Connecting the Old to the New
Newcastle Hunter Cycling Club History
The first bicycle club was formed in Newcastle in the year 1887, and was known as The Newcastle Bicycle Club, an amateur body. It was established by about a dozen riders.
The site for the first organised races on bicycles was the Newcastle Cricket Ground, which was in the vicinity of the present Centennial Park, at Cook’s Hill. In the early days interest matched that of the Sydney clubs and before long Newcastle was the largest and most flourishing cycling unit outside Sydney.
There was a great stimulation in the use of the bicycle as a means of transport with the introduction of the “safety bicycle” which appears to have first come to Newcastle in 1899.
The club by now was a powerful unit and a decision was made to construct a four-laps-to-the-mile track for racing at the Newcastle Sports Ground. This ground was the venue for Rugby Football and was situated south west of the present bank corner. The track was opened in 1897. These grounds become the scene of many notable meetings in the subsequent boom years of early cycling.
The number slowly increased and, despite the impediment of the Great War, was at 150 by 1921, and reached a peak of 247 members in 1925. The impetus continued and clubs were formed in surrounding districts and spread into the Hunter Valley.
The Newcastle Amateur Cycling Club continued as a major unit and interest in cycling heightened when a second Amateur club was formed as a unit of the Police Boys’ Club in 1945. The new club immediately prospered and membership was maintained by virtue of its associations. The Police Boys’ Cycling Club was always strong in juvenile ranks and consequently a flow of riders came through the Senior ranks. Some rose to great heights as Australian champions and in this context, we think of John Tressider, Don Feeney, Peter Taylor and Ian Chapman.
However, after 1954 Amateur cycling in Newcastle suffered its greatest reverse since the inception in 1887, when the Newcastle Amateur Cycling Club broke up. Some of the riders joined the Police Boys’ Club and others went into the Professionals with the newly formed Newcastle League Cycling Club.
In June 1961, the administration of the Police Boys’ Club was rent with internal strife and out of this was born a new club [June 4], the Hunter Districts’ Amateur Cycling Club, pledged to advance the cause of Amateur cycling not only in Newcastle but also throughout the whole Hunter Valley. However the Police Boys’ Club remained with reduced strength.
The success of the new club was reminiscent of former years. In less than 15 months it was dominating in country competition. By 1965 it reached its peak of success by winning seven State and Country Championships out of a possible eight. The top rider was Jock Bullen, who was state sprint champion on three successive occasions. David Potts won the club its first national title when he took the Australian Schoolboy final in 1964.
In 1967, the formation of the Newcastle Velodrome Trust announced it was to establish an-eight-laps to the mile velodrome on public land adjacent to the racecourse at Broadmeadow.
While all this was going on the Newcastle League was gaining in strength and standards. Champions like Bob Ryan, Ian Chapman and the late Murray Walker remained securely on top in NSW Professional cycling. Over the next 50 years the Newcastle League Cycling Club changed its name several times. It became the Novocastrian Cycle Club and then The Kooragang Open Cycle with racing around a course on Kooragang Island.
During the 80’s the Kooragang Open Cycle Club joined with the Hunter District Cycle Club but after a short period and upon mutual consent the Clubs went back to being ran independently.
In December 2017 the Kooragang Open Cycle Club changed its name to Newcastle Cycling Club still racing around Kooragang Island and also started Cyclocross Racing on a course developed around and behind the Kooragang Clubhouse.
However, with increasing population & requirements by authorities it was becoming increasing difficult to be granted approval to race on courses close to Newcastle. By 2020 both Hunter Districts Cycle Club & Newcastle Cycling Club were sharing a course at the Hunter Economic Zone near Kurri Kurri. At the beginning of 2021 both clubs held a vote of members and it was decided to amalgamate the two existing clubs. In April 2021 the new Newcastle Hunter Cycling Club was formed.