The Benoni Town Council developed a residential area north of the Town for the development of houses and called the area Northmead, to the East of Northmead was Rynfield. The Council allocated an area between these two suburbs for the development of sporting facilities.
The Council in the sixties created a Board under the Chairmanship of John Barrable whose task was to develop sporting facilities for the residents. Hence the Northerns Area Sports Board was created.
The designated area was named Albert Bekker Park and earmarked as a multi-sport facility. Today more so known as Benoni Northerns Sports Fields. The Board facilitated funds from Council for the development of the facilities.
Benoni Hockey Club driven by Twis Dudley and St Patricks Cricket Club by Ivan Dekker and Ray van der Wagen mooted they should play their sport at the Northern Areas Fields. The Board accepted them as participants and planned the necessary playing fields funded by Council. The two joined and formed the “Benoni Northern Areas Sports Club” officially in 1972. The origin of the Club Badge is claimed to be that of the Essex County Cricket Club with the scimitars turned into the strike mode. The colours of Essex being red and white. Some say in the early days Northerns had a Cricket professional playing for the Club from Essex and a liking was taken to the Badge. (Urban legend?)
In February 1973 the first sod of the Clubhouse for the Benoni Northern Sports Club was turned, a welcome new home for the young Club replacing the tin shed!
The foundation of the Club was Hockey and Cricket then in 1975 Manny Ferreirinho decided to start Soccer at Northerns. With Soccer the Club now had three Sections and experienced rapid growth.
The Northerns Tennis Club was established as an independent Club as was the Northerns Swimming Pool Facility neither part of Benoni Northern Areas Sports Club. The John Barrable Hall is independent of the Northerns Sports Club and is administered and run by the Council to this day, even though located in the middle of the Northerns Sports fields. The Northerns Sports Board of Control whose original function was to facilitate funds from the Council to develop sport eventually served no purpose and ceased to exist and all the clubs went their own way.
From humble beginnings Benoni Northerns by the middle seventies had become the third biggest Hockey Club in the Country with twenty four teams. A force to be reckoned with and the venue for major Hockey Tournaments and even International games. Hockey continued as the most successful and consistent section of the Club through the seventies and the foundation for the success of the Club.
The Eighties saw dramatic changes and growth at the Club. The Athletics Section was formed. The Benoni Cricket Club amalgamated with Northerns and brought with it their talent and experience. With the Club came the legendary Dennis Lindsay to Benoni Northerns.
The eighties has to be the Golden Decade in the history of Benoni Northerns. Hockey participated in the National Club Championships having won Premier League consistently. Football became a major force in the Transvaal Amateur First Division. Their games would at times attract a few thousand people to the “North”. Then of course to crown it all was our very own Frith van Der Merwe’s historical feats in the Comrades. We also had in Gary Turner, Val Bleazard and Avril Godwin top Comrade’s Runners. The mentorship and guidance of Riaan van Wyk contributed to the growth and ethos of the new vibrant and wonderful Athletics Section. Northerns Baseball also flourished under the mentorship of Keith Smith with many players gaining National Colours a trend which continues to this day.
The eighties saw the growth of the Junior Sections. The Northerns Junior Cricket Academy was initiated by Dennis Lindsay, Mini Hockey was started by John Hawkins and carried on by Jerry Bayley. Junior Football grew exponentially. People simply flocked to Northerns, they were wonderful years for a true family and community orientated Club. This remains so to this very day.
The Fields still remain the property of the Council and the role played by the Council over the years in the development of the Northerns Club cannot be underestimated. The perfect example of what a public and private partnership can achieve.
So too must credit go to the Benoni City Times, they played an important role with promoting sport in Benoni and at Northerns. The Club fondly remembers “Mr” McBride from the early years, succeeded by Clinton van der Bergh, Kevin Mac Callum and Logan Green, supported of course by Hilary Green. The City Times has been a partner and supporter of Northerns since day one!
Northerns undertook a number of capital projects in the Nineties, among them the Hall for functions. Funds generated were ploughed back into the Club, managed and controlled under the watchful eye of Dave Wilson. Strict financial management was key in ensuring the sustainability of the Club through its ambitious expansionary period.
In the nineties Northerns welcomed the changes in sport and the newly created Structures of the Provincial and National Associations under whom Northerns had always played their sport. One need only visit the Club on game days or attend Athletic “runs” to witness how Northerns has embraced change.
During the first decade of the new millennium junior sport continued to flourish however Hockey regressed as the dynamics of the game changed with the introduction of synthetic surfaces. Northerns were left behind with no Astroturf while Soccer continued to be played without enjoying any real growth, a trend at club level. Cricket however did see growth a direct spinoff from the success of the National Team while at Northerns due to the capable leadership of Craig Wittstock.
The last decade has seen new and exciting developments at the Club.
The Northerns Tennis Club became a section of Benoni Northerns (previously an independent Club).
A Bridge Section was started at the Club and is flourishing. This section is a valuable contributor to the Community and consists mainly of older members. The age of Club members now ranges from six to ninety years of age!
Eastern’s Hockey Association funded by Lotto in 2015 sited their Astro Field at the Northerns Sports grounds and share the use of the Clubs facilities. This is now the centralised venue for Hockey in Eastern’s.
The Benoni Rugby Club which was established some hundred years ago joined the Club and play as Benoni Northerns. The Club sees a great and exciting future for Rugby at Benoni Northerns. This move was supported by the Valke Rugby Union.
The “Scimitar” Bar and Beer Garden was established. A pleasant and fabulous facility used extensively by members and a popular venue for participants after games and runs.
When Sports Clubs around the Country are failing Northerns has continued to survive and grow. Northerns as with other Clubs are not sustainable through revenue generated from Subscriptions only. The Club has had to find innovative ways to utilize its facilities to raise funds hence the holding of events such as Marathons, Festivals, Tournaments, “The Toy Run” and so on. Without these Northerns would not be the Premier Sports Club on the East Rand, a Club to be proud. A facility for residents of all ages to partake in sport. This popular Club has at least a hundred thousand visitors per year.
The Club truly serves the Community. At present it has some two and a half thousand members split roughly between seniors and juniors. It would not exists if not for those many members who have dedicated their time and effort to the Club over the years and those who currently continue to do so. Only a few stalwarts are mentioned, one just simply cannot mention everyone, apologies to those who may have been overlooked, but you know who you are!
Residents are welcome to visit this wonderful Club, come and have a look around, enjoy the history which adorns the walls, while enjoying a refreshment in the company of the members and experiencing the friendliness of the staff. You will be surprised at the “gem” that exists in your neighbourhood.