Sport in Dardanup

by Janice Calcei & Terri Gibbs
Updated: 10 April 2022

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As in any rural Australian town, sport has always been an integral part of the social fabric of the Dardanup community. Sporting events, teams and competitions connected Dardanup’s residents with nearby communities, not only on the field but at associated social occasions.

Dardanup Recreation Ground/Wells Recreation Park

The Recreation Ground in Dardanup was once located at the site of the current Dardanup Hall. 

In 1931, Lot 24 north of Ferguson Road, which included the current grounds, was purchased by the Wells family.  Land was subdivided from the farming property and sold in the same year to the Roads Board to create the Dardanup Recreation Ground: “The Department-of Lands have communicated with the Dardanup Road Board stating that the cash purchase price for Lot 55 as a Recreation Ground will be £156/16/4.” (South Western Tribune, Saturday 21 February 1931).

The Recreation Grounds have since hosted many sporting clubs, competitions and events. As Frank Wells lived nearby, he kept a keen eye on the condition of the grounds as well as on the sporting events. Frank was not only a farmer but foreman for the Dardanup Roads Board. The location of the present skate park was previously the site of the Roads Board Shed.

In about 1935, Roads Board employees moved the tea booth and other parts of existing buildings across the road from the Hall site to the Recreation Ground. Activities undertaken on the grounds then included football, cricket, hockey, tennis and gymkhanas.

Brian Wells recalls “in the 1950’s, the football oval became so wet and muddy the games would be transferred to Brett’s farm paddock!”.

Following expert advice, a decision to proceed immediately with the work of building up the Dardanup Recreation Ground was the highlight of a meeting of the Dardanup Welfare Committee held in the C.W.A. rest room on May 1.

South Western Times, Thursday 4 May 1950

The Wells family, from Frank to the next generation, Brian and Gwen, and their own sons David and Robert, all contributed time and labour over many years helping to improve these grounds, inspiring the Dardanup Council at its meeting of 14 June 2012, to change the name to Wells Recreation Park. To celebrate the honour of the renaming, the Wells family held a picnic and planted a tree there.

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Horse Racing

On the back of the horse-breeding industry established by Charles Prinsep and Thomas Little at Prinsep Park in the 1850s, horseracing would become a significant community event in Dardanup. The first races were held in 1857 at Little’s property, Dardanup Park.

A report from 1868 tells of a race meeting held on Easter Monday in “the little village of Dardanup”. On the following day a cricket match was played. The location of the race course is not clear. (Herald, Saturday 2 May 1868). Another article from 1893 reports a race meeting held to celebrate St Patrick’s day and appears, from descriptions of the journey, to have been held at Crooked Brook :

Precisely at 10 o’clock the shriek of the locomotive warned all aboard and a goodly number responded to the invitation. Continuous stoppages occurred on the route to take up groups on pleasure bent, and by the time the train got to the course its capacity was fully taxed, and upwards of 200 must have disembarked. The train proceeded to Boyanup and brought back a contingent….

Bunbury Herald, Wednesday 22 March 1893

In about 1900, the Dardanup Race Course, at Lot No. 3 on the corner of Dillon Road and Boyanup-Picton Road, Crooked Brook, was the first formalised racecourse marked out in the Dardanup shire, reflecting the long and important tradition in the area of horse breeding and racing. Prior to the creation of dedicated horse racing facilities, temporary tracks were often marked out on farming properties. The racecourse was located on farmland previously used for the running of horse races, in the eastern portion of the property.

Construction of the first purpose-built Dardanup Race Course was completed in 1936 on J L Gardiner’s property, The Willows. (Shire of Dardanup, Local Heritage Survey, November2016).

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Dardanup Hunt Club

The Dardanup Hunt Club was formed in June 1928. It held a run on 24 June, hunting brush wallabies and kangaroos. The president was Mr C H Morrisey (West Australian, Monday 2 July 1928).

In 1937, a run of the South West Hunt Club took place at Dardanup, starting at the Recreation Ground.

The hounds showed a great improvement in appearance and their new home is evidently agreeing with them. The throw off was made about a mile further on towards Crooked Brook where a cast was made, hound packing well searched the scrub and thickets for scent and failed to disturb any game, after covering some miles of rough timbered country the field wheeled about, re-crossed the Crooked Brook railway line and made a cast towards Dardanup.

South Western Times, Saturday 2 October 1937

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1937 – South West Hunt Club opening meet at Harvey from S W Times Illustrated Annual


Gymkhanas are remembered as being held at Dardanup Recreation Ground on 1 January each year from 1930, although a newspaper report from 1950 mentions that as being the fifth year. It is possible they commenced at the Recreation Grounds in the 1930s and were suspended during the war years. Prior to the 1930s, Gymkhanas were held at J L Gardiners property, The Willows, at Crooked Brook. Described in 1950, the days included equestrian, athletics and log-chopping events. There were programs for adults and children. The events were very popular and people travelled from Bunbury to attend (South Western Times, 5 January 1950).

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The Dardanup Rifle Club

Although there is mention in the papers of a Dardanup Rifle Club in 1916, no records for this group have come to light. Another club was set up on 1 November 1948, admitted to the South West Districts Rifle Club Union on 22 January 1949, and opened on 30 April 1949. Mr Guy Gardiner was elected as social president and Mr B Brett as secretary. Other members included A H Clarke (captain) R Gardiner, A J Fowler, F Mountford, R J McCarthy, J Brown and A Strachan. The newly formed club was open to a wide ranging area; Waterloo, Wellington Mills, Ferguson Dardanup and Boyanup.

The rifle range of 300 yards, then 700 yards was cleared by volunteers. Within a month of opening, there were 60 members and it was expected to become the largest club in the South West. With only two targets, the club had to suspend new memberships till this could be addressed. The Club met regularly until at least 1954.

The club was complimented on the hard work, perseverance and initiative it had shown in organising and developing amenities to their present state. The new club pavilion looked gay with flags and pennants fluttering in the sunshine. The tables were decorated with Geraldton wax and stocks…

Dardanup Rifle Club’s Anniversary, South Western Times, Thursday 12 October 1950
1950s – Presentation Day at Dardanup Rifle Club

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Dardanup Sport Teams

Over the years, Dardanup has fielded sports teams including cricket, hockey, football, basketball, netball, soccer, badminton and tennis.

1922 – Dardanup Cricket team – Albert Skipworth, local publican on left. Others unknown

c. 1935 – Dardanup Hockey Team
Left to Right Back: Dorothy Gardiner (?), Bessie Brett, Dorrie Fee, Thelma Phillips, Daphne Hayward, Chick Brett (Elinor), Evelyn Hardisty
Front: Margaret Poad, Jean Hewison, Jenny Rickson, Peggy Strachan

1947 – Dardanup Football Team –
Left to right Back: Ted Williams, Don Warden, A Headley, M Blechynden, F Craig, M Harris, P Harris, W Eascott, T Murphy
Front: M Mead, B O’Neill, A Gardiner, D Morrisson, F. Panizza, C. Williams, J Damiani, L. Pellergrini
Front reclining: Dick Gardiner, Jack Allan

1949-1950 – Dardanup Cricket Team
Left to Right Back: A Headley, R Prout (Capt), F Craig (V Capt), B Wells, E Pellergrini
Front: Dick Gardiner, F Mountford, G Mountford, M Harris, C Mountford, B O’Neill

c. 1950s – Dardanup Hockey Team
Left to Right Back: Merle Prout, E Philips, G Roberts, G Dowding
Middle: C Wells, unknown, J Strachan, M Busher, K Ursino
Front: H Harris, P Prout, J Harris, Gladys ?

1972 – Dardanup Netball Team
Left to Right: Susan Wells, Janice Stone, Megan Harris, Terri Mountford, Michelle Simpson,
Tracey Butcher, Christine Lamberti, Cynda Johnston

Wells Recreation Park has been the site of the main event for the Bull and Barrel Festival since 2003.

The Park is now used for aerobics, basketball, cricket, dog training, tennis, netball and hockey. Joint amenities support these clubs and associations.

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  • Dardanup – The Turf, Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 – 1886), Saturday 2 May 1868, page 3
  • The Dardanup Races, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919), Wednesday 22 March 1893, page 3
  • Dardanup Rifle Club, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919), Thursday 20 July 1916, page 3
  • Dardanup Hunt Club, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), Monday 2 July 1928, page 5
  • Dardanup Recreation Ground – Decision to Purchase Land, South Western Tribune (Bunbury, WA : 1930 – 1932), Saturday 21 February 1931, page 2
  • Social Jottings, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 5 May 1949, page 16
  • Successful Dardanup Gymkhana, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 5 January 1950, page 8
  • Dardanup News, Recreation Ground Levels to be Lifted, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 4 May 1950, page 3
  • Dardanup Rifle Club’s Anniversary, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 12 October 1950, page 1

Image sources:

  • South West Hunt Club – 1937 – South Western Times Illustrated Annual
  • Dardanup Rifle Club from Kaye and Terry Brett
  • Sporting teams from Kay and Terry Brett and Gwen Wells