Special Report by Matt Cleary
IF you Google search images of Bugaldie in north-western NSW you’ll see a Memorial Hall, the fine old Imperial Hotel and vistas of the majestic Warrumbungle ranges.
What you won’t see a lot of is people given that at the last census the population of Bugaldie was 29.
That number dropped by one this week when 16-year-old Reuben Shannon spent his school holidays doing work experience with Accor Stadium’s Grounds Team.
That his time overlapped with State of Origin Game III and the opening game of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, Australia’s Matildas versus Republic of Ireland, was a happy coincidence.
Reuben said he’d never seen an Origin game before much less 80,000 people all in one spot. For the boy from Bugaldie, the mighty monolith of the former Olympic Stadium in the City of Parramatta was quite the first sight.
“I was amazed at how big it is,” Reuben told The Parramatta Times. “It seems like a big paddock but it’s just so much more isn’t it?”
Asked to compare State of Origin with the biggest football clash in his region, Reuben said: “Coonabarabran versus Wellington is pretty big. It’s a good day out. But this stadium is a bit different to Coonabarabran No.3 Oval.”
Reuben’s family have a 3400-acre property farming Angus cattle and wheat. When he’s not helping on the farm he’s boarding at Farrer Memorial Argricultural High School in Tamworth, about a three-hour drive from home.
One of his teachers has a friend who works at VenuesLive, the operator of Accor Stadium, who tipped him on to Head Curator Graeme Logan, a doyen of the sports turf industry. Soon enough Reuben was getting his hands dirty in the sand-based synthetic reinforced profile soil of Accor Stadium.
Soon after that Reuben was being interviewed by Mike Dalton on Channel Nine National News.
Logan told The Parramatta Times that like a lot of youngsters from the land, Reuben can turn his hand to most things.
“He’s got a good understanding of what’s required and he’s not physically challenged at all. And he’s got a lot of enthusiasm. And he can do anything.
“Being from the farm, they’re self-taught and they’ve got to be a contributor. And he loves it. The passion and the vibe he brings to the team is fantastic,” Logan said.
“It’s been great,” Reuben said. “I’ve learned a lot about the soil, about the machinery, how to keep it maintained. Learning about the fertiliser they use. I’m really enjoying it.”
Reuben will finish Year 12 next year and hopes to return to Accor Stadium and begin an apprenticeship with Logan and the team. He said greenkeeping suits his skillset and interests – agriculture and sport.
The most stressed he’s been was painting the 10-metre line before Origin Game III.
“Drawing the 10m line, I was very nervous,” he said. “But I got through it. You’ve got to squint to keep it straight on the string.
“But it’s been amazing – I didn’t think I’d be here. I pinch myself in the morning coming to work. It’s a great opportunity.”
There hasn’t been too much culture shock, apparently, for a kid from a town of 29 living in a city of 5.3 million.
“He seems to think he’s mastered Sydney’s traffic,” Logan said with a smile. “He reckons he’s not overwhelmed by it. But tonight [at Origin Game III] will be a challenge when he’s out in the middle with the 70-odd thousand people here.
“That’ll be a real experience for him.”