Tales from the track | Rob Willis

The Forbes football side. Image Pictorial Forbes.
The Forbes football side. Image Pictorial Forbes.

There has always been a bit of rivalry between Forbes and Parkes, well, maybe a lot of rivalry. But then we have rivalry at all levels – in families, between sporting teams, Melbourne and Sydney and of course NSW and Queensland when the footy is on.

On a local level the Forbes, Parkes stoush has been around for as long as I can remember and has oftimes got a bit rough. Some of the battles behind the old saleyards are legendary and I can remember as a lad getting evicted from our sister town when attempting to court the local girls there. Fortunately most of my mates at the time were from Parkes so that gave me a degree of immunity.

Even at a Council level there has sometimes been a bit of jealousy. I have formed this opinion through interviews with FORMER local councillors from both Forbes and Parkes who all hinted that “maybe we did get a bit precious”.

My thought was that there had to be a bit of a history about this rivalry and I was not far wrong. Folklore has it that the jealousy goes back to the days when the main railway line was supposed to come through Forbes but by some sleight of hand and knowing people in high places Parkes got it instead. A letter to the Sydney Morning Herald states the case:

Thursday 10 October 1889


Sir, - The action of the Government, in recommending  that the railway to Forbes be taken from Molong and via Parkes, is greatly to be regretted, as it is evidently a mistake. The route proposed will make the distance between Sydney and Forbes greater and much more circuitous than would be the case were the line taken from Blayney, Orange, Borenore, or Cowra. A glance at the map of Australia will show that Forbes occupies an exceedingly important position in the colony. It lies almost due west of Sydney, and is the direct line of a grand main line of railway that sooner or later will have to be constructed across the South of the continent, connecting Sydney with Perth, Western Australia.

The correspondence of this era regarding the rail is very interesting and actually mirrors how the rail system is evolving now, 128 years later. Well … things do take a little while to happen.

The football matches between the two towns have always been highly competitive and this report is an eye opener:

Moree Gwydir Examiner and General Advertiser:  Thursday 15 June 1933


The football fans of Parkes and Forbes are not on speaking terms. Evidently some of the hot-heads, prefer an occasional spar to a friendly chat. On Sunday afternoon last, in the presence of about 3000 people, who paid 135 pounds, the Group X1 Shield match between Forbes and Parkes at Parkes, ended on one of the most disgraceful episodes ever seen on a country football ground, when the crowd and players mixed in a free fight on the field.

The whole thing was the fault of Referee McGrath of Sydney, who lost control of the game in the second half and allowed the players to indulge in kicking and fighting. Immediately the final bell rang players rushed at each other to settle their scores, the crowd broke over the fence like a wave, fists flew and men went down and a riot of about five minutes duration developed.

Police had a difficult job to restore order, the referee disappeared, hoots and cheers floated over the ground and the disturbance finally subsided. Parkes held the shield by 11 to 6. Three players were ordered off the field during the progress of the game for kicking and fighting.

One statement stands out for me here, apart from the punch up –  the crowd 3000 people?  

I have but one parting thought.  Why can’t the two towns work together, share festivals, promotions and other community events to our mutual benefit. Even the EX Parkes Councillor I spoke with recently reckons that this would be a good idea.

Ah well, I can dream.