Text of a talk by Glebe’s historian Max Solling, OAM at the Wentworth Park Community Games Day, Sunday 18 May 2008
Near the end of 1879, as reclamation of Blackwattle Swamp neared completion, Glebe Council urged Henry Parkes to set apart a portion of the former swamp for “a cricket and quoit ground”. In December 1880 the trustees of the crown land invited competitive designs for the layout of 32 acres of the former swamp to become a park or place for public recreation to be named after patriot W.C.Wentworth. Even prior to 1880 estate agents extolled the virtue of residential land adjoining a park “second only to the Botanical Gardens as a recreation ground”. The ground was dedicated as a place for public recreation in November 1885.
The overseer of Domains, James Jones, laid out Wentworth Park in the Gardenesque style with peripheral plantings of evergreen and deciduous trees, a curving path system, with the central focus being an enclosed cricket ground, an ornamental lake with islands, and an unenclosed football ground. The bowling green and pavilion of the Glebe Bowling Club, was located on the north-eastern comer of the park. Later an elegant rotunda, where the Pyrmont and Glebe brass bands played on summer evenings, was constructed on the park’s western margin.
Cricket and Rugby
Wentworth Park was formally opened as a recreation area in September 1882 : “This park, looking at the surroundings, bids fair to become one of the finest in the colony”, the Town & County Journal reported “The oval set apart for cricket is very large and contains 6.25 acres, having a white painted rail all round”. Cricket, the most respectable sport, occupied pride of place on the park, with rugby teams forced to play on the unfenced expanses of the park. The cricket oval was managed by the Wentworth Park Cricket Association whose executive was dominated by pillars of the community. A growing sense of identification with place could be discerned in inner Sydney, and any club taking the name of the suburb, attracted strong support. So at Wentworth Park, local elders too old to play cricket or rugby, but with emotion to expend, watched, shouted and gained satisfaction from talking over the day’s play. Local cricket clubs at Wentworth Park in the 1880’s participated in two main competitions. Pyrmont, Glebe, Toxteth, Corio, Excelsior and Osborne competed for the Evan Jones Challenge Silver Cup while other local elevens, Derwent, Glebe Strathmore, Waratah, and Glebe Clifton played in the Furness Cup competition. The low lying recreation ground could become sodden after a heavy deluge, and rugby, under wet, wintry conditions, did much more damage to its main oval than cricket. As a consequence, football of any description was confined to the outer expanses of the park before 1900.
Rugby games were being played there from 1883. For example on Saturday 7 July 1883 teams representing the first Glebe and first Parramatta met at Wentworth Park before 3,000 spectators. The game started at 3.45 pm, and playing “some pleasing music” nearby was the Pyrmont Brass Band. In Sydney, most rugby grounds were unfenced and there were insufficient police to exercise effective control to prevent persistent interference by spectators.
Invasion of unenclosed fields continued to plague Sydney rugby, forcing the abandonment of games; Wentworth Park was also a playground for larrikins. They found rugby games to their liking, running onto the football field to grab the ball, and disappear down Bridge Road with it. Brass bands were a separate part of the musical world, and associated with working class performers and audiences. The Salvation Army adapted the brass band to its own particular purpose but local bands broke from the socio-religious mould. Suburban bands at Pyrmont and Glebe were busy playing at the park’s rotunda, at football matches and regattas but they had chequered histories, as these independent entities, created by a strong group of local people, survived only as long as their members had the will and means to carry on.
Blue collar workers from England and Scotland filled Sydney Association Football (soccer) teams from 1882 when a governing body was created to control the game. In Pyrmont, soccer was the most popular ball game for decades. The Pyrmont Rangers, with their all blue jersey, dominated the Gardiner Cup, appearing in 17 finals between 1889 and 1914. “Pyrmont was rich in the number of her barrackers”, noted the Australian Star in 1889, “who appeared upon the scene with large tickets in the front of their hats, upon which were inscribed words of encouragement to the Rangers”. Apart from soccer, other leisure activities of Pyrmont residents focused on its waterfront. The Point Street Baths from 1875 became the base for Pyrmont Swimming Club as well as Pyrmont’s strong water polo teams, while on the water its Flying Squadrons revelled in the delights of the sea.
Government grants and subsidies ensured Wentworth Park was well maintained between 1880 and 1887 with £5,000 spent on it. Though the park was formally transferred to Glebe municipality in 1893, responsibility for its maintenance remained with crown appointed trustees; expenditure on park maintenance soon declined, with only £450 spent on the park between 1902 and 1905. The government approached Glebe Council in 1905 to accept responsibility for maintenance. Glebe Council informed the government they were not prepared to impose such a burden on their ratepayers unless the government gave them an annual grant of £1,000 for the park’s upkeep. Responsibility for park maintenance remained with the government. Wentworth Park, with its gardens, lakes and winding paths, was picturesque in 1900 when it was depicted in a series of photographs under the heading of the “Progress of Pyrmont”. But by 1910 its lakes and gardens had largely gone.
The Sydney District Cricket Competition, with its strict residential district qualifications, began in 1893, and Wentworth Park became one of its main venues; a cricket match at Wentworth Park in 1896, it was reported, attracted a crowd of 10,000 people. All local sporting clubs struggled with rising unemployment and falling wages in the 1890’s economic recession, but they still provided their members with a sense of regularity in a changing social milieu, with clubs reducing annual subscriptions in a time of social dislocation and economic instability. Wentworth, Glebe and Forest Lodge – Cambridge were the strongest locally-based rugby clubs then playing on the park.. The Wentworth club, first junior premiers in 1890 and 1891, distinguished itself on the playing fields, and locals bathed in the reflected glory.
Concerted efforts were made to establish Australia Rules in Sydney during the 1890’s when the West Sydney Australian Football Club played its home games at Wentworth Park. Australian Rules experienced a revival in 1903 when 11 clubs engaged in a district competition; in 1906, for example, 3,000 people watched Balmain play YMCA at Wentworth Park. Fifty eight state schools and 13 Catholic schools played Australian Rules in Sydney in 1908, when hurling was also played at the park.
Amateurs vs professionals
Improved wages, increased leisure hours, an extension of tram and train tracks linking the city to the suburbs, and the sheer growth of the City of Sydney by 1901, facilitated the development of an urban popular culture, and made mass spectator sport possible. An increasing number of people paid to enjoy commercialised activities – the theatre, and the sporting life which centred around the cricket pitch, the football field and the harbour. The years between 1890 and 1920 were the heyday for locally-based sporting clubs playing regularly at Wentworth Park. In the acrimonious debate about amateurism and professionalism, the acquisition of Wentworth Park was crucial to the new ruby league in 1908 as it struggled to obtain grounds, with most ovals leased to rugby union in winter. More working men took up rugby union after the Sydney district competition was introduced in 1900; the issue of payment of rugby players to cover out-of-pocket expenses, or the possibility of loss of wages through injury, came before the Metropolitan Rugby Union in Sydney in 1904. Any payment, they said, could not be countenanced because it was professionalism. Growing discontent among players led to a schism in the game, and the formation of a breakaway movement, the NSW Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) in 1907 which promised its players broken-time payments for loss of wages through injury and for travelling expenses. Conflict over the so-called evils of professionalism was a class struggle, and the ferocity of attacks mounted by the conservative press in 1907 on the ethics of professionalism suggested the middle class was in no mood to compromise.
Union vs League
The boundaries of the Glebe District Rugby Union Club, formed in 1900 embraced Pyrmont, Annandale and Glebe, and men from these three suburbs formed the backbone of the club. With Wentworth Park as its home ground, the Glebe Club emerged as the dominant rugby union club in the Sydney competition between 1900 and 1914, winning the first grade premiership seven times, and the second grade competition on six occasions. Thirty two members of this club won state caps, and 12 members played for Australia against visiting international rugby teams.
From 1910 the loyalties of Sydney football crowds shifted dramatically from rugby union to rugby league. League was very much in the ascendancy when rugby union suspended its competition for the duration of the war. In 1920, when competition recommenced, union’s support base had shifted perceptibly from the inner suburbs to north of the harbour, and to the east.
The Metropolitan Rugby Union had leases of the SCG and other prominent ovals in Sydney, and the League could obtain only three grounds in 1908 – the Agricultural ground at Moore Park, Birchgrove oval and Wentworth Park. The trustees of Wentworth Park granted the NSW Rugby League a three year lease in January 1908 because their tender, 40% of all gate receipts, and 15% of takings from representative games, was a more competitive tender than those offered by the MRU and the NSW Australian Football League. But loyalties of the trustees were divided. Three of the eight trustees (Abrams, Duggan and Harman) voted to lease the ground to the Metropolitan Rugby League.
A growing number of patrons passing through the turnstiles at Wentworth Park to watch the new code convinced the trustees of the need for a new grandstand. They accepted a tender of £750 from George Hudson to build a timber stand which J.A.Hogue opened on 30 June 1909.
The diary of Wentworth Park caretaker, Jack Newell in 1909 provides details on other activities there. An open air picture show in the park in 1909 was an exciting new attraction, held on Mondays and Fridays from 7pm to 9pm. Newell noted that local children clambered, up trees near the oval to get a free view of the silent movies, and the trees were high enough for them to peer over the high fence that sought to shut out non-paying rugby league customers. After-theatre rampages of local youth on Friday evenings forced Newell to stay up late to protect his tenderly prepared wicket. Rival groups of league supporters, Newell recorded in his diary, were in the habit of gathering outside Wentworth Park after games there in July 1909 to settle their differences. Order was restored when police arrived. But brawling at the park was not confined to league matches. A church union match between St Barnabas and Trinity erupted into fisticuffs and, wrote Newell “had to be put down by five constables”. Police cautioned the parents of children apprehended for stone throwing, and Newell recorded that the larrikin class were very troublesome on the Prince of Wales Birthday holiday in June 1909. Police patrolled the park’s grounds in 1909 preventing men from playing two-up. But by 1914 police were ignoring two up games played there on Friday nights and Sunday. But there was a price for immunity from prosecution. When a constable appeared on the corner of Wentworth Park Road and Bay Street he would doff his cap, a sign that it was time to “slip him a quid”.
Facilities generally at Wentworth Park were spartan. Most watched the game from raised mounds, occasionally with, but more usually without, wooden terracing. The ordinary standing spectator, especially if of modest height, had difficulty seeing the play if the crowd was large. On a wet day they were often ankle deep in mud, and overcoats were stained by sauce from the next spectator’s hot dog or pie sold at the ground by Horsehead Ryan. The condition of the oval surrounds kept the more fainted-hearted away, but this did not deter the NSWRFL from holding a rugby league Test between England and Australasia at Wentworth Park in July 1910.
The League’s tender for a three year lease from 1911 procured Wentworth Park for them, offering the Trust identical terms to those of 1908. Without other sporting bodies competing for Wentworth Park after the outbreak of war, the NSWRFL drove a hard bargain with the trustees. The league reduced its offer to 20% of gross takings for the three year lease from 1914, and for the three years from 1917 offered only 10% of gross takings, which meant the trustees received only £150 per season. The paltry nature of the NSWRFL offer rankled the trustees. And they had long memories.
With war over, the NSW Football Association in March 1920 offered a minimum of £200 for a one year lease, much better than the League, still seeking bargain basement prices they had extracted during the war years. Soccer became the winter game in the park in 1920. In 1921, the NSWRFL went all out to regain use of the oval, but the Metropolitan Soccer Football Association tender of £450 easily outbid the League. The Soccer Association’s tender also stressed the “excellent behaviour of our players and followers”. In accepting their tender, Arthur Laing told fellow trustees he’d received many complaints about letting the ground “to the ragtags and bob-tails” during the war.
The NSWRFL, concerned at its failure to regain use of Wentworth Park, met the seven trustees at the caretaker’s cottage at the north-eastern end of the park on 18 August 1921. Chairman of trustees Frank Buckle told League delegates “for some reason or other you do not offer us anything reasonable at all for our ground – at any rate, it has not done so in the past. You all know the price we are getting for the ground now”, and added “you should not have forgotten that there would have been no League if it had not been for Wentworth Park”. Soccer was played at the park in winter from 1920 to 1924. League returned to the park in 1925 after their offer of £1,800 for a three year lease was accepted, and they retained use of the ground up to the end of the 1931 season. Glebe Rugby League Club was eliminated from the competition at the end of 1929, and the League did not tender for the ground in 1932, ending the park’s association with the Sydney rugby league competition.
During the war there were changes to the park’s landscape. A parliamentary committee in 1910 recommended the Darling Harbour Goods Line be linked by a railway goods line to the head of Rozelle Bay in a scheme to redevelop the port functions of Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays which, by 1914, had become a centre for the coal and timber coastal trade. The Sydney Harbour Trust Commissioners in 1914 noted the “pressing needs of increasing trade and the larger modern vessels” and proposed building extensive broadside wharfage in Johnston’s, Rozelle and Blackwattle Bays. During World War I a railway proceeded by viaduct across Wentworth Park and by tunnel under Glebe Point to Rozelle Bay. And towards the southern end of the park, Wentworth Kindergarten opened in 1916. The Free kindergarten movement, begun in 1896, was designed to improve the lot of inner-city children; it was hoped that through this tool of urban social reform, working class children would be inculcated with middle-class norms.
Rugby league emerged as a major spectator sport between 1911 and 1922, and during this time Glebe was always near the top of the premiership table. Glebe’s home ground, Wentworth Park, was barely able to contain the increasing numbers attracted to the game, and the closeness of the ground to small workers cottages wedged in between warehouses and factories added to the personal intimacy of the occasion. In May 1911 a football correspondent observed “Wentworth park crowds are always demonstrative. They never hesitate to show on which side of the fence their sympathies lie. So when the play was at its fiercest on Saturday, the crowd yelled ‘Red, red, red’, to encourage the local champions”. The try scoring feats of Frank Burge made him a legend. At lock forward, Burge would break swiftly from the pack and use his speed and keen sense of anticipation to link with the backs. Long striding, fast and powerful, with a magnificent fend, Frank “Chunky” Burge was seen at his best running with a high knee action at top speed down the middle of the field. As the leading try scorer in Sydney in 1915, 1916 and 1918, the Glebe attack revolved around the finest try scoring forward the game had seen.
Rugby league thrived on inter-suburban rivalry. It was suburb against suburb. A victory over Balmain or Souths, Glebe’s nearest neighbours, was especially satisfying, a triumph to be celebrated with friends over a beer at the local. The men who wore maroon on the football field, representing your territory, often lived just down the street. If you didn’t know the player personally, you certainly knew all about him and his football feats. Working class people from inner Sydney had a deep emotional attachment to their league club, rather than the game for its own sake. They came to see their side win, and did not have much patience with honourable defeat. After all in their own lives, they experienced more than their fair share of setbacks. They expected Glebe, the Reds, to practise ritual slaughter on whoever their visitors were when they trooped down to Wentworth Park on a Saturday afternoon. These partisans thrived on success. If defeat became a frequent occurrence their fickleness began to shine through. The volatile Paddy Gray was a popular target for local supporters. On one occasion, Stephen Gascoigne, known as Yabba, close to the fence at Wentworth Park, was having a wonderful time at Gray’s expense; “A pound to the wife of the unknown soldier if Gray handles the ball”, Yabba kept repeating. At half time Gray sauntered over to Yabba and barked; “You mention my name once more, I’ll pull that silly looking nose off your face”. Yabba thought it prudent to heckle someone else in the second half.
Newspaper reports suggest that violence at rugby league games, both on and off the field, was widespread. Leaving Wentworth Park, after a game, could be a dangerous experience for visiting supporters and referees, and Glebe supporters experienced similar hazards when they journeyed to Birchgrove Oval, where lumps of coal, extracted from a mine under the harbour, were thrown at them. Referees recalled narrow escapes when they had to run “the gauntlet of the hordes of wild colonial youths who could see nothing any good outside their own idols”. As Tom McMahon was escorted up Bay Street on one occasion “between a brace of burly coppers”, he still had to avoid blue metal thrown at him by unhappy local fans. During the late 1920’s Ray Blissett recalled Glebe police escorted league referees from Wentworth Park up to the tram stop near Glebe post office. It was, he said, an absolutely essential precaution if Glebe lost.
Tibby Cotter, cricketer
The Glebe District Cricket Club, which contained Australian players Tibby Cotter, Warren Bardsley, Charlie Kelleway and Bert Oldfield, had played their home game fixtures at Wentworth Park since 1893. In the early years of Federation large crowds were drawn to Wentworth Park to watch Glebe and Australian opening batsman Warren Bardsley plunder 26 centuries from inner suburban attacks, and cricket spectators flocked to Wentworth Park especially when Glebe played Paddington there. There were several memorable encounters between Paddington’s supreme batting stylist Victor Trumper, and the blistering pace of Glebe fast bowler Tibby Cotter, the spearhead of the Australian attack. Warren Bardsley remembered team mate Cotter as:
“…a real corker, strong, big. Never got tired. He broke more stumps than any other fast bowler at Wentworth Park. Tibby loved to break stumps and he loved to pink a batsman … We were playing North Sydney one day and Tibby was in great form, knocking stumps over in all directions. In came Stud White and first ball Tibby smashed Stud’s fingers against the handle of the bat. A sickening crunch. They took him off to hospital. Never forget Tibby’s remark. ‘Well,’ he said, wiping his hands , ‘that’s one of the … out of the way’. About an hour later Stud came back to bat again with the fingers bandaged. Very brave man, Stud. Tibby took one look at him and snorted ‘Give me the ball. I’ll break the bastard’s neck this time’. Tibby reckoned that when he ‘pinked’ a batsman, he should remain pinked”. Cotter was the only Australian Test cricketer killed in World War I.
The Glebe District Cricket Club played their last first grade game at Wentworth Park at the end of the 1922/23 season. They then switched to Jubilee Oval, Glebe which became their new home ground.
New leisure forms during the interwar years, ranging from the cinema and radio to speedway motor cycling, motoring and greyhound racing played an increasing cultural role. In an endeavour to boost revenue Wentworth Park trustees granted Thomas Hollis a five year lease for motor cycle racing, “Auto Thrills” from May 1928, together with other novelty events between 6.30 pm and 10.30 pm at night. Between 1928 and 1932 large crowds thrilled to the antics of motor cyclists who rode in a way that had little regard to their own safety. In 1929 James Bendrodt, who had prospered as a trick skater and Martin Place restaurateur, submitted a proposal to the trustees to develop part of the Bay Street end of the park as an Amusement Park. It did not proceed.
Despite the gradual disappearance of both pony racing, and the proprietary thoroughbred racing companies after World War I, the gambler had increasing opportunities to bet. The number of horse race meetings declined marginally but any such decline was more than countered by the growth of trotting and greyhound racing, forms of racing which did not have claims of vice-regal patronage and a tradition to justify their existence. Greyhound racing in Britain in the 1930’s was the third largest commercial leisure activity, and betting lay at the heart of its appeal. Greyhound coursing had its origins as an aristocratic field sport but it flourished as an urban leisure activity after the advent of electrically propelled lures. The “tin hare” racing, invented by American Owen Smith in 1912, promised to change the nature of greyhound racing. The mechanical tin hare was mounted on a rail, and driven around a track ahead of a field of chasing greyhounds. Frederick Swindell, a somewhat shady American character who called himself Judge Swindell, formed a proprietary company, the Greyhound Coursing Association (GCA) to promote the new sport which obtained a limited use lease of Harold Park and commenced evening “tin hare” racing under lights there on 28 May 1927. Advertised in the Herald as “The Sport of the Masses”; it turned out to be popular, and a very successful as a commercial venture. Crowds of 20,000 or 30,000 regularly attended the night meetings, and spirited gambling took place, with over 180 bookmakers in attendance. The promoters were careful to imitate the atmosphere of Randwick race meetings, with attendants formally parading the greyhounds before races, the adoption of the terms “paddock” and “ledger”, the wearing of jockey caps and colours by trainers and with kennel inspections, coloured saddle cloths, semaphore boards and judges boxes. The colourful bookmakers, with their often confident, charismatic, loud and outspoken demeanour, the boards and umbrellas, and the sound, disorder and excitement of the betting ring had a popular appeal. Many spectators were impressed with the tremendous pace of the dogs. But the new sport barely had time to celebrate its successful beginnings when the Bavin conservative government amended the Gaming and Betting Act in 1928 to prevent betting after sunset. Without betting, greyhound racing collapsed but its fortunes changed with the return of the Lang government in 1930. Premier Lang announced that the previous government’s attitudes were designed to rob the worker of his simple pleasures and legalised gambling at greyhound meetings. Greyhound racing drew on a constituency that came largely from the working class; apart from offering a good night out and value for money, working people were attracted by much cheaper entrance fees, and the absence of the airs of superiority associated with upper class patrons of normal racecourses. After the war, there was also genuine affection for some leading dogs like Chief Havoc, Macareena and Zoom Top who caught and held the imagination of the public. The industry depended on big crowds and mass betting, catered for by ranks of bookmakers or tote windows. The downside of Swindell’s commercially successful venture at Harold Park was the growing criticism by Anglican clergy and other citizens who denounced the new sport as “a pastime of parasites”. The survival of Harold Park made it appear Swindell had friends in high places, prompting allegations of corruption of the licensing system. In 1932 a royal commission on greyhound racing and fruit machines examined allegations that Swindell had manipulated shares. Swindell was found guilty but slipped out of Port Phillip Bay on an oil tanker and was never seen again.
The ‘tin hare’
The trustees of Wentworth Park considered a proposal by Jack Munro, who recruited American boxers for Stadiums Limited, for “tin hare” racing there in August 1927 but it was not until 20 July 1938 that the NSW government issued a second greyhound racing licence for the Sydney area, and in 1939 Wentworth Park trustees granted the National Coursing Association a lease of the central area of the oval for greyhound racing, and totalisator betting facilities were installed there. The totalisator, a computerised machine that controlled the betting system, a feature of greyhound racing, invented by London-born Australian George Julius, enabled machines to take over betting completely. The tote was very popular with the poor working class punters, and with women who preferred to bet their “small amount of money” there as “they do not have to join in a scramble round the bookie” or endure a “rude retort” for their small bets, preferring the “civility of the machine”. At Wentworth Park, the greyhound track was isolated from the surrounding parkland by construction of a brick boundary walls, denying local residents access. But not long after Wentworth Park was commandeered for use by the Americans as an army camp during the war with the remainder of the park taken over by wool stores. Timber sheds storing wool were also constructed on the park during the first World War. In 1941 the NSW Trotting Club, owners of Harold Park, and the NCA agreed to form Harold Park & Wentworth Park Metropolitan District Greyhound Racing Association in 1941 to control greyhound racing within a 40 mile radius of the GPO. Between 1939 and 1945 the NCA shared its greyhound meetings with the NSWTC at Harold Park. Though NSW had two metropolitan greyhound racing clubs in 1939, it was in country NSW that it really boomed. The rapid expansion of country dog tracks, 45 in 1938, provided a new visual experience for punters. In a time when relatively few owned a car, the NSW government railways built special dog trains which were divided, with seats on one side and kennels on the other. In NSW in 1938-39 there was a total of 1,693 race meetings. Wentworth Park upgraded its facilities and closed the greyhound track for five weeks from October 1949 and 18,600 people attended the reopening of the remodelled Wentworth Park track. Two special starting chutes were installed at the entrance of the two straights that increased the distances to 585 and 785 yards. They also altered the mechanical hare system so that it ran around inside the rail, instead of outside.
The Greyhound Recorder, a newspaper devoted solely to covering all aspects of greyhound racing, kept owners, trainers and punters informed about the sport. As racing became more sophisticated, technical improvements and innovations were introduced – electronically operated starting boxes from 1946, photo finish cameras two years later, and electronic timing devices. Throughout the 1950’s, 1960, and 1970’s the Wenty dogs averaged about 7,000 to 8,000 patrons per meeting. Betting at the dogs increased with installation at Wentworth Park of one of the first electronic totalisator systems there in 1970. The last greyhound race was held at Harold Park in 1987, and the NCA began construction of an $18 million grandstand at Wentworth Park to accommodate what it envisaged would be continued expansion of patronage of greyhound racing.
Wentworth Park Trust
The Wentworth Park Sporting Complex Trust (WPSCT) area divides Wentworth Park into three parts: the WPSCT complex, the public sports fields, and the playground area. The NSW National Coursing Association Ltd and the NSW Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association Ltd in 1985 entered into a service deed for 20 years with a Trust Board comprised of representatives appointed by the Minister for Lands under Part 5 of the Crown Lands Act, 1989. The Trust is responsible for the care, control and management of the sporting complex. The Trust receives license fees from the greyhound bodies, and income from the lease of Sports House. Other occasional users of the Sporting Complex are Easts Rugby League Club, primary schools athletic carnivals, as a tertiary examinations centre, Combined Auctions, antique fairs and functions at the Functions Centre in the grandstand.
Dog racing, a working class sport, had its roots in the inner city where many dreamt of owning a dog that would bring them fame and fortune, but increasingly from the late 1960’s inner city greyhound owners and trainers began to move further out from the city centre. The trusteeship of the balance of Wentworth Park was transferred to Sydney City Council in 1990. By legalising off-course betting, the TAB made the sport respectable, and increased its popularity. This increased the resources available for prize money and industry development since clubs now got a share of off-course takings. But it also meant the public no longer had to attend a track to place a bet. It marked the beginning of the end of big crowds at ordinary meetings at Wentworth Park. The advent of satellite television in TAB shops, hotels and social clubs in the 1990’s completed the process. Today greyhound racing at Wentworth Park is testimony to the amount of revenue it generates from betting on off-course TAB and Sky Television. Based on TAB estimates, greyhound racing generates about $50-$55 million revenue for the NSW State Budget annually. The TAB Limited study in 2003 estimates that in NSW $4.74 billion is wagered on racing, of which $489 million is generated by greyhound racing. Off-course wagering in the metropolitan area, principally at Wentworth Park, accounts for approximately 67% of total wagering on greyhounds.
And finally, an important part of local collective memory in the 1970’s and 1980’s were the circus tents, colourful characters, caged animals on the northern edge of Wentworth Park, and the sight of elephants occasionally ambling around inner city streets.