Archery goes back thousands of years, but was unknown in Australia until white settlement. As a sport, it has had an uneven popularity, but since the end of the Second World War, there has been a resurgence of interest.
This post-war interest was also reflected in Penrith for in March 1998, archery celebrated fifty years of competition in Australia. The national championships rotate between the capital cities of each state and that year the Penrith City Archers were selected to host the 51st National Archery Championships at their home ground in Werrington Road, Werrington Park. This week long championship was attended by 180 of the top archers from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland, and included local champions from both the Penrith City Archers (PCA) and the Bowmen of St. Marys Clubs. This competition marked the pinnacle of the PCA’s history to that time – a history that had been chequered to say the least.
In 1962, Jim Cotter, later a Master Archer, a member of the Fairfield Club, was instrumental in founding the Penrith Club. On 20th August, 1962 eight other interested people met with Jim Cotter in the School of Arts and decided to form the Penrith City Archers. Office-bearers were elected and nomination and annual subscription fees were set. These toxophilites, as archery participants are technically called, became the core of the Penrith City Archers Club, which has continued now for nearly forty years. The foundation president was John Inall and their first home ground was located in the south-east corner of Jamison Park. However, their concerns about the safety of other park users – who refused to stay outside the boundary ropes set up to keep them away from the shooting area – caused them to move to a new venue.
In fact, the Penrith City Archers spent the first twenty-five years of their existence moving from venue to venue – seventeen in all – as they sought to obtain a permanent home ground. During that time they had constantly to rely on the goodwill of landowners for safe areas to shoot in the open. For a while, they enjoyed an indoor shooting range at the disused Colyton Jam Factory, a venue which was used by several groups at that time. Unfortunately, repeated vandal attacks rendered the factory unsafe, and after several accidents it was eventually closed to all users. Despite all these setbacks, the Club struggled to keep afloat, with no outside funding to help them. It wasn’t till 1986 that they finally obtained their present Werrington premises.
Even this site was fraught with problems. After discussions with the NSW State Environment and Planning Department and the Penrith City Council, a site off Poole Street in Werrington, owned by the State Government, was decided upon. Unfortunately, local residents expressed concerns about the safety of their children if this site was used, even though the Club had an unblemished record. Penrith City Council, the Penrith City Archers and the local residents consulted, and a new site between the railway line and the golf driving range at Werrington was settled on. The Council graded and levelled the site which was named the Troy Adams Archery Field after the death, in a road accident in 1985, of the Club’s 16 year old NSW Junior Captain. The land is still owned by the State government but is managed by the Penrith City Council and leased by the archery Club.
With the finalisation of a home ground, The Club set about negotiations with the two national archery groups, representing both target and hunting archery, the Penrith City Council, and the State Bicentennial Authority, to host a national shoot as part of Penrith’s Bicentennial celebrations in April 1988. Over 230 archers from all over the country attended the Commonwealth Bank Bicentennial Festival of Archery, and shooting took place in April, over three days and one night. This competition saw a lot of firsts. The first time a club had been given permission to hold a meet combining the talents of FITA (the Federation of International Target Archers) members, hunting style archers and disabled archers. The first time crossbow shooting – illegal in NSW, unless the user has police permission and is a member of a recognised club – had been included in a meet in NSW, and the first time shooting under lights had occurred in Australia.
The Club is affiliated with the Archery Association of NSW and the federal body is Archery Australia. The world governing body is the aforementioned Federation of International Target Archery. Archery has several facets – target, clout and field. The first two are practised by the Penrith City Archers as a target shooting Club, the third is practised in the Penrith area by the Game and Field Bow Hunters of Castlereagh. As the names imply, the former involves hitting a target, from a standing position, with the target vertical in target shooting and horizontal in clout shooting. The distances are known. Field shooting involves moving around a course and shooting at targets set up within a given area. In this case the distances are unknown and have to be judged by the competitors, which adds to the complexity of the event.
Club membership numbers fluctuate having been as high as 64. At present there are around 30 active members, with about 50% attending the Sunday meets. Over the years, the Penrith City Archers have produced several national and international representatives and is always interested in recruiting new archers to the Club. The sport is open to both men and women as well as young people and tuition in this ancient art is available at the Club. While the equipment has changed over the years, the basic precepts remain. It is a sport which requires a good eye and intense concentration, an ancient art which is both challenging and rewarding to the participants.
Archery Action, Sept./Oct. 1988, p.27.
Mt Druitt-St Marys Standard, 4/3/98, p.43.
Penrith City Star, 2/12/86, p.4.
Penrith City Star, 18/2/86, p.1.
Penrith Press 20/2/85, p.5.
Penrith Press 27/12/85, p.8.
Penrith Press 21/5/86, p.9.
Penrith Press, 3/9/86, p.5.
Penrith Press, 19/4/88, p.7.
Penrith Press, 6/3/98, p.56.
Vandervord, Gordon, Conversation, 4/9/00.
Western Weekender, 13/3/98, p.63..