It’s 50 years since the Cobar Camels Alisa Fitzsimmons Memorial Oval was officially opened by the then president of Australian Rugby Union, Charles Blunt.
The oval and its clubhouse were officially opened in June 1970 and named in honour of a young nurse, Ailsa Fitzsimmons, who is credited as being the foundress of the Cobar Rugby Club.
Ailsa was a young woman who was revered in rugby circles and it was her dedication to the sport that earned her the title of “Miss Rugby”.
Ailsa was born in Sydney and was educated at Sydney Girls High School.
She came to work at Cobar Hospital in 1955 as a young nursing sister.
Ailsa had been a rugby devotee since a young child, accompanying her father regularly to matches in Sydney.
It was because of her father’s prominence in rugby circles that Ailsa came to meet many leading players and officials from Australian and overseas clubs.
“She became not only very interested in the game, but also exceptionally well-informed and dedicated,” according to a report from the Cobar Copper Centenary Book (1969).
Ailsa gathered a nucleus of local interested people to form the Cobar Rugby Club in 1958.
Along with her nursing friends Norma Dunne and Joy Turvey, and former St Joseph’s College player Chris Forbes, they were the founding members and made up the first executive committee.
After rugby union had not been played in Cobar for 47 years, a seven-a-side competition was launched in 1959 with a few teams competing.
It wasn’t long before rugby union was in full swing in Cobar, with a large number of juniors becoming interested in playing, due to Ailsa’s efforts.
Assisted by Don Murray, Norma and Joy, Ailsa also infused many others with her keenness for rugby union and within just four years, the Cobar club had produced its first Australian Wallaby player in Bruce Harland.
Sadly at the young age of 34, after a short illness, Ailsa died of pneumonia.
At the time of her sudden death she was publicity officer for the Cobar Club, a member of the management committee and secretary of the Cobar Group of Juniors.
She was also secretary of the Far Western Zone of Country Rugby Union and Country Vice President.
Ailsa’s funeral service at the Cobar Methodist Church in March 1963 was packed with Cobar Rugby Union players Bruce Harland, Stuart Mosely, Wally Black, Bill Houghton, Chris Forbes and Ray Osbourne acting as her pall bearers.
A second service at Waverly was also well attended with several members of the Cobar committee and a number of players travelling to Sydney to join a large number of the country’s leading rugby officials to honour her memory.
“Rugby Union has many grand women who contribute as much to the game’s cause as the menfolk, but none has surpassed the efforts of the late Miss Fitzsimmons,” The Rugby News reported in April 1963 following her passing.