The 7 footy grounds you’ve probably never heard of

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“OUR banners fly on high, from dawn to dark, down at Argyle Paddock.”

It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Probably because the song was penned specifically for Kardinia Park and finding a word to rhyme with “paddock” is very fucking hard. “Sporadic”, maybe?

Either way, Argyle Paddock is one of the most important footy grounds in the history of the game. Don’t bother making the pilgrimage to pay your respects though. It’s gone. And you probably didn’t even know it existed.

You monster.

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1. ARGYLE SQUARE

BEFORE the Geelong faithful waddled along Moorabool St to Kardinia Park in their unflattering blue and white hoops, they trammed it up Ryrie St to Corio Oval.

Yep. Trams. Just like them there cultured folk do in Melbourne.

But well before that, the seed of the football madness that would envelop Sleepy Hollow was being planted in Geelong West at Argyle Square.

Directly to the west of booze house Irish Murphy’s Pub (above), (nee Argyle Hotel), the Seagulls – as they were then known – played their very first match against Melbourne in 1860, with the game finishing in a thrilling* draw.

The club stayed at Argyle Square until moving to Corio Oval 1878.

*It was scoreless

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2. AILSA ESTATE

AILSA Estate has been home to an organization that hoodwinks its members and blindly believes anything its benevolent leader says – and it’s also home to the Church of Scientology.

The birthplace of the Essendon Football Club, Ailsa Estate – on Mount Alexander Rd in Ascot Vale – hosted Essendon’s first match in 1873 having witnessed the first official meeting of the club months earlier.

The structure pictured above was not a part of the original estate, and was only built in 1936 after the first Ailsa was destroyed.

Ailsa Estate became the headquarters of the Melbourne branch of the Church of Scientology in 2007.

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3. MOTORDROME

THIS is one way to make Melbourne FC games more exciting. Whack a tilted racetrack around the boundary and get daredevils on motorbikes to cut some laps.

The Motordrome was built in 1924 on the back of some quality investing by “colourful” Melbourne businessman John Wren. On the site of the current-day Olympic Park, the ground hosted three Melbourne games and a whole lotta speedway – the venue would regularly host 30,000 revheads.

It was also infamously used for an ostrich racing event in 1926, which was called off after “startled ostriches ridden by inanimate jockeys ran in opposite directions, and ostriches attached to sulkies failed to break out of a walk.”

Still more entertaining than a Demons game.

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4. MADELEINE STREET RESERVE

YOU’RE as likely to find Madeleine St in the Melbourne CBD as you are to find Mick Malthouse handing out Gatorades after a Carlton match.

Located at the northern end of modern-day Swanston St, Madeleine Street Reserve was home to Carlton in 1876 after Melbourne University granted them “permissive occupancy” to use the space. That meant they could improve the ground as they saw fit, and charge admission to games.

In the Grand Final of that season against Melbourne, Carlton raised a veritable shit ton of money for the Hospital Saturday Fund. They probably would have done it again the next season, too, if it wasn’t for Melbourne Uni saying “hey, fuck charity” and banning Carlton from charging admission.

The site is now home to Newman College (above) and a bunch of coffee-swilling, fight-the-power uni students.

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5. ALPACA PADDOCK

A DECADE before the successful St Kilda franchise was formed, a similarly successful attempt to breed alpacas was happening just south of Albert Park.

During the 1860s, farmers showing an almost prophetic hipster attitude that their Melbourne descendants would be proud of, decided that riding the sheep’s back was all too mainstream and they’d try their luck with the poncho producers.

It failed. So they said “ya know what can’t fail? A footy club”, and granted the Saints permission to use the paddock as their home ground from 1873 to 1886.

One premiership and 140-odd years later, it’s fair to say the alpacas would have had a better success rate at producing the goods.

Alpaca Paddock is now home to St Kilda Primary School (above).

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6. YARRAVILLE OVAL

CRY havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

That was the scene in Footscray in 1941 when the Bulldogs were forced off Western Oval to accommodate an army base for troops about to ship out to Papua New Guinea.

The Dogs were sent to Yarraville – a ground that still exists today – while the VFL took on a dramatically different look, with clubs forced off the MCG, Lake Oval and Junction Oval for varying amounts of time to make way for US and Australian soldiers.

The Cats, in the meantime, dropped out of the competition altogether due to road and rail transport restrictions, leaving them stuck in Geelong for two years with nothing to do.

War is hell.

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7. GRACE PARK

THESE days your biggest worry at Hawthorn games is breathing in the cloud of smug that permeates the all-conquering Hawks wherever they go.

Back in the early days, copping a hoof to the face was a legitimate concern.

Hawthorn played their first serious match at Grace Park in the 1880s, on a section of turf known as Mr King’s Paddock. There’s no record of who won, but it sure as hell wasn’t Mr King.

A six-foot fence that Mr King had erected was destroyed by spectators on horses, and a pissed off Mr King never welcomed the club back.

As a result, the Hawthorn council bought a block of land in Grace Park for the Hawks to play at (above) before they eventually (with several other grounds in between) moved ever so slightly east to Glenferrie Oval.

 

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