The Walker Park Sporting Complex Improvements were officially opened on Saturday, July 16, by Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath.

The new grandstand was unveiled as the ‘Ken Bell and Colin ‘Yic’ York Grandstand’ acknowledging two Yass sporting icons.

Colin ‘Yic’ York was born in Yass in 1904 – 1973 (Age 69). Colin started playing rugby league for Yass at the age of 17, which led to his career in representative football. 

Colin was the first international sportsman to come from Yass, playing for both NSW and Australia.

In April 1928, Colin was packing down in the front row for Yass at Victoria Park in front of a few hundred spectators a complete unknown. But two short months later, Colin was in the front row for Australia in front of 48,000 people at the packed Brisbane Exhibition Grounds in the first test against England.

His grandchildren were present and acknowledged their father as well, who passed away two years ago.

“As a family, we are proud to be here to see Colin York honoured for his contribution to football and the town of Yass….we have no doubt that our father Peter and Colin are both here today, sitting in this new grandstand, and having a beer and a pie and cheering on the magpies,” said granddaughter Deborah Lucas.

Ken Bell’s son, Michael Bell, gave a moving ‘welcome to country’ before responding to the citation about his father as Ken and his wife Pam looked on.

William Kenneth ‘Kenny’ Bell was also born in Yass on October 10, 1946 – Present. The 76-year-old is a life member of several sporting organisations and an indigenous elder.

Ken and Pam Bell

He was the first Indigenous Coach of Yass Rugby League Juniors and Seniors from the mid-1960s. Ken became the President of the Boys Club, during a time when racial tensions were still running very high. For a young Indigenous man like Ken to take on the role in the first place was brave, and for him to stay in the job for 12 years, overseeing the growth of the club, was a testament to the man himself.

Michael reflected – “Today’s recognition, on behalf of an aboriginal man, born on Hollywood mission, who went on to represent his town in numerous ways; he’s got a grandson playing here in minute, other grandsons that play here as well. And that’s what it’s all about; the legacy that is left and the ability to play sport in a small town, in a small community where our commonalities bring us together. And those commonalities have been led by sport in this town and reflected in the achievements of my father.”

Yass United Rugby League Football club put forward an application to council to officially name the newly constructed grandstand, and it was approved in April. 

Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath said the application put forward by the club was an easy one for Council to endorse.

“Today we’re celebrating the results of the community working together and building a better example at Walker Park of the achievements that a community can do when they work together,” Allan said.

Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath

“It’s great to see the new grandstand at Walker Park completed and it’s important that it’s given an appropriate name to inspire future sporting generations who use the facilities.”

The opening also included the unveiling of two citation signs that are now permanently secured to either side of the grandstand. The citations give visitors and locals an insight into both men and the significant contribution they have made to sport in the Yass Valley.

“The Walker Park sporting complex is well used and very popular amongst our local sporting groups,” Allan said. “The improvements made to the complex will benefit all user groups and ensures that the facility can be used by our community for many years to come.”

Council secured $500,000 in funding from the Australian Government, Sport Australia – Move It AUS Community Sport Infrastructure Grant for the complex upgrades. Council contributed $50,000 to the project, with four local user groups generously contributing a further $18,000 to the improvements.

Reserve Grade Magpies take to the field

The extensive upgrades included a new carpark adjacent to the level three playing fields, upgrades to field lighting, a new official’s room, and a covered grandstand.

Allan said he was pleased to see the community already taking advantage of the new upgrades.

Yass United Rugby League Football Club, Yass Touch Association, Yass Minor Rugby League and Yass Football club were the four user groups of the Walker Park complex that contributed financially to the project.

Yass United Rugby League Football Club President Tim Clayton said the club was happy to contribute to the cost of the improvements.

“We are thankful to Council for securing this grant and for consulting with us throughout the project,” Tim said. 

“It is a fantastic and well utilised local sporting facility, and we always look forward to welcoming clubs from around the region to play here.”