The 44 grounds that have hosted an Aussie Rules game: Part III

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“T’WAS the days before Christmas, and down at ‘G,

Lumumba retired, saying ‘it’s all about me!’,

The bonuses were sent to the board members with care,

while the players screamed ‘bastards, that shit just ain’t fair’.

MERRY Christmas everyone! Footy never sleeps, and while The Hickey Stand has had a post-Christmas lunch nap a little earlier than most, we’re back with Part III of every ground ever used by the top tier of footballers.

This one’s a mix of the old and the new, the disused and the only recently used, and major cricket grounds briefly attempting to be something they’re not.

WACA GROUND

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GET this, the Western Australian Cricket Association has a 999-year lease on the ground, which gives them control until 2888.

No wonder they named the stadium after themselves.

The WACA had a brief 13-year fling with Aussie Rules, hosting 72 games sporadically from 1987 to 2000.

A redevelopment in 2002 meant the playing area was significantly reduced, and Aussie Rules was forced to be played at Subiaco until the end of days – or until 2018 when a new 60,000 seat Perth stadium opens.

ADELAIDE OVAL

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ASK  a cricket fan and they’ll tell you the AFL fucked Adelaide Oval up as the best Test venue in the world.

Ask an Aussie Rules fan and they’ll tell you it was the best thing to happen to South Australian footy.

And given we’re in the business of footy, we’ll stick with the latter.

The answer to Adelaide’s version of the Waverley Park problem, Adelaide Oval replaced Football Park in 2011 as the Croweaters’ pre-eminent AFL venue.

The ground first hosted an Aussie Rules game in 1877, between Adelaide and the Bankers. In that game, the Bankers couldn’t cash-in on plenty of opportunities and were spent by the final bell, scoring just one goal to four.

YORK PARK

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NAMED after King George V’s alter-ego the Duke of York, York Park has been around since 1874 when it was used as the town’s showgrounds.

Like plenty of other venues throughout Australia and the world, the area was originally a bit of a swamp, not fit for anything other than big boofy men doing stupid things with a ball.

Used for sports varying from lawn bowls to cycling throughout the decades, York Park didn’t host the AFL until 2001, when the Hawks played their first of 52 home games at the venue.

The stadium is best known for being home to “Sirengate”, when the result of a game between St Kilda and Fremantle in 2006 had to be reviewed after the umpire’s failed to hear the final siren, allowing play to continue for longer than they should have.

STADIUM AUSTRALIA

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THE ground every footy person loves to hate has been torturing the Sydney faithful since 2002.

Built for the Sydney Olympics, the AFL has tried – and failed – to make the ground a viable home venue for the Swans, but the undeniable fact that it’s sorta shit for footy keeps getting in the way.

The matter reached new heights this season, when the Swans steadfastly refused to play their home games in the stadium, preferring to stay at the smaller but traditional SCG instead.

All-in-all Stadium Australia has hosted 55 matches over a 14 year period, and it’s clear the Swans would happily keep it at that number.

MANUKA OVAL

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IT speaks to the nomadic nature of the North Melbourne Football Club that Brent Harvey – the league’s games record holder – can only claim Manuka as a ground that he has played more games at than any other player.

Used by the AFL since 1998, Canberra’s main footy ground has held 41 matches, 19 of which were home games for the Kangaroos, with all of those featuring Harvey.

Known as the Manuka Circle Park until the late 1920s, the area was used for casual recreation from as early as 1900, but only became an enclosed oval in 1929.

SYDNEY SHOWGROUND STADIUM

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UNTIL the Giants permanently started calling Spotless Stadium home from 2012, the Sydney Showgrounds hosted a little bit of everything.

Speedway, Olympic baseball, cricket, cows walking around on leads – all the thrills and spills of world sport really.

Since joining the AFL, the Giants have hosted 38 games at the venue for 17 wins and 21 losses.

MARRARA OVAL

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BUILT in 1991 to become the home of the Northern Territory Football League, Darwin’s Marrara Oval has seen 17 AFL games since the first in 2004.

The inaugural AFL-sanctioned match was a pre-season game between Carlton and West Coast in 1992, back in the days when the competition was known as the Foster’s Cup, and when men were men, shorts were short, and casual racism was just good ol’ family fun.

Kane Cornes and Danyle Pearce have played the most games at the venue, while the annoyingly happy Brad Johnson holds the goals record, with 17.

TOORAK PARK

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CONFUSINGLY  located in Armadale (although so is Toorak Station), Toorak Park served as St Kilda’s home ground in 1942 and 1943 when those selfish soldiers took over Junction Oval to prepare for Word War II.

Hosting 13 games – 12 of which were Saints home games, with the Swans claiming the other – the ground only saw a handful of players grace its turf over the two seasons, one of which was Test cricketer Sam Loxton, who kicked 10 goals in just four games at the venue.

Loxton, a sergeant in the 2nd Armoured Division, was based at division headquarters in Melbourne, and played footy only when he was granted leave.

The ground is used today by the Prahan Football Club and Old Xaverians.

BELLERIVE OVAL

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HOSTING its first recorded Aussie Rules match in 1884 – between Carlton and Bellerive – it took Bellerive Oval 128 years before the AFL played an official game there.

Famous as one of Australia’s main Test venues, North Melbourne decided to infiltrate the Tasmanian market by playing home games there in 2012, cannily doing so only 11 years after Hawthorn made the same decision and succeeded spectacularly.

Since that first game – a 129-point win to the Kangaroos over the Giants – North has played 11 games at a solid winning percentage of 75%.

COBURG OVAL

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THE Kangaroos had a one season fling with Coburg in 1965, but it was meant to be something significantly more permanent.

Unenthused with Arden Street, North Melbourne looked into a 40-year lease at Coburg Oval as they gunned for a merger with the Coburg Football Club, which was playing in the VFA at the time.

Securing the vote of 14 Coburg committee members for what was essentially a takeover, everything looked set to go before a breakaway committee was formed, and Coburg’s relationship with the VFA was solidified once more.

That meant the Kangaroos could only play one season at the ground, before being forced back to Arden Street in 1966.

YARRAVILLE OVAL

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JUST like Toorak Oval and Kardinia Park, Yarraville Oval was only used because soldiers had occupied the regular home grounds of the league.

In this case, Footscray was forced off Western Oval for the 1942 season, playing seven home games down the road at Yarraville.

The record crowd at the ground, however, came from a VFA game in 1940, when about 18,000 people turned out to see ex-Collingwood superstar Ron Todd play his first game for Williamstown – one of several big player defections from the VFL as part of the little known football schism.

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