In 2014, three of Wagga’s most well known sporting identities were honoured with ovals named after them at Bolton Park.
Aussie cricketers Michael Slater, Mark Taylor and Geoff Lawson were recognised for their contribution to the sport and their Riverina roots.
But while it was a popular decision in 2014, one star has fallen significantly and there are calls for his name to be removed and replaced with someone more deserving.
Michael Slater debuted in the baggy green in 1993 and played 74 Tests and 42 one-day internationals (ODIs) for Australia before retiring from cricket in 2004 and joining Nine’s commentary team.
But in the past couple of years, the former star has made headlines for all the wrong reasons with arrests and court appearances.
At the same time in 2023, sport in Australia is at a crossroads and our long-neglected female athletes are stepping into the limelight.
Australia has just hosted one of our most successful sporting events ever in terms of attendance and spectatorship throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Not only have the Matildas thrilled their growing legion of fans with a semi-finals debut, but The Diamonds, have just won their 12th Netball World Cup in South Africa, the Australian women’s cricket team is now the most successful team of all time and the NRLW (league) and AFLW (Aussie rules) are finding their feet with more games hitting free-to-air TV.
Is it time for Wagga to consider renaming the Michael Slater Oval to celebrate a female sporting identity from the region?
Michael Slater Oval hosts several sports, including – but not limited to – cricket, Aussie rules, soccer and rugby.
It seems appropriate to keep the naming of the oval connected to the sports that are played there and there are several outstanding candidates.
Twin sisters Alex and Kate Blackwell were born in Wagga in 1984 before moving to Yenda and eventually Griffith in their youth.
Both Alex and Kate represented the Australian women’s cricket team for almost two decades across three formats.
Alex had a stellar career which included T20 and ODI World Cup wins, successful Ashes campaigns and more than 250 matches at international level.
Kate has an impressive career in her own right with more than 50 international matches to her name and was also a part of the 2005 Women’s World Cup winning campaign in South Africa.
Both have had brilliant domestic careers and are leaders in establishing women’s cricket in the country.
If we want to keep the oval connected with its cricketing roots, ‘Blackwell Oval’ would be a fantastic choice.
Another prime contender, in light of the surging interest in women’s football, is former Matilda Sally Shipard.
Sally was inducted into the Sporting Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Riverina in 2015 and represented Australia on more than 50 occasions.
Sally was born in Tumut before moving to Wagga when she was three, playing all of her junior football in Wagga.
She was a talented midfielder who made her Matildas debut at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
She scored four goals throughout her international career while also playing 30 matches for Canberra United in the W-League.
If the oval was to be named after someone who has served as a pioneer for women’s sport, while also riding the train of the most recent World Cup which has captured the hearts of the country, who better to showcase than Wagga’s own Matilda?
And finally, flying the flag in rugby is 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist, Alicia Quirk.
Alicia was born and raised in Wagga, played rugby at club level all across the Riverina and has studied physiotherapy at CSU in Albury.
She represented Australia in touch football and Rugby Sevens, winning a World Cup in the former and Olympic gold in the latter.
Rugby is a big part of Wagga’s identity and with the growth of women’s rugby league, union and touch, Alicia’s contributions to the sport and her proud history in the Riverina should be considered as achievements that move the sport forward in the region.
What do you think?