Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Jarryd Rowley takes a walk down memory lane.
Growing up in Wagga Wagga, I took a lot of the things that the city has to offer for granted.
Whether it was the natural resources such as Lake Albert, the river and the bush or popular hang-out destinations such as Forum 6 Cinema, or a night of karaoke or trivia at one of Wagga’s 19 pubs.
I returned from a job in South Australia in March this year following a stint in Canberra for uni and it became apparent that I hold a special place for Wagga.
Things I had once taken for granted are now things I can’t live without. People I ignored for years growing up are now my best mates and places I never visited are now places I attend regularly.
Not knowing what Wagga had until I was gone, I’d always run into someone who had lived in Wagga wherever I travelled.
On several occasions, I would introduce myself as a student or journalist from Wagga and instantly be interrupted with, “Oh, I love/miss Wagga.”
The strangest example was when I spent some time in rural South Australia in a place called Peterborough. There’s not much in Peterborough but a couple of post office boxes and a beloved footy club.
During my time there, I met a man named Dave. I was doing a story about the local progress association winning a grant to host a local tractor pull. Once that conversation and the formalities were over, Dave and I had a chat.
He asked me where I was from, and once the word Wagga left my mouth, Dave said with glee, “God, I’d love to go back to Wagga and have a schooner at The Vic!”
It became clear to me then that Wagga was a special place, not only for those who live or lived there but for anyone who had spent time there.
Looking back at my time at uni, there was always a contingent of students who had travelled from Wagga and surrounds.
We would often tell stories about our experiences with Larry – everyone from Wagga had their own story about where and when they met him. Others would consistently brag about Wagga Beach being the ninth-best beach in Australia. If you were from Wagga, you’d understand the irony and if you weren’t you’d ask about what made it so great, to which the Wagga faithful would mutter three words: “5 o’clock wave”.
Listing little pieces of Wagga trivia to other students about being the home of the Chiko Roll or having both an army and air force base would often be followed by Wagga people joining in listing other pieces of knowledge or reminiscing on their experiences.
Sports were always a big thing for Wagga too and that seems to have only resonated further since I’ve moved back.
Wayne Carey, Mark Taylor, Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater and even Laurie Daley (sorry Junee) would often come into the conversation, whether that be in the form of referring to the name of local sports competitions/fields or who players aspired to be like.
Since moving back to Wagga, I have noticed a greater emphasis on community. There are more events, such as the Festival of W, there is now a greater variety of cultural food, the PCYC has created a hub for people of all ages to meet, the Conservatorium of Music has grown and for some reason, Wagga has another McDonalds on the Sturt Highway.
Wagga has always been a recognisable place for the people who live here, but little did I know it meant a lot to the people who visited. A lot of things make this city unique and with it only getting bigger and better there is no better time to join in and help contribute to what makes Wagga great.