Headmaster's Weekly Address


Tooronga Sports Fields are in operation! Last Saturday, Bishop Terry Curtin (SKC 63) performed the blessing and opening on a cold bright sunny morning. It was a green, gold and blue day of some significance. I invite you to read the address delivered by our Dean of Sport, Mr Travers, my words of thanks to all involved in the making of Tooronga and of importance, the booklet used for the blessing and opening.

Address by Mr Luke Travers, Dean of Sport
Opening of St Kevin’s College Tooronga Sports Fields
Saturday 17 June 2017

Bishop Curtin, Dr Tinsey, Mr Whelan, Mr Nally, Headmaster, Special Guests, colleagues and boys.

It is my great pleasure as the Dean of Sport, to speak on this, one of the most historic days in the history of the College.

I also have the pleasure to speak as an Old Collegian, as a past parent and as a generational Kevinian with my grandfather as a foundation scholar of St Kevin’s in 1918.

To understand the gravity of this day and the significance of this facility for the College, one must have a grasp of the history of St Kevin’s and its sporting facilities. It is a story of an ongoing journey to improve the provision of sporting and educational facilities for its students, overcoming sectarianism, financial constraints, geographical and environmental limitations.

In early 1918, the College opened in a couple of the classrooms at Christian Brothers College, Victoria Parade buildings, affectionately known as the ‘bluestone pile’ by Old Paradians. In September of that year, St Kevin’s moved to its newly built building in Albert Street, East Melbourne, at a cost of £7,500, slightly less than the cost of the Tooronga Sports Fields. As part of the new building, there was a Handball Court – the first sports facility of St Kevin’s. Opposite the school was the Fitzroy Gardens, where Kevinians kicked footballs in the gardens – avoiding the groundsmen who would kick them off.

Despite St Kevin’s being founded primarily as an academic concern, sport soon became organised and was played in a number of locations. Football was played at many venues, some now no more – the Brunswick Street Oval in Fitzroy, the Lake Oval in South Melbourne, Corio Oval, Geelong, Princes Park, Carlton, Old Scotch Oval in North Melbourne and Richmond Cricket Grounds and Como Park in South Yarra. Cricket was played in Yarra Park in the area around the MCG. Tennis was played at the Manresa Courts in Hawthorn or St Peter’s Courts in Toorak. Swimming Carnivals were held at Camberwell or Richmond Baths. Athletics at Toorak Park or the Punt Road Oval. We were homeless, without any grounds to play games, and at the mercy of Councils and Grounds Managers or Trustees to find venues for our sport.

Brother John Kearney, the Headmaster of the College in the early 1930s, had a vision for the school that included sports as an essential aspect of education and he sought to secure playing fields. He firstly entered into an agreement with the Richmond City Council for a long-term lease to develop a neglected area of Survey Park, what we now call Bartlett Reserve, into a sports field. Sectarian bigotry soon reared its ugly head and despite agreeing to invest £500 for its development, providing employment for many unemployed in depression-hit Richmond, the State Minister for lands intervened to quash the agreement. This setback actually worked in the College’s favour as Brother Kearney sought to seek out land that was wholly St Kevin’s and independent of Councils to provide for an ever increasing sports program and school numbers.

He soon found fourteen acres between the Darling Railway and Gardiners Creek where he envisioned sports fields, tennis courts, and a boatshed; what is now the Heyington Campus. Brother Kearney must have been a shrewd operator to negotiate a purchase in a depression era fire sale and then to convince the Provincial Council of the Brothers to approve the purchase. This acquisition allowed the development of the Heyington site into playing fields. Oval 1 in 1936, Oval 2 in 1942, and Oval 3 in 1960. This development overcame a series of cataclysmic floods in the 1930s and 1940s to satisfy the sporting needs of the College at that time. 

The entry of the College into the APS in 1958 expanded the sports program with every student playing in a sports team and the gradual addition of new sports. Rowing was ‘the’ Public School sport and from 1958, St Kevin’s embraced this activity but relied much on existing Boat Clubs for facilities to domicile our boats and resources to run our Rowing program. In 1974, we opened our own boat shed only a short walk from the senior classrooms to give us independence in the sport.

Expanding student numbers in the 1980s led to the construction of the Smith Building, Fraser Tennis Courts and Swimming Pool. This led to the disappearance of Oval 3 but we no longer depended on the largess of the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club for tennis courts and Kew Municipal Pool and Scotch College as training venues for swimming. It is no surprise that our performances in both sports improved dramatically with the advent of these facilities, again providing independence and convenience. The Undercroft of the Smith Building provided training space for Badminton in Summer and Basketball in Winter.

We have always and will continue to rely upon the assistance of our local councils – once Malvern, Prahran, Hawthorn and Richmond, now Cities of Yarra, Stonnington and Borooondara for grounds to play our sport. Righetti Oval, Kooyong Park, Burke Road South Reserve, Stanley Grove Oval, Gardiner Park, Dorothy Laver Reserve, Alan Bain Reserve, Loughnam Oval – just a few of the many grounds we have used to play our sport. Unfortunately we have had no certainty of use of these grounds and have lost tenancy at various times, which has provided many headaches for our fixturing of games.

In 2003, Hockey returned to the SKC sport curricula for the first time since 1948. Using the State Hockey Centre in Parkville for our home games and Hawthorn Hockey Club for training. In 2015, we lost our use of the State Hockey Centre and have played ‘away’ ever since. Tooronga will provide us with a home for this Olympic sport as well as a convenient training venue.

In 2006, the Wilding Centre was opened with eight Badminton courts and two Volleyball Courts in the summer, a magnificent eight lane Swimming Pool and two Basketball courts for the winter sport.

As the College has expanded in numbers, our need for facilities has increased, a need that cannot always be satisfied by external facility providers. Our expansion in numbers and the change in social demographics has caused a broadening in our sports offerings which require new and more sporting facilities. An increase in community sport numbers has placed greater stress on Council grounds, causing the withdrawal from school use of many grounds.

When you believe in the important value of sport as an educational vehicle, you also believe that every student should have the opportunity to have this learning experience. This means that with 2,050 students, you need to have a lot of sporting facilities to accommodate this belief. Tooronga will go a long way to providing practice and competition space for our 9 Hockey teams, 26 Soccer teams, 22 Cricket teams, 38 Tennis teams, a football ground and indoor training facilities.

The opening of this facility in the history of St Kevin’s ranks in significance with:
Our original buildings in Albert Street
The purchase of Glenbervie Mansion on St George’s and Orrong Roads
The purchase and development of the Heyington playing fields and later the Senior School
The construction of the new Glendalough in Lansell Road in 1971.

I would like to thank and congratulate those with the vision, dedication and acumen that has allowed this development to take place. The Headmaster has congratulated the many responsible for the rise of this site from redundant quarry, brickworks and carpark, to a magnificent sports facility of today. I endorse his thanks but also add my thanks and congratulations to Stephen Russell, our Headmaster who has driven this expansion of the College. 

May today’s games be the first of many great sparring contests for St Kevin’s College at this venue.

Address by Mr Stephen Russell, Headmaster
Opening of St Kevin’s College Tooronga Sports Fields
Saturday 17 June 2017

Bishop Curtin, Dr Tinsey, Mr and Mrs Whelan, Mr and Mrs Nally, Mr and Mrs Leahy, Special Guests, Colleagues and boys.

Good morning and thank you for sharing this important day in the life of our College.

Thank you Bishop Curtin (SKC 63) for your presence and the blessing of the Tooronga Sports Fields. You are a regular visitor to your old school and your ongoing support and encouragement is greatly appreciated.

I wish to publically recognise and thank Dr Wayne Tinsey, Executive Director of EREA, for his attendance and support.

Let me turn briefly in appreciation of the two wonderful former Board Chairs after whom the two pavilions have been named.

Des and Helene Whelan, it is a delight that today, when we honour Des’s contribution to St Kevin’s as our inaugural Board Chair (1988 – 1999), you are joined by so many of your family.

Des you have had a significant part in guiding and influencing three Headmasters at St Kevin’s. Brother Godfrey, Brother Wilding and my appointment as Deputy Headmaster, without which I would never have had the opportunity to serve our community today. Your loyalty and interest in all things St Kevin’s even today, speaks of your affection for our College.

Martin and Vicki Nally, we celebrate and honour Martin for the selfless and astute leadership offered by Martin (2005 – 2015) in his time as Board Chair.

My debt is significant as your provided sage advice across so many issues and you were the Board Chair, when the decision was taken regarding the acquisition of the land for these modern sporting and education facilities.

Before completing my important thank yous and welcomes, allow me to wander swiftly down the history lane initially explored by our Dean of Sport this morning that led us to these grounds today.

The need for sports grounds had been part of our Strategic Plan for decades. Since our move from the city to Toorak, we have developed grounds at Heyington in the 30s, in Lansell Road in the 70s and acquired and developed courts at Richmond in more recent times. Before securing this site, we explored 23 options across the last decade, some which if detailed today would seem fanciful, others which were very real prospects and so nearly came to fruition. The ideal location of these grounds has certainly meant that past disappointments have been more than made up for with the acquisition of Tooronga.

For a decade we saved so that when opportunity arose, we could act. The Board established criteria to be fulfilled financially and strategically, should we wish to acquire land and established very detailed due diligences which we would fulfil prior to acquisition. All this planning and discussion meant we were in a position to act when the opportunity to purchase this land came about. Some of the slightly more humourous aspects of our search involved the College Leadership Team having to arrive at Heyington in cycling gear and their own bikes in order to tour prospective sites and different members of College staff taking alternative routes to possible sites, timing their trips and measuring the distances.

I particularly wish to recognise this morning, the work of our Bursar, Mr Ray Tyrrell. He travelled down all the blind alleys with me prior to our finding the clear bike path to this site. His hands-on management of this project has had all the hallmarks of care, insight and diligence that have featured in so many of our recent buildings. Ray has been an outstanding Bursar for St Kevin’s and we wish he and Brigitte, happiness and good health in Ray’s active retirement.

It is relevant that I highlight today, that these grounds are part of a St Kevin’s education. That is an education based upon quality relationships. Relationships that exist boy to boy, teacher to boy, parents and staff, parents and parents and parents and sons. The relationships we establish through sport, allows us to teach our academic subjects better. It allows us to lead our boys into a deep understanding of the importance of social justice. It allows us to develop character in our students. 

Our Board Property Committee has been the proverbial tower of strength in the quality and quantum of advice they have given me across the years. That we have with us the two Chairs of that Property Committee in my time as Head here today is another delight. I acknowledge the professional acumen and many hours given to our projects by Denis Stephenson and John Lincoln and in recognising them, I thank also the many men and women who have been part of our Property Committee across the years.

We are appreciative that the College local Federal Member, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer was able to join us and recognise Ms Coral Ross, Councillor in the City of Boroondara.

Baldasso Cortese as our Architects, have designed once again, outstanding buildings. My thanks to Mr David Chandler and Mr Loris Rebschini for the original designs. It is so appropriate that Anthony Baldasso and Steven Cortese are with us today. Our thanks also to Mr Martin Gehrckens and Ms Sophie Russell.

Dalton Consulting Engineers worked alongside us in the grand design of these facilities and provided such quality advice in the engineering field on what was in many ways, a challenging site. To the Principal of the firm, Mr Shane Dalton we extend our admiration and deep thanks and to Mr Brent Gordon well done on the detailed management of this project.

My hope is our builders, 2Construct, take as much pride in the quality of these grounds and buildings as we at St Kevin’s do. Mr Duncan McPherson and Mr Peter Rahilly as Principals of the firm have shown constant interest in the project and ensured quality work. We also wish to recognise Mr Aaron Comerford (SKC 05), Mr Chris Barker, Mr Adrian Falduto and Mr Mike Waldron.

To our Project Managers, Case Meallin, who have been with us from the very start, thank you for your professional approach and deep interest in this project. I recognise particularly, Mr Mike James, Mr Lee Gomersall and Mr Matthew Weller.

Tuff Turf’s product is so evident before all assembled here today. Our thanks to Mr Fraser Gehrig and Mr Travis Knight.

We recognise and thank all consultants and advisors present, representatives of our neighbours – residential and commercial.

Let’s enjoy our boys singing on this particular sports day as our Senior Vocal Ensemble performs ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

We wish our musicians safe touring in the holidays as they make music in Tasmania and our Rugby teams good weather, pleasant and challenging opponents in Queensland.

Albert Street will be in operation much of the holidays, co-ordinated by Mr Jones, for VCE study. The Russells are travelling these holidays and I am using a week’s Long Service Leave, so I wish all excellent family time and look forward to rejoining the community on Monday 24 July.

Headmaster's Study Awards
Year 7 Mathematics  Lachlan Carroll
    Tak Heo
    Jack Hillyer
    Thomas Shewring
Year 11  Aviation  Finn Haughey
    Xavier Reimers
Year 12   Global Politics Maxwell Thomas

Kind regards,

Stephen F Russell

 St Kevin's College will ensure that learning be recognised as a means of empowerment and liberation in our world within a Gospel context.
(from the Mission Statement)