In the late
nineteenth century, if you traveled along the track later
to be known as Pittwater Road, you would pass a number of
wretched farms growing corn and pumpkins. This area was
originally known as Greendale but was later changed to
Brookvale after the name of the home built by the
original grantee of the land, William Francis Parker. It
was in this area that Dan Farrell built his stone house
called "Inverness" which was later to become
Manly Leagues Club.
Farrells Paddock was the site of a banquet in 1910 to mark the extension of the tramway from Manly to the village of Brookvale. In the following year, the State Government reached agreement with Warringah Shire Council to acquire land for a park near the Shires Offices. The acquired land plus a smaller parcel of land bought from Miss Jane Malcolm (later known as Jane Try) from Brookvale, was officially opened in 1911 as Brookvale Park..
The Park was transformed into a showground within the first decade. In 1921, the Brookvale Show was established with the formation of the Warringah Agricultural, Horticultural, Amateur Sports and Athletic Association. Between 1919 and 1928 children from Brookvale School planted trees to commemorate Arbor Day and it was the setting for school sports days and Empire Day picnics.
Over fifty annual shows were held at Brookvale Park before the show was moved to St. Ives Showground. Trotting and ring events were features of early shows at Brookvale. The trotting track occupied a substantial area of the Park with lighting of the ring for night entertainment. Substantial improvements were later made to form a sporting oval by the addition of stands. Pavilions were constructed along Alfred Road to house show exhibits. Outside of the annual show period these pavilions were used for local church services and meeting rooms for the local community. They were also used by local bands as a place to practice.
During the Second World War Brookvale Park was utilised by the Defence Force for training purposes. The Park has been used extensively over many years for festivals and sporting events.
While Manly Council favoured rugby union and would not permit league to played at Manly Oval, Warringah Council was more sympathetic to the rugby league cause and encouraged the playing of rugby league matches at Brookvale Park. Thus when Manly was granted first grade status in 1947, its first match in the big league was a home game at Brookvale Oval against Western Suburbs. Manly played well against more fancied opponents in that historic first match at Brookvale scoring three tries to one but narrowly losing the match 15 - 13 courtesy of a string of scrum penalties from referee Aub Oxford.
When I first started attending to matches there in the late fifties it was still an "oval" with a trotting track for the Brookvale Show. There was a tiny old wooden grandstand and the ground was stretching to fit in 8,000. There have been many changes over the years. The squaring off of the ground making it a true rugby league ground; increasing the size of the Hill; and the building of the Jane Try, Southern and Ken Arthurson Stands. But "Brookie" has still managed to retain its traditional atmosphere.
The Jane Try Stand opened in 1971 and was built at a cost of $250,000. The Ken Arthurson Stand was officially opened on Sunday 14th June 1995. It was built at a cost of $3.3.million and seats 1250 people.
The three metre high electric Eagle which now adorns the back of the stand facing Pittwater Road was donated by Australian Eagle Insurance and was worth $10,000. It had previously had a life as a well known North Shore landmark for many years at Eagle House the headquarters of Australian Eagle Insurance. There was controversy surrounding the gift. The Manly club were bitterly disappointed because Warringah Shire Council refused to allow the eagle to be displayed in a prominent place on one of the walls of the stand. Apparently the Warringah Shire Council decreed that the eagle would only highlight the existence of the new grandstand. "They want it hidden behind a jungle of landscaping" a Manly official said at the time.