As a new season looms for the Dirty Reds, the ovals and hills at Rugby Park in Goulburn carry the names of their legends. The Reds celebrate their history as if it were a hard-won trophy. Adding lustre is a pristine new second oval honouring the Klem family.
David and Matthew Klem became the Reds’ first father-and-son life members. That came after many years of David and sons Matthew and Scott managing the club, driving the team bus, being the ball boys, the sand boys, the president, helping develop grounds, taking home dirty jumpers and returning them clean the next week.
“I have photos – you would see the little Klem’s Bakery Mini Minor in the backyard, then in the background you would see a clothes line of Dirty Reds jumpers hanging on the line,” Matthew said, recounting the days when the family had a bakery in the main street. Lyn Klem would feed her children, who walked from there, across a carpark and into St Pat’s primary school.
Today, the bakery and school are gone. David died in 2018. He was named Nugget and had become a giant in the club’s history, according to the Reds’ registrar Chris Gordon, who has all the records at his fingertips.
“Guys like John Osmond and Ray Mooney were researching and recording the club’s history way before I was on the scene,” Chris said. “It’s just a relay express where we take up the baton.”
Their records go back to Monday, 22 July, 1872, when Bowral-born Valentine Blomfield Riley arrived in Goulburn to open a surveying company with his father. Having captained a team while at Sydney University, he convened a meeting and soon after, the first rugby ball was kicked into the air in Goulburn, the first club to form in country Australia.
By 1893, Goulburn was hosting the Central Southern Rugby Union competition and six years later the British Lions opened their Australian tour against a CSRU representative side in Goulburn, beating the locals 11-3.
Today, representative games are returning to Goulburn because the Reds, who had no home ground until 1996, have built around legends such as international Simon Poidevin.
Club president Jackson Reardon, who followed his father John into the club, secured a $150,000 grant for the latest ground’s development and watched over 18 months as volunteers began earthworks, and sat out a drought before opening Klem Oval last year. Dave Anable, in particular, and father and son Sam and Nick Tabner, among many others, established Klem Oval.
“We have a little management team, guys like Shaune Martin, Matt Klem, Peter Greaves and Kevin Kara, who are not as involved in the playing these days, they’re not even involved in coaching, but they’re giving back to the club through helping out with maintenance of the ground, so we are really lucky,” Jackson said.
“Chris and Geoffrey Shepherd help out with maintenance and line marking. Shaune and Matt organise the fertilising and weed control and mowing.”
Irrigated with bore water, the grounds’ first-class condition was a credit to the club, Jackson said.
“We are in pre-season training now on the bottom field, saving Poidevin Oval and allowing its surface to get nice and thick for the season,” he said.
“This year we’re holding the Brumbies Provincial Championships involving junior and senior representative football played there on the June long weekend, between Monaro and Southern Inland. That will be a big weekend, I would estimate anywhere from 500 to 750 people.”
In the pre-season, the Dirty Reds will hold a memorial day on 18 March to remember Luke McCue, who tragically died in a car crash.
“We will have a trial game between Crookwell and Goulburn, which honours Luke, who was from Crookwell and played a lot of his rugby in Goulburn,” Jackson said. “We will remember other people lost over the years, Chadd Selby, Hugo Cunningham and Tangi Tangitamaiti, as well as Luke,” he said.
”Everyone – women and juniors included – will be playing sevens. It’s all about having fun, a bit of a run around and playing rugby together. It’s a really good day.”
And so the rugby narrative continues, building a future on the past.