Australia’s regional sporting capital: Queanbeyan or Wagga Wagga? The case for Queanbo

Tim Gavel 21 September 2021 27
The Ricky Stuart mural at the end of Blacksmiths Lane in Queanbeyan

The Ricky Stuart mural at the end of Blacksmiths Lane in Queanbeyan. Photo: Supplied.

Both Queanbeyan and Wagga Wagga are justifiably regarded as Australia’s top sporting cities per head of population.

In fact, the councils of Wagga Wagga and Queanbeyan Palerang have similar populations, with Wagga having only a few thousand more.

Many have tried to find out why so many champion sportspeople originated from, or spent a substantial part of their lives in, these cities. The answer is elusive.

One significant aspect for Queanbeyan is its proximity to Canberra, where Queanbeyan athletes can readily engage in competitions in the ACT, access the sports facilities of Canberra, and there’s also the significant influence of the Australian Institute of Sport. It attracts many athletes increasing the level of competition, provides sports infrastructure, sports scientists and nutritionists, and offers specific sports training programs.


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This gives an obvious advantage to Queanbeyan over Wagga. But I am not making a judgement call about which city is the greatest, but I am presenting as much information as possible to allow you to decide.

It’s highly subjective as the merits of one sportsperson are considered over another, or one sport against another.

In Part 1, this part, I will present the case for Queanbeyan. Part 2 will be devoted to Wagga champions.

Queanbeyan boasts not one but two Olympic gold medallists, one of the greatest sportswomen of all time, a Formula One and world endurance champion, two of the greatest Wallabies of all time, Australia’s test cricket vice-captain, rugby league champions, and the list goes on.

Heather McKay

Heather McKay cannot be forgotten for her contribution to tennis, squash, racketball and hockey. Photo: Squash Australia.

Heather McKay only lost two games in her entire squash career, winning 16 British Opens in a row. The British Open was regarded as the World Championships in those days.

Heather was also selected in the Australian women’s hockey team but had to pull out. She won the US Open racketball title and World Championships in seniors tennis.

Megan Marcks, formerly Megan Still, was identified as a talent in rowing while still at school in Queanbeyan. In 1996 Megan and Kate Slatter became the first Australian women to win Olympic gold in rowing, with victory in the pairs.

Suzy Balogh

Suzy Balogh. Photo: Suzy Balogh Facebook.

Eight years later, fellow Queanbeyan local Suzy Balogh won gold in the trap at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Susie, who started shooting at the age of 15, became the first Australian woman to win gold in shooting at the Olympics.

Mark Webber began his racing career in karting growing up in Queanbeyan before going on to win nine Formula One races and the World Endurance title.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber began his career karting in Queanbeyan. Photo: Supplied.

Brad Haddin was born in Cowra before the family moved to Queanbeyan when he was 12. By the time he turned 16, he was playing first-grade cricket for the ANU before going on to play 66 tests and 126 one-day internationals, and being appointed vice-captain of the Australian test cricket team.

David Campese is justifiably regarded as one of the greatest attacking rugby union players. He starred for the Queanbeyan Whites before playing 101 tests, scoring 64 tries for the Wallabies.


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Fellow Whites player and current Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart went on to become one of the greatest players in rugby league. His career includes three premierships with the Raiders before winning a premiership as a coach with the Roosters. He has coached the NSW and Australian rugby league sides.

Another Whites player, Lewis Holland, became one of the leading players in the Australian 7s team.

Matt Giteau

Matt Giteau playing in the John I Dent Cup. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

The legendary Matt Giteau went on to play over 100 tests for the Wallabies while his sister Kristy represented Australia in women’s rugby.

Then there were the Fainga’a twins who grew up in Queanbeyan. They have progressed through their rugby careers, culminating at the uppermost level through Wallabies representation.

David Furner was the highest-scoring forward in NRL history. Glen Lazarus, regarded as one of the greatest props of all time, won premierships at three clubs: the Raiders, the Broncos and Melbourne.

Terry Campese captained the Raiders and represented NSW and Australia. Fellow representative player, Brent Kite, won the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2008 grand final playing for Manly.

And there’s more. Fergus Pragnell represented Australia in rowing at the world titles, and Matthew Beckenham competed for Australia in the 400 hurdles at the Sydney Olympics.

And, of course, there’s horse trainer Joe Janiak. Joe bought Takeover Target for just over $1000. Under Joe’s training, Takeover Target went on to win over $6 million in prize money, taking the trainer from Queanbeyan to Ascot.


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Swimmer Angela Kennedy, who went to school in Queanbeyan, broke the World Record in the 100 metres butterfly in 1995. In 1996 Angie won silver at the Atlanta Olympics in the medley relay.

Queanbeyan lawn bowlers Ken Woods and Ken Williams were both inaugural inductees into the Bowls Australia Hall of Fame. Williams won the World Pairs title in 1984 while Woods played for Australia before becoming a selector.

Queanbeyan Tigers player Tony Wynd was selected in the All Australian team in 1987, becoming one of the few players ever named in the team outside the major leagues of AFL, VFL, SANFL and WAFL.

Matt Henjak played four tests for the Wallabies, and another Whites player, Peter Ryan, also played four tests for Australia after making his debut in 1963. A year later, Whites winger David Grimmond made his Wallaby debut, while cricketer Mark Higgs was called into the Australian squad as a replacement for Shane Warne for the ICC tournament in Kenya in 2000, but didn’t play a one-day international.

There are possibly more I have missed.

Can Wagga match this impressive list?


What's Your Opinion?


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27 Responses to Australia’s regional sporting capital: Queanbeyan or Wagga Wagga? The case for Queanbo
Terry Vaughan Terry Vaughan 6:26 pm 24 Sep 21

My heart says Queanbeyan, but my family had a lot of relatives in Wagga Wagga. T Vaughan nee Ryan

    Margaret Juskevics Margaret Juskevics 6:33 pm 24 Sep 21

    Terry Vaughan are you a Ryan as well. Me too on mum's side

    Terry Vaughan Terry Vaughan 6:34 pm 24 Sep 21

    Margaret Juskevics Yes indeed. My birth name is, deep breath, Teresa Mary Ryan.

    Margaret Juskevics Margaret Juskevics 6:36 pm 24 Sep 21

    I can't understand why Bernadette or Majella wasn't in there somewhere.

    Terry Vaughan Terry Vaughan 6:38 pm 24 Sep 21

    Margaret Juskevics Hold that thought. Bernadette was my confirmation name. LoL 🤣

Robert Lachlan Ainslie Fitzpatrick Robert Lachlan Ainslie Fitzpatrick 2:36 pm 23 Sep 21

Oh so now you’ll recognise Queanbeyan hey Canberra 😂

Maureen Ryan Maureen Ryan 6:50 am 23 Sep 21

Movie star from Qbyn George Lazenby

Ian Jessup Ian Jessup 10:23 pm 22 Sep 21

Are these people really just Canberrans who couldn't afford to live there? And the ghettos of Queanbeyan were the next best solution?

    Maureen Ryan Maureen Ryan 6:52 am 23 Sep 21

    Ian Jessup that's a bit rough

    Ian Jessup Ian Jessup 9:59 am 23 Sep 21

    Maureen Ryan yeah it is. Both Q and WW punch well above their weight in sport

Lucy McGarva Lucy McGarva 4:40 pm 22 Sep 21

Janelle McGarva , what's your pick?

    Janelle McGarva Janelle McGarva 4:50 pm 22 Sep 21

    Lucy McGarva Wagga Wagga. Just to mention a few Eric Wiesel, Arthur Summons, Mark Taylor, Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater, Jan Stephenson, Mortimer brothers, Steve Elkington, Brad Kahlefelt.

    John McGarva John McGarva 6:17 pm 22 Sep 21

    Lucy McGarva But Queanbeyan had Heather Blundell (McKay) Mark Webber Brad Haddon David Campesi just to name a few.

    Janelle McGarva Janelle McGarva 10:57 pm 22 Sep 21

    11 for Wagga. 4 for Queanbeyan. Obvious who the winner is.

Danielle Woodhouse Danielle Woodhouse 4:08 pm 22 Sep 21

Look at You Suzy!

Robert Gannon Robert Gannon 3:00 pm 22 Sep 21

Foot in both camps , live in Wagga Wagga and Suzy is my niece 😎

Kaz Laing Kaz Laing 1:05 pm 22 Sep 21

Queanbeyan!

Chris Thompson Chris Thompson 11:41 am 22 Sep 21

Queanbeyan- City of champions!

Suzy Balogh Suzy Balogh 9:41 am 22 Sep 21

Queanbeyan !!!- - definitely Australia’s top sporting City per head of population ❤️

    Cameron Tarrant Cameron Tarrant 9:44 am 22 Sep 21

    Suzy Balogh definitely Queanbeyan! No one else has brought home a Golden Rough!!

    Danny Whitty Danny Whitty 10:07 am 22 Sep 21

    Suzy Balogh C'mon Suzie how about Lithgow,we have had multiple world champions, Olympians, Commonwealth Games think you might need another visit to remind you. Stay safe and well. Still the best spaeker we have had.

    Anna Madden Anna Madden 11:24 am 22 Sep 21

    Suzy Balogh photo says it all!!!

    Kelly Hitchings Kelly Hitchings 1:49 pm 22 Sep 21

    Suzy Balogh there’s you xx

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 6:59 am 22 Sep 21

Queanbeyan

Chris Duncan Chris Duncan 8:24 pm 21 Sep 21

2620 by the Flemington straight

Craig Jones Craig Jones 6:36 pm 21 Sep 21

Great article Tim Gavel, and a very valid argument about two towns that can stake claim to so many sporting champions!!!

But I still think Queanbeyan has it over Wagga… being totally unbiased of course!😉

Taryn Langdon Taryn Langdon 4:39 pm 21 Sep 21

Impressive list!

Also kudos to Tim Gavel you have played a role in the careers of most on the list. Our region is so fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and committed journalist promoting our local sports people. 🤩

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