Twickenham Oval, well known as the home of the Tumut Blues, is one of the more revered rugby league grounds in the Riverina.
Boasting an immaculate international first grade playing surface that hosts both the Blues and the Roddy Shield competition, the ground gets its fair share of use throughout the year.
Additionally, the surrounding grounds, including the Roddy Shield field, training field and mini and mod league fields, play host to the Tumut Minor League club.
It is nothing out of the ordinary to see more than 20 TML games played on some Saturdays, which in turn means 100s of kids can be utilising these multiple surfaces at any one time.
Having these grounds in such good condition doesn’t just happen either, with a small group of volunteers working hard to keep Twickenham in tip top shape.
Keith Shelley, Anthony Oddy and Ken Keenan are the brains trust that keep Twickenham ticking over, week in and week out, year in and year out.
Oddy has spent more than a decade catering to the needs of Twickenham and it is nothing new to see him mowing the grounds, cleaning the kiosk area or watching on with interest as the Blues train.
When asked what his motivation was for continuing the work, he said it came down to making sure the Blues had a pristine playing surface.
“I have been involved for more than 10 years, probably 12 years. We try and make sure the ground is ready for them to train on it and play on,” Oddy said.
Oddy was to the point when quizzed about the surface being ready for the upcoming group 9 season, with Tumut set to host rivals, Gundagai on July 18
“Oh god yeah, it’s ready to go, don’t you worry about that,” Oddy said.
The long-time Blues volunteer and committeeman passed a lot of praise on to his mates though, suggesting it was very much a team effort.
“Kenny more or less marks the grounds and makes sure it looks good for training and game day and Keith does a lot of work down there that people don’t know about,” Oddy said.
“If the mower breaks, he fixes it, or if a water piper bursts, he’ll patch it up. He has been good to the football club for a long time. Without Keith and Kenny, the football club would be buggered.”
Keenan is another long-time committeeman and volunteer that has spent the last 21 years with the club and he said there were multiple reasons why he did what he did for the Blues.
“Mainly, I Just want to make sure the grounds are up to scratch for the players,” Keenan said.
“Another of the main reasons I am still involved is that I’ve got four grandsons that are playing minor league and juniors and a granddaughter playing leagutag as well”
Keenan touched on the friendships made throughout his time with the club and the pride of annually presenting one of the best fields in the Riverina.
“The friendships I’ve made while being involved with football over the years, you can’t replace that and it has been a big part of my life,” Keenan said.
“There is a lot of pride between us three. Odd (Anthony Oddy) is forever mowing and Keith is the backbone of us and it has been a pleasure to see the ground in such good condition.”
Shelley, a former president and another long-time committee member volunteer of the Blues, believes the ground would receive at least 20 hours of attention a week between the three volunteers.
“I reckon us three would be putting in 20 hours a week, we have to do all these grounds, look after the kiosk, sweep and clean it and people are not aware of how much work goes into it,” Shelley said.
“Odd (Anthony Oddy) is down here mowing, cleaning up and buggering about after the football and that is probably a full day’s work.
“I am down here one or two days a week helping and Kenny is here on Thursdays and Fridays mowing the lines and puting the lines in.”
Shelley did feel their work was unappreciated though, and hoped that players and coaches would think twice before using the main ground for training and games in the future.
“When we come here to Twickenham, we look at it with pride but that is the biggest problem, we are the only people that are proud of it,” Shelley said.
“The coaches don’t seem to care, they don’t care if it is wet because they will still train and, the (Tumut) Minor league will play on it when they are asked not to and this is the problem we face.
“Sometimes it’s a hassle for us to keep going because we ask people to stay off the ground sometimes, but they are all over it. Especially if they are playing Saturdays and we have a big game on Sunday.”
Despite being a little frustrated, Shelley did find time to make a special mention to former Tumut Golf Club greenkeeper and long-time supporter of the Tumut Blues, Scott Manuel for his invaluable help over the years.
“Scott was the backbone of us fellas staying here and getting this job done, because he was so good to us,” Shelley said.
“He would come down on his own time, weekends or whatever it was, and help us do the marking and especially the spraying for the weeds and the animals in the ground.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Scott and what he did for us here”
Blues president, Bryan Black thanked the work of Shelley, Oddy and Keenan, suggesting they had a reason to be protective of Twickenham.
“What they do is invaluable, the ground is one of the best grounds in Group 9 and they make it that way,” Black said.
“Sometimes they are overprotective of the ground, but considering the effort they put in, they have the right to be that way.”
On a final note, Black wanted to remind people that the trio of Shelley, Oddy and Keenan, were volunteers, who put in the time and effort to support the club they love.
“This is all volunteer based because we are not serviced by the council, so we have to rely on their volunteer work and the hours they put in,” Black said.
“They do a great job and it is a credit to them.”