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History

The Formation of the Northern Territory Primary School Sports Association

During the late nineteen sixties, sport was an important part of the Northern Territory schools program. Despite this, sporting competition between schools was fairly adhoc. It was up to the schools to arrange competitions amongst themselves if required. In remote areas this was fairly impossible.

In Darwin there was a very ‘loose’ organization called the Darwin Primary School Sports Association. The association at this stage was fairly informal, and concerned only with competition between schools in the Darwin area. In the early seventies, with the influx of several South Australian teachers who were interested in sport, this association became stronger. Consequently, interest was also extending in these sports competitions to include schools outside of the Darwin area.

The first major sporting competition involving schools from all over the Territory was held in Darwin, in 1974. It was organised by the Darwin Primary School Sports Association, and every primary school in the Territory was invited to participate. Approximately ten to a dozen sports were offered (including Aussie Rules, Basketball, Softball, Netball, Hockey, and other traditional sports) which were timetabled so that students could play more than just one sport. According to Wally Mauger, an Executive of the D.P.S.S.A and a major organiser of the competition, it was a mammoth exercise, with probably about 550 – 600 children attending the carnival (as they were called then – they are now exchanges), which ran for 6 – 7 days.

On Christmas Eve, 1974, Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin, causing enormous destruction. As a result, many people were homeless or living in poor conditions – under remains of elevated homes or in caravans. Several schools were also destroyed, leaving many teachers without positions, and more than enough senior positions at the schools that were still operational. Wally Mauger was in this latter position (a supernumerary assistant principal), and as an alternative to returning to this situation, had the idea of becoming a recreational officer to develop recreational activities for children after school. Thus, after approaching the Education Department, Wally was released from his position and appointed as a recreational officer to coordinate after school sport.

By the middle of 1975, courses were running smoothly, giving the recreational officer a fair amount of free time during school hours. It was at this time that Wally Mauger (still a member of D.P.S.S.A.) received documentation from South Australia on their school sport organization – the South Australian Primary School Sports Association (the S.A.P.S.S.A)

The South Australian documentation coincided with the arrival of a letter from the Australian Primary School Sports Association. This letter invited the Northern Territory to send two teams to participate in the Australian Primary School Championships for football and netball. The invitation was accepted, and teams chosen. At this stage there was no structure for choosing Northern Territory teams, so the selection of representatives was fairly adhoc.

Thus, 1975 saw the first Northern Territory primary school teams participating at a national level. Wally recalls that while the teams did not do extremely well in the competition, it was still a very successful trip. For the organisers, it provided firsthand knowledge of what these ‘carnivals’ were all about. For the children participating, it provided new friendships and insights (especially for the Aboriginal children) into how other children lived. On their return, Wally went back to the head of the Education Department and persuaded him that his present position was only part-time and someone was really needed to co-ordinate school sport in the Northern Territory.

Wally Mauger then became the Educational Advisor for school sport. He was based at Alawa Primary School, there being a verbal agreement that any spare time was to be spent assisting the school, which perhaps needed two assistant principals. However, Wally remembers that during that second half of 1975, most of his time was spent setting up the Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association.

Following Wally’s appointment as Educational Advisor, a submission was made to the Education Department to hold a conference, with the aim of establishing a Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sport s Association. Then, by phone calls, letters, and word of mouth, key persons from different areas of the Territory became interested in attending this conference.

The conference was held on the “Patris”, an accommodation ship for public servants including teachers after Cyclone Tracy. Approximately fifteen to eighteen people attended the conference, which lasted for a week. Government funding enabled Frank Murphy, the secretary of the South Australian Primary School Sports Association to attend the conference. He gave the Territory the South Australian Constitution and format.

After some discussion a decision was made to form an association. The rest of the time, Wally recalls, was spent writing up a constitution, including any endemics on how the association was going to operate. One important decision made was the decision to regionalise. After the conference, people returned to their respective areas and formed regions. Six regions were initially formed. These were: Darwin; Alice Springs; Gove-Groote; Arnhem; Katherine; and Tennant Creek.

Thus, with the forming of the Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association came the beginning of competitive sport in the Northern Territory being played by regions not schools.

When the Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association was fully formed, towards the end of 1975, Wally Mauger was elected it’s first President. In 1976 the first official true NT competitions commenced.

At the beginning of 1991 the Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association changed its name to become the Northern Territory Primary School Sports Association. There were then ten regions (Darwin, Alice Springs, Barkly, Rivers, TERAS, Gove, GERRSA, Tiwi, Arnhem, Centralian), almost twice the number of regions that were originally formed. This gave more children the opportunity to participate in the various exchanges.

Ten years later in 2001, we now have changed the name to Primary Management Committee 1991 and cater for more students with 14 regions.

The Formation of the Northern Territory Secondary School Sports Association

Prior to Cyclone Tracy (which struck Darwin on 24/12/74) inter-school sport between secondary schools in the Northern Territory consisted of five high schools in Darwin at the time (Darwin High School, Nightcliff High School, Casuarina High School, Kormilda High School and St. Johns College) competing against one another in a series of different sports. This would happen on a weekly basis every Thursday or Friday.

The only inter-school sports competition which included schools from outside the Darwin area was the three-way exchange, held once a year. Three schools were involved in this exchange, competing in several different sports. These schools were: Darwin High School, Alice Springs High School, and Mt. Isa High School.

In 1974, Les Rauert (a physical education teacher at Nightcliff High School at the time) was asked by the N.T.F.L. to put together an N.T. secondary schoolboys football team and take them to the National Championships, to be held in Brisbane that year. So Les, along with Keiran Cassidy, gathered together a team and took them to Brisbane. This was the first time that a team from the Northern Territory had participated in the National Championships.

Both Les and Keiran recall that there really was no basis for picking a representative team. Because of this, the team was chosen in a fairly ad hoc manner, with children included from most of the major centres.

An N.T. secondary schoolboys football team again attended the Championships in 1975, after the Cyclone. There was still no basis for picking a team. It was towards the end of this year (1975), that the Northern Territory Secondary Schools Sports Association formalised itself.

On his return to the Territory, a year after the cyclone, Les Rauert took over Wally Mauger’s position as education advisor for sport and recreational programmes. However, by now it was recognised as a full-time position, which had not been the case when Wally began in this position. The Education Advisor (this title later changed to Senior Education Officer, and finally, Executive Officer) was given a budget to work with, to send both primary and secondary children interstate for various sports. Les also became the secretary of the newly formed N.T. Primary School Amateur Sports Association.

In the early part of 1976, other sporting groups became interested in sending teams to participate in their respective National Championships. Again there was the problem of choosing teams.

In June, 1976, the annual three-way exchange was held in Mt Isa. However, by now it had become a five-way exchange, with Nightcliff High School and Casuarina High School (as it was called then) also participating. It was during this exchange, at a meeting held in a Motel room in Mt Isa, that the decision to form the Northern Territory Secondary School Sports Association was made.

According to Les Rauert, who flew over to Mt Isa to put forward the idea, there were two major reasons for forming the N.T. Secondary School Sports Association (the N.T.S.S.S.A).

These were:

  1. They were asked to pick inter-state teams but had no means of putting groups of children together;
  2. The five-way exchange was too large and becoming unworkable.

Out of this meeting, three people were asked to work together to formalise the Northern Territory Secondary School Sports Association. They were: Les Rauert, Terry Connors and Vicki Zadow. The N.T.S.S.S.A. became a formal organization with Ralph Wiese was elected as it’s first President.

Both Les and Ralph recall that in the early days of the association N.T. Carnivals were held primarily foo the selection of N.T. Teams to Particiapte in the National Championships. However, they also recall that it wasn’t very long before these ‘carnivals’ were held in their own right, ie. the NT Championships.

In 1998 the Northern Territory Secondary School Sports Association changed it’s name to Secondary Management Committee. In 2001 we cater for students from over 40 Secondary Schools all over the Territory.

To be continued.....

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