NT Horseracing and the Darwin Cup

Horseracing was a marker in all British colonial societies and was often one of the first sporting events established in early settlements. While the races in Palmerston and Darwin after 1911 were considered the preeminent Northern Territory event in the Top End races had been held in Central Australia at Christmas time by the McDonnell Ranges Turf Club from the late 1870s. Race meetings were also held in mining communities and various locations in the bush. The annual race meeting was not only a sporting event but a major social occasion with people coming from far and wide to attend. It was often the only sporting social occasion that some settlers attended.

The first horseraces in Palmerston were on the beach at Fannie Bay. The first Northern Territory race meeting was held in in the vicinity of the current Fannie Bay course in 1873. Racing became organised under the auspices of the Northern Territory Racing Club in 1882. The NTRC organised racing in the Northern Territory up until just after World War II. Today’s Darwin Turf Club was formed in 1955.     

Northern Territory Motor Sport

The first motor car in the Northern Territory was HP Talbot driven by HH Dutton and Murray Aunger who attempted to travel from Adelaide to Darwin in 1907. Their first attempt ended in mechanical failure near Tennant Creek. Undaunted they returned with a more powerful Talbot in 1908, recovered their other vehicle and finally made it to Darwin.

Later in the 1920s motor cycle clubs developed in Darwin but these were more recreational than sporting. Clubs like the Hungry Hearts Motor Cycle Club organised rides to places like Rapid Cree for picnics. It was not until after World War II that motor sports as we know it began to develop. In 1947 the Darwin Motor Cycle Club (DMCC) was formed. Their early races were held on World War II air strips. Later they began ‘scrambles’ in Nightcliff. The DMCC was instrumental in establishing the Bagot Speedway and Hidden Valley race way for ‘scrambles’ in the 1960s. From these humble beginnings Northern Territory Motor Sport has grown in to the multimillion dollar industry it is today with premier events like the V8 Supercars.  

Northern Territory Rugby League

Wally McArthur, born in 1933 at Borroloola, was a member of the Stolen Generation who was sent to South Australia as a teenager to further his education. He excelled at sport and became a professional athlete and also played Rugby League. Although Rugby League is a minor sport in South Australia he was recruited to English professional club Rochdale Hornets in 1953.

Rugby League was a relatively late comer to Northern Territory sport.  In 1935 an NT Rugby Association met to decide whether they would play Rugby Union or Rugby League. It was decided to play Rugby League but the interest was short lived. One of the earliest Ruby League competitions was held in Tennant Creek in the late 1930s during the height of the gold rush. The first incarnation of the NT Rugby League (NTRL) was during World War II when a ‘town’ team vied with various armed service teams like the RAAF, Navy and Army. The NTRL did not reform after the Bombing of Darwin in 1942 but the game continued throughout the NT including Alice Springs and military locations up and down the Stuart Highway. After the war Rugby League recommenced in Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs in 1949. As the NTRL consolidated in the 1950s teams included QANTAS, Wallabies, RAAF, Army, Navy and Hornets. The first NT representative Rugby League team played in the national championships in Perth in 1956.   


The World Game in the Northern Territory [Soccer]

The world game, football (soccer) was first played in Darwin in 1911 when a Darwin XI played a HMS Prometheus XI. Amongst the Darwin XI was a Larrakia man Willie Allen, the Northern Territories first indigenous sports champion. The Darwin Chinese Recreation Club became the catalyst for much of Darwin’s early football after it established in 1923. The Darwin Soccer Association was formed in 1927. In the years leading up to World War II the military build up saw interest grow in British Association Football. During World War II Football was very popular amongst the troops. After World War II football was re-established by the Darwin Football Association in 1949. The game has ebbed and flowed since that time.

Women in NT Sport

The Northern Territory has had some great women sportspeople. Helen Fejo-Frith, Nova Peris, Christine Trefry, Shelly Nitscke, Ivy Hampton, Maisie Austin, Crystal Attenborough, Judith Green and Kerry Dienelt are just some of the greats. It was not easy in the early years of the Northern Territory during the 19th century for women to plays sport. Often sport was seen as ‘unsuitable’ for women. Archery, tennis, and swimming were amongst the first sports open to women. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that women began to play competitive sports like tennis, netball and golf. After World War II women’s sport really took off with the introduction of netball, basketball, hockey and softball.