Leauge venue: 1897-1964. League (VFL/AFL) Matches: 613 Record Attendance: 34,765-Fitz v Ess, 1923.
This series of ‘Home and Away’ posts are a look back at Melbourne’s footy grounds to essentially see what’s left. Whether it be an old entrance gate, a grandstand or perhaps just a plaque, I’ve searched high and low for whatever remains I can find.
These posts will essentially be based on a wide range of photos i took a good six or seven years ago when I had the time! I’m glad I did take them because much has changed in that short period.I’m starting proceedings by looking at Fitzroy Football Clubs ‘spiritual’ home, the Brunswick Street Oval.
Here is a shot of the old cricketers stand which still stands, taken in 1920. To the left stood it’s ‘sister’ or the football stand, which was destroyed by fire in 1976.
The land which became the Brunswick Street oval was set out for recreation in Fitzroy, Melbourne’s oldest suburb, in 1862, and as every other suburban football ground, began life primarily as a cricket venue. The Fitzroy Football club was formed in 1883, entering the VFA, the top league of its day, the following year. Naturally, the football club called Brunswick St. Oval home.
The VFL broke away from the VFA in 1897, and Fitzroy was one of the 8 founding clubs. In fact the Roys were the leagues first powerhouse, winning four of the first nine premierships. Early days of the VFL also saw finals shared between the grounds, and Brunswick St hosted 4 finals between 1897 and 1906. The club was able to build its own grandstand alongside the cricket stand in 1905. These were prosperous days for Fitzroy and the Brunswick St oval, however it was to be the last ‘development’ of the ground. By the time it ceased to act as a league ground after 1965, not much had changed.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gorey at http://gorey.com.au/
And here’s my picture from essentially the same forward pocket.
Fitzroy continued to train at the ground before moving their headquarters to South Melbourne’s Lakeside Oval. The cricket club continued on until a dispute with the local council which saw them merge with and move to Doncaster, rendering the ground essentially useless. The facility was opened to the public and local soccer was played there for a time in the late 1980’s. The cricketers grandstand thankfully was listed as a heritage building by the national trust of Australia.
The 1990’s saw the ground once again used for football, with VAFA club Uni Reds playing their home matches at the old league venue. Unfortunately the Fitzroy Football club ceased to exist as a league club at the conclusion of 1996, but the Uni Reds soon became the Fitzroy Reds, adopting the Lions old jumper. In 2008, the Reds officially merged with the old Fitzroy Football Club, meaning the the Roy boys, though no longer in the spotlight of the AFL, are back home where it all began.
Here are some more shots I took of Brunswick Street Oval, now the W.T Peterson Community Oval
With a little help from my friends:
-Marc Fiddians ‘Forever Fitzroy-a history of the Brunswick St Oval’
-Stephen Rodgers 1982 edition of ‘Every Game ever Played’
-Chris Donald’s “Fitzroy, for the love of the jumper.’