FIRST of all let me apologise in advance to any greyhound racing fans reading this article.
Secondly, if you haven’t read part one of this series, go back, read it, enjoy it, and get ready for the rollicking adventure of Part II.
These are the second-most used grounds in footy history, from the traditional suburban ovals with ornate grandstands to those venues that didn’t stand the test of time.
In this article we finally make it outside of Victoria, we explore the St Kilda’s penchant for dicking around with home ground after home ground, and we take the piss out of Hawthorn a little bit.
PUNT ROAD OVAL
IF you haven’t seen a reserve grade game at Punt Road, you’re missing out.
Set in the shadows of the towering MCG, Richmond’s home ground has an old school country feel to it in the guts of the city.
For Tigers fans it’s always been the hallowed turf. The club has used the ground in one way or another continuously since 1885, first as part of the VFA, then as a home ground in the VFL from 1908 to 1964, and ever since as their training hub.
It might have had a longer stay as a playing venue too, but the ever expanding population of Melbourne – as well as a love for them-there fangled automobiles – meant the actual Punt Road needed widening on the east side of the oval, eating into the ground’s spectator capacity and forcing the Tigers to look to the MCG to host their home games.
It was a repaying of a favour of sorts from the Demons, after Richmond allowed them to play their home games at Punt Road during the Army occupation of the ‘G in World War II.
The ground ended up hosting 544 games over the 56 year period, 295 of which were won by the Tigers.
ARDEN STREET OVAL
NORTH Melbourne’s home ground is all about animals bolting around the boundary.
First off it was the greyhounds, with the dishlickers occupying Arden Street from 1957 to 1962. Every Monday night the oval would see man’s best friend attempt to maul some fast-moving fluff, an activity some people find both amusing and entertaining.
About 10,000 of those bastions of cultural taste turned out for the first Australian Cup in 1958, before they assumedly went home to spit on the floor.
The dogs left the arena after the Arden Street ground committee doubled the rent, making way for the inaugural Elephant 500.
We write, of course, about the infamous incident in 1978, when a promotional circus elephant – understandably spooked by a rowdy Collingwood crowd – escaped from its handler to speed around the boundary with a child saddled to its back.
Speedy critters aside, the history of Arden Street, like the club that inhabits it, is a bit “meh”.
Opened in the 1850s, the Hotham cricket and football clubs jointly occupied it until Hotham changed it’s name to North Melbourne.
VFL graced Arden Street with its presence in 1925, when North joined the league, before the club said “let’s just be friends” in 1965 because Coburg Oval had smiled at it once, going on a torrid one season affair.
Crawling back to its original love in 1966, the club and the ground stayed together for the kids until 1985, when the last of 529 games was played – a 50-point win to the Kangaroos over Richmond.
FINALLY, a non-Victorian stadium.
Perth’s Subiaco was first used in the AFL in 1987 with the introduction of the West Coast Eagles. But it’s history didn’t start there.
Founded in 1908 as Mueller Park, the venue had been used for footy for almost 80 years before it made it’s mark on the national stage.
Now home to the Eagles and the Dockers, it’s hosted 523 games, 314 of them involving West Coast and 253 involving Fremantle.
It’s worth noting then – and you may have noticed this on the interactive map – that the Dockers are the only current club in the competition to not have played the most games at a single venue.
No flags, no venue record. Get your shit together, Fremantle.
REMEMBER Waverley Park? Well Football Park was South Australia’s answer to that.
Having spent almost their entire history playing their games on Adelaide Oval, the SANFL decided they needed a ground of their own and looked to West Lakes for their answer.
Opened in 1974, the ground was big, open, lacked a direct trainline, was out in the suburbs and would ultimately be retired from the big leagues in favour of games being played at the stadium the league left in the first place. Sound familiar?
While we did call Waverley Park a failure in Part I of this series, that label is sort of unfair.
What Waverley and Football Park did for their respective leagues was give them leverage and a home free from the upturned noses of their cricket association landlords.
Football Park ended up hosting 458 games from 1991 to 2013, with Adelaide’s Andrew McLeod playing the most games (178) and the Power’s Warren Tredrea kicking the most goals (312).
WHAT came first, the Hawthorn hipsters or the art deco grandstand? It’s an age-old question.
Just like their guernsey, there’s something both ugly and stunning about The Michael Tuck Stand at Glenferrie.
The heritage protected structure was built in 1937, 32 years after the club started playing footy at the oval in the guts of Hawthorn.
A nomadic team before that, the club had bounced around from open space to open space – including Punt Road Oval – before the Hawthorn council decided they needed a recreation reserve, and a decent footy team to represent them.
Hosting its first VFA game in 1905, Glenferrie would see VFL action in 1925 when Hawthorn was admitted to the league, going on to hold 443 games until 1973.
Despite the name of its stand, former VFL/AFL games record holder Tuck only played two seasons at Glenferrie. Inaugural Hawthorn premiership captain Graham Arthur holds the record for most games played there, with 114.
SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND
FOOTY – the real footy – has been played behind enemy lines since 1903, eight years before rugby league was played at the SCG.
Hosting two games (Geelong v Carlton and Fitzroy v Collingwood) in that season, the league shipped Essendon and Melbourne to the ground in 1904. And we mean shipped literally.
With no viable way to get to Sydney by land, the clubs were forced to chug down the east coast of Australia by boat for the match, before chugging back again to play in Melbourne the weekend after.
Games were played sporadically there in the decades after, including one match in 1952 as part of an experimental round that we’ll explore more in Part IV of this series.
But it wasn’t until 1982, when South Melbourne became the Sydney Swans, that the SCG regularly hosted big league games.
All in all, 376 games have been played at the venue with Adam Goodes (143) holding the games record, and Tony Lockett (295) holding the goals record.
THE first of three grounds in this list that no longer retains any semblance of its former glory, Corio Oval was officially home to Geelong from 1897 to 1940.
Not actually located in the northern suburb of Corio, the ground was at the east end of Eastern Park, where the Geelong Convention Centre currently sits.
Having started their journey at Argyle Paddock in Geelong West, the club moved to Corio Oval in 1878 when they joined the VFA. The relationship lasted for 62 years, until, as they have a habit of doing to things, the Army killed it.
With the outbreak of World War II, the military set up camp at the venue, forcing the football club to move to Kardinia Park. Taking their turnstiles and ticket boxes – quite literally – to their new ground, the Cats decided they couldn’t be fucked moving again and decided to stay for good.
And who can blame them? Moving house is just about the shittiest thing one can do in life.
Unused until 1957, the two horsemen of the apocalypse – the trots and the greyhounds – moved in, before plans were announced in the 1970s for an animal disease research centre in the area. Rather sensibly, the powers-that-be decided keeping disease ridden animals and healthy animals close to each other was probably a crappy idea, and the sporting venue was shut down for good.
The final grandstand was demolished in the early 1980s, closing the book on a ground that hosted 371 games, 116 of which were played by the legendary and wonderfully monikered Reg Hickey.
FOUNDED in 1895, it wasn’t long before Australian Rules sunk its filthy claws into the Gabba – but only on a local footy level.
The QFL invaded the ground in 1905, but it took until 1981 for it to taste its first VFL action, a match between Hawthorn and Essendon that attracted 20,351 fans.
“Fuck yeah!” the VFL shouted in pure ecstasy. “The Queenslanders love our game, let’s introduce a Brisbane team!”
And so it was that the Brisbane Bears were founded. Much to the league’s disappointment though, crowd numbers didn’t reach the lofty heights of that first match until 15 years later, when a Bears game against Richmond finally cracked the 20,000 mark.
Even this season, just four of the 11 matches at the venue topped that number.
With 290 games under its belt, Simon Black holds the games record at the Gabba (170), while Geelong champ and media darling Billy Brownless has kicked the most goals in a game at the ground – 11 against the Bears in 1991.
LET’S be honest, the Saints are ground-whores. They’ve always struggled to commit to an ongoing, steady relationship.
They had a good thing going with Junction Oval but the romance turned stale. And while they’ve kept a roof over their heads by hooking up with Docklands, they were involved in a brief and intense fling with a Kiwi at the same time.
But it was with Moorabbin Oval that sparks really flew.
This love story starts in 1960, when the oval’s parents – the Moorabbin council – decided she was ready to court a rich and popular football club.
The eligible bachelors were Richmond, Fitzroy and St Kilda, all of whom were dissatisfied with their former partners.
It took four years of negotiations and romantic dinners, but by the start of 1964, the Saints were handed the rose to live happily ever after.
Well, until 1992, when St Kilda went out to grab a pack of fags and never came back, shacking up with Waverley for a while before it was torn down, probably because of the emotional stress it endured from the torrid relationship.
Moorabbin ended up hosting 254 games, five of which involved the incomparable Tony Lockett kicking 10 or more goals.
EAST MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND
THE East Melbourne Cricket Ground was actually west of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but east of the Melbourne CBD.
Check it out on the interactive map above. See that semi-circular building between Jolimont Road and Wellington Parade? That’s meant to represent the old grandstand and the curve of the old oval and some other architectural wankery.
Home to Essendon from 1897 to 1921, the ground was discontinued to make way for an expansion of Jolimont’s railyards, but not before hosting the 1900 grand final and 225 VFL games, 114 of which were Essendon victories.
WE may have been a little harsh on the Gabba crowds earlier, given the Bears played their home games at Carrara on the Gold Coast until the end of 1992.
A financial and spiritual black hole, the stadium was mired in controversy in the late 80s, playing host to Christopher Skase’s financial shenanigans and the Brisbane Bears’ footballing floundering.
Skase, the owner of the Bears, poured money into an early development of the ground, so much so that he had none to give to the fellas who erected the light towers in 1989, who then proceeded to threaten to take the towers down before realising that would cost them more money than any legal fight stood to gain.
With Brisbane buggering off to the Gabba in 1993, the oval was only used sporadically by the AFL – mostly to piss of the NRL who were also using it – until the introduction of the Gold Coast Suns in 2011.
Hosting 135 games, the ground holds the record for the highest score ever notched, when Geelong (37.17.239) defeated the Bears (11.9.75) in Round 7, 1992.