REMEMBER flicking through the Melways when you were a kid, trying to find the outline of footy grounds like Princes Park and Junction Oval?
No? Just me? Well. Fuck.
Anyway, that passion for painstakingly trawling maps for a bird’s eye view of our great game’s venues has culminated in the project below.
Every VFL/AFL ground ever used, mapped on Google, with information and stats on every one of the little bastards.
Go on, have a look:
Hopefully it works fine on mobile, and if you tap on the icons it should bring up a shit ton of data on each ground. The map is at its best on satellite so you can zoom in and take in the details.
But if that’s not enough for you, here’s a little bit on each ground in a four part series. From the MCG to Yallourn, and Brisbane’s Ekka to the WACA, we’ll try to tell you the things you didn’t know about the AFL’s historic stadiums.
MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND
THE great-grandfather of Australian sports venues has been hosting Australian Football since 1869.
It would have been earlier, but the MCC didn’t like those football ruffians with their spiked boots and devil-may-care attitude fucking up their ground, so they sent them to play on the paddocks next door.
Understandably, the MCC softened their “get stuffed” policy to allow a police team to play a trial match in 1869. It was another 10 years before a game was played there again, after the VFA was formed.
The first official VFL match was played in 1897 between Melbourne and Geelong, and there’s been 2742 games played there since, with Hawthorn holding the record winning percentage of 58.41%, a bee’s dick ahead of Essendon at 58.30%.
THE second most used ground for Australian Football, Carlton’s Princes Park is the only venue other than the MCG to host more than 1000 games.
Sent to second grade footy Siberia in 2005, the stadium – known as Optus Oval from 1994 to its eventual death – saw 1277 games, 962 of which were contested by Carlton.
Interestingly enough, while the record of most goals kicked in a game is held by superstars like Gary Ablett or Tony Lockett at other venues, the little known Harry Davie holds the record at Princes Park.
Davie, who played just 58 career games (49 for Melbourne and 9 for Carlton), kicked 13 goals against the Blues in 1925, which stands today as the most goals kicked at Princes Park and the most goals kicked in a game against Carlton.
ACCORDING to its Wikipedia page, Victoria Park offered Collingwood fans “the only relief from the melancholy of daily life on the unemployment queue” during the Great Depression.
That statement still holds true, although Collingwood games are now held at the MCG.
Opened in 1892, Victoria Park was home to the league’s most popular club until 1999 and hosted 880 games, 863 of which were contested by the Magpies.
Set to be demolished in 2000, the venue survived due to its heritage status and now -almost poetically – is home to AFL Victoria umpiring department.
“YOU know what we need,” a league official slurred over his whisky in a mahogany trimmed bar in the mid-1990s. “A stadium with a fuckin’ roof!”.
And so Docklands Stadium was born.
Hosting its first game in 2000 between traditional rivals Essendon and Port Adelaide, Docklands (aka Colonial Stadium, aka Telstra Dome, aka Etihad Stadium) has since seen 796 games and a litany of controversy.
From the turf being not up to scratch to the landlord’s screwing the AFL out of as much money as possible, Docklands has gone from one problem to another, all the while being a pretty good stadium to watch footy in our unpopular opinion.
THE first of the grand old suburban grounds that still looks like a grand old suburban ground on this list, Junction Oval hosted 734 VFL/AFL games from 1897 to 1984.
Established as a cricket ground in 1855 and used by St Kilda from 1873 to 1964, Junction Oval – nicknamed as such due to its close proximity to the junction between Fitzroy Street and St Kilda Road – was also home to South Melbourne during World War II, and Fitzroy from 1970 to 1984.
Fred Fanning famously kicked 18 goals at the ground for Melbourne in 1947, a league record that stands today and – in all likelihood – will never be bettered.
LIKE the VFL’s version of the Volkshalle, Waverley Park was big, brash, and ultimately a failure.
Conceived in 1959, the idea for the ground was born out of the VFL being shit-scared of getting booted off the MCG at the whim of the MCC. They wanted a ground of their own, and Waverley was the answer.
Their first major mistake was assuming they knew something about population density and city planning.
With the Monash Freeway set to be built, the VFL figured their 212 acre block in Mulgrave would soon become the demographic centre of Melbourne. They thought footy fans would prefer to watch a game close to home instead of either making their way into the CBD, or staying in the CBD after work. They were wrong.
The league also soon realised that planning was one thing, and acting on those plans was something completely different.
They wanted the State Government to build a train line straight to the ground. They didn’t.
They wanted approval to expand the ground’s capacity from 100,000 to 157,000. It didn’t happen.
They wanted the playing field to be the biggest in the league at 200m long and 160m wide. The players and the fans hated it.
All and all, everything turned to shit.
Closed in 1999, Waverley ended up hosting 732 games, one grand final, and one power outage induced riot.
BEFORE Albert Park was all about the ostentatious annual Formula One parade, it was home to what was once considered the finest footy ground in the country.
Lake Oval, South Melbourne’s base from 1897 until their Sydney relocation in 1981, was highly regarded by players and fans alike, leading to it hosting the 1901 grand final, before the league moved the big game almost permanently to the MCG.
Bookending Albert Park Lake with Junction Oval, the ground saw 704 games to make it the 7th most used ground in the league’s history.
It would have been used more, too, but like many of Melbourne’s grounds during World War II, it was requisitioned by the Australian Army, forcing the Swans to play their home games at Junction Oval.
The ground has since been converted into an athletics stadium and is home to the VIS and Athletics Victoria.
IT’S difficult to believe now given how grey Footscray is, but Whitten Oval was once surrounded by botanical gardens.
Originally a stone quarry, the area was redeveloped into gardens in 1866, and while palm trees planted along Barkly Street in the 1920s still stand, nothing of the original gardens remains today.
Officially becoming a club in 1883, Footscray started playing at the reserve from 1884 and stayed there almost continuously until 1997, with their only season away from the ground coming in 1942 after the Army commandeered it.
The name of the oval was changed from Western to Whitten in 1995 after the death of Footscray’s favourite son and VFL legend Ted Whitten.
Whitten holds the record for the most games at the ground, playing 155 of the 665 matches held there, while Tony Lockett kicked the most goals in a game – 16 for Sydney against Fitzroy in 1995.
THE home to the greatest grandstand in the game, Kardinia Park was a swampish mess until the Geelong council decided to turn it into parkland in 1872.
Appropriately, swampish mess is what some would call the Geelong council today.
Stretching north to Kilgour Street before the Warrnambool railway line was built, the park originally held Geelong’s only zoo, with six Scottish deer, Madagascan lemurs, four kangaroos and, presumably, a partridge in a pear tree.
While there had been two football ovals in the park since 1911, the Cats didn’t hold an official game at Kardinia until 1941, when they forced off Corio Oval by, you guessed it, the Australian Army.
Unlike their counterparts at South Melbourne and Footscray, the Cats decided they couldn’t be stuffed moving back to Corio Oval (which, incidentally, wasn’t in Corio but we’ll get to that later), and have stayed at Kardinia Park ever since.
To date, the Cats have played 654 games at the ground and have won 66.59% of them.
THE greatest legacy ever left at the Essendon Recreation Reserve was actually penned by a Collingwood legend.
Long-serving Magpie and football media superstar Lou Richards was the man who coined the term Windy Hill, funnily enough because the ground is on a bit of a hill. And it’s windy.
Established in the 1880s, the reserve was used for a variety of sports, including cricket, lacrosse, bowls, cycling and lower level football, while the Bombers played their home games at the now defunct East Melbourne Cricket Ground.
When the EMCG was shut down in 1921, Essendon lobbied to play at Arden Street, but were blocked from doing so after a pissed off VFA went to the state government and cried foul at the possibility of losing access to the North Melbourne oval.
So the Bombers, against their will, moved to a ground actually situated in their suburb.
And it mustn’t have been too bad, because they stayed there until 1991, playing 628 of 629 games, winning 418 of them.
BRUNSWICK STREET OVAL
FITZROY’S only real home ground in the club’s history was used from 1897 until 1966, hosting 612 games.
Established in 1862, the venue follows a similar narrative to all the other suburban grounds of Melbourne. Starting out as a cricket ground, it eventually became the Gorillas home (yep, Gorillas), before being rendered almost useless when the team buggered off to greener pastures.
Known today as the WT Peterson Community Oval, The Cricketers Stand is the only part of the original venue still erect, after a neighbouring football stand – built in 1905 – was torn down.
Further reading: The 7 footy grounds you’ve probably never heard of