).
The Association was formed on 8th December 1970 at a meeting at the Randwick Botany Club where a Steering Committee was appointed. After the acceptance of the Association’s Constitution in February 1971, the general meeting decided that the Steering Committee should carry on the duties of the Board of Management until the Annual General Meeting in June 1971.
Under the Chairmanship of Mr C D Hensley, the Steering Committee elected comprised: – Mr Lee Irvine (Blacktown centre); Mrs Winter & Mr W Kitchen (Eastern Suburbs centre); Mr A Konnecke (Manly Warringah centre); Messrs H Liu, R Singleton and F Smith (Randwick Botany centre); J Cook (Sutherland centre) with the Honorary Treasurer Mr J O Freeman and the Honorary Secretary Mr G Soper. Some of this committee, for various reasons, fell by the wayside but valuable assistance was received from: – Mr A McCann (Randwick Botany centre); Messrs R Hill and P Carment (Eastern Suburbs centre); Mr P Shinnick (Blacktown centre) and A Blundell. The Association elected Mr RO (Dick) Healey MP (Dec), President at it’s meeting of June 18, 1971. Mr Healey was the President until July, 2000.
No records were kept of LAANSW registrations for the 1970/71 season, but an estimate of 2,800 athletes is recorded in the Second Annual Report. Expansion was the feature of the Association’s achievements during the 1971/72 season, evidenced by total registrations of 6,424 within 18 centres.
By the 1972/73 season there were 11,365 registrations in 35 centres. Mosman was the first Club to be recognised in that year, hence our identifying Club number 19. Unfortunately, very few records exist from that time. The Little Athletics NSW now has approximately 40,000 members each year, who participate on a weekly basis at one of almost 200 centres across the state. Over 1 million children have now enjoyed participation in Little Athletics in NSW since its inception.
The Club began training at Balmoral Oval. At that time there was no Clubhouse which was built in the early 1990s A Monday night format was introduced. Dom Lopez was a founding member of the Club and was given the title of Club Patron.
An early President was Vince Murdoch and for many years D O’Shea was President. The Club originally ran a competition model with results books and tickets stuck into their pages. The Club changed into its mainly coaching model in the late 1990s and ran little competition. Athletes competed at Zone, Region and State, however the Club holds very little history of results or records from that time. Our earliest recorded Club record is from 1982-3 season, Samuel Callaghan in the U7B, and in State Championships the earliest with Angus Rankin in 1998-9 in the U12B hurdles.
Coaching in the early years of the Club was performed by parents, however around 2004-5 the Club employed coaches to run training and in mid 2000 introduced a Tiny Tots program initiated by Steve Brossman.
By 2005-6 season the Club was in a dire situation with registered athlete numbers falling to 170 and experiencing financial difficulties. At an Extraordinary AGM in 2006 attended by members of the LAANSW Board, three of the Clubs current members Camilla Lister, Jenni Masters and Ken Raupach assumed control of the Club and set about rebuilding it by adopting prudent management techniques, a Club constitution and the incorporation in 2008 of what we now know as Mosman Little Athletics Centre .
In the medium term goals were also set to increase the competitiveness of our athletes to match that of other Clubs in our Zone – Manly, Ku-ring-ai and Northern Districts. The committee also facilitated athletes to attend all LAANSW events. After 5 years Ken passed the Presidents role to our current President, Andrew O’Donnell who has served as President since 2010. Darren Gocher serves as the Club’s Championship Officer overseeing records numbers of athletes attending all the LAANSW Championships. Numbers of registered athletes increased to 220 in 2006-7and incrementally to 680 in 2012-13 when the Committee had to take the decision to cap numbers in all age groups.
State Track and Field
State records were recorded by Angus Rankin, Louise Hill and Emily Hopper.
The Club attended our first State Relay Championships in 2008 in Campbelltown, in appallingly cold and windy conditions, where we entered about 10 teams. The Senior middle distance girls broke the record in 2010 (Gabby Mastrionni, Louise Hill, Dominica Lucas and Ariana Delawari)
State Cross Country
Our first athletes attended State Cross Country at Campbelltown in 2007 (Jessie Raupach and Ariana Delawari ).
State Multi Events
Phoebe Carter is our first recorded athlete to attend State Multi Event and each year since then.
Our first medal for these Championships was recorded in 2012-13 with Ethan Clark in the U8B.
Herb Elliot was associated with the Club in 1999 and the perpetual Club Champion Trophy was named in his honour. The Club was honoured in 2012/13 when Herb agreed to become the Club’s Patron
Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold – The Story of Athletics in Australia.
Author: Paul Jenes.
This publication, containing 304 glossy pages, is the story of Australia’s athletics history and is written by Paul Jenes, Australia’s leading research and statistical expert in athletics.
If you would like to learn more about the story of athletics in Australia, this publication is available from Athletics Australia