Home & Away #5 Lakeside Oval

Lakeside Oval: League venue: 1897-1981. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 704 (7 finals, including 1899 & 1901 Grand Finals). Record Attendance: 40,401, South Melb v St.Kilda, 1923


 This is part 5 in my series ‘Home & Away’, a look back at Melbourne’s old VFL grounds from a range of photos I took in the mid-2000’s. South Melbourne’s picturesque Lakeside Oval was last used as a league venue in the same year that I was brought into this world, 1981, as South Melbourne was bundled up north to become the Sydney Swans.  As such, I clearly never saw a Sherrin kicked in anger on the famous old ground. In fact I only once saw it as a footy ground before it became rectangularised, when dad took us to look around in the early 1990’s. I remember standing in the shadows of the old stand and dad being pleased that the tunnel in the outer terracing still existed. Not for long.

An very rare aerial shot of the Lake Oval dated between 1920-1940. Just over the back of the ground you can make out the newly planted palm trees which still standtoday. Image courtesy of http://www.austadiums.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1663

 I ventured down to the Lake Oval during grand final week of 2005, desperate to soak up something of the Swans past to  make relevant the impending ‘interstate’ grand final. I know that’s a very Victorian-centric mindset, but it’s what I needed to do to get myself up! Now there may have been just the old stand left, but I intended to explore it as far as was reasonable. But to set the scene, here is some old ‘Bloods’ passion which was bursting out!

The view down to Albert Park from Clarendon Street South Melbourne is still dominated by the 1926 old red brick stand. 

 Note the car in the bottom corner? Well that was an Albert Park worker who had come to paint over this battle cry. Have they no sense of theatre?

The oval, which is now home to Athletics Victoria, has been been spruced up somewhat. The soccer pictch remains, although a runnning track around it has made for an oval  shape returning to the venue, along with the name reverting to Lakeside Stadium, having been Bob Jane Stadium for a number of years. But as I took this photo, uncertainty surrounded the future of the grandstand, which was in a state of decay. The council and park were keen to help it on its way down, the Sydney Football Club not so. A compromise was finally reached, saving the stand.

The old stand hanging onto life, and an artists impression of what has since been turned into reality. While it is no longer a grandstand as such, it is far more a part of the oval than when it looked forlornly on at South Melbourne Hallas from the old forward pocket. (The wooden blue bench seats were snapped up from the Waverley Park fire sale!)

Clearly all that was left of South’s old home was the old grandstand. Luckily however there were still traces of days long gone, with various artifacts still remaining, some obvious, some well hidden. Below is a collection of bits and pieces which provides an interesting time capsual. Most if not all of these gems have since been removed with the redevelopment. Here are some fading images from yesteryear.

The old entrance gates and ticket boxes were obviously all locked up, though still proudly wore the fading licks of red South Melbourne paint. These doorways have been maintained in the new structure, far narrower than the modern day door!

From the outside all you could see was a rusty grate and darkness. The flash of my camera revealed some lovely red and white tiling of what could only be the loos. And similarly, the photo below these was another ‘stick the camera under the dark door and see what comes out’ moment. The photo has been significantly brightened and demonstrates how unloved the stand had become.


Then I plucked up some courage. There was an old door which appeared to be heavily locked. However as I fiddled around, I realised I could get it open. I simply could not tell what was in front of me it was that dark, so I quickly headed in and took a few shots with the flash. I had no idea of what or even who was in there, so I quickly departed to inspect my photos. What I found was the old nightclub ‘Redheads’, which operated well before my time but was apparantly quite the place to be!








The 1975 film ‘The Great McCarthy,’ which follows the fortunes of South Melbourne’s gun full-forward recruit from the bush, has some of the most vivid and complete shots of the old Lakeside Oval in what would turn out to be it’s final days. Here are some stills I took off the telly a while back. Also, check out the youtube clip below, where someone has bothered to take all of the best ‘lake oval’ shots and put them into one clip from said movie.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Night Premiership or Consolation Cup played at South’s Lake Oval between 1956 and 1971. Being the only ground with floodlights, the VFL decided that the teams who missed out on the final four would play off for the ‘best of the rest’ tag under lights! My dad remembers the jubilation he felt in 1962 as Richmond ‘actually won something!’ This was the precurser to what is now the preseason competition, which has become nothing more than an annoyance to fans. But night footy in the 1950’s, though there was the odd dark pocket or four, must have been exciting for Melbournians post-war. Heck… 36,000 turned up for Carlton and North in 1965!

As I drove past recently, the lights (not original) were on at the conclusion of an athletics meet. I quickly snapped this pic to try and somewhat commemorate the old night series at the ground.
Finally, there are some other stands and grouns which share a connection with Lakeside Oval. While SANFL club Norwood’s grandstand is not identical, it is the closest stand that I have come across to South’s old 1926 red brick number. It is essentially the same design, there are just a few ‘frilly’ bits which differ.


image from http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7086/7144620767_b32f2438d1_z.jpg

And just last weekend the family and I took a trip to Maryborough, and decided to drop in on the picturesque Princes Park Oval, complete with resplendent old stand. What interested me however was a plaque which mentioned that this stand was based on South Melbournre’s 1886 stand, precurser to Souths ‘current’ stand, before it burnt down in the 1920’s. What we also noticed were the surrounding street names….Clarendon, Napier, Raglan, Albert, Palmerston, Park…all names of well known South Melburne streets. Whether a coincidence or not, it certainly felt like a little bit of old Emerald Hill as we cruised down Clarendon Street Maryborough.

It’s often said that the coaches box can represent a game of chess, but at the old Lake Oval, you left your chess game at the entrance gate!

Make sure you check out Billy Millers wonderful videos on all the old VFL grounds.


And a lovely little timelapse of the old footy come soccer ground becoming Victoria’s premier athletics track


With a little help from my friends…

Football Grounds of Melbourne, Caruso, Fiddian and Main.

5 thoughts on “Home & Away #5 Lakeside Oval

  1. G’day John,
    You’re kicking goals from all angles with this one. What a beauty! I concur with your photographic technique of ‘stick the camera under the dark door and see what comes out’ . Always worth a try.

    I’ve got very vague memories of listening to broadcasts of the Lakeside night games and wondering how on earth anybody could see what was going on.

    The Great McCarthy was a very entertaining book, by Barry Oakley, but the film was a shocker. I saw it again a few years back (at the Williamstown Mechanics’ Institute) and wondered what on earth everybody else made of it.

    I’m wondering if Lakeside was the venue for World of Sports’ weekly best-kick competition, and if the judges – Bruce Andrews and the like – used numbers from the scoreboard to give their scores out of ten.

    In the early 1980s the ground was used for the televised Army Reserve Cup, a competition only remembered because a Collingwood reserves player decked or tripped an umpire. My only visit to Lakeside was for an Army Reserve Cup game. Kevin Morris was one of the coaches and at three-quarter time he was saying to his players: “I shouldn’t have to cadgel ya, should I? No, I shouldn’t have to cadgel ya!” Me and my mate Greg looked quizically at each other and finally realised what Kevin Morris was saying: “I shouldn’t have to cajole you.”

    I think the 1993 Brian Nankervis documentary Boys And Balls might have featured Roy and HG doing their voice-overs from the Lakeside timekeepers’ box.

    Here’s hoping lots of Swans fans see your photos and yarns.


  2. Thanks Vin. Certainly a few gems from the ‘point, snap and pray’ philosophy on photography!
    Thanks for your insights into the Lake Oval. I’d be interested in finding a copy of the book the Great McCarthy…I was too wrapped up in studying the Kyneton ground at the start and the old Lake Oval to notice the poor quality of the film…but the Club certainly has it covered.

    Was going to go with the 20 year suspension for the umpire and spectator abuse in the old Army Reserve Cup but the post was quickly escallating into a novel…had to make some hard calls. Love the ‘cadgel/cajole’ confusion….reminds me of Neil Balme mistaking David ‘Ox’ Shwarze’s number plate ‘THE-OX’ and asking at training “who the hell is’Theo x?” Will check out the Boys and Balls doc…sounds intriguing.


  3. More great work Jon.
    I’m old enough to remember seeing VFL games at the Lakeside Oval with my father. We would park in South Melbourne, walk down Clarendon St with a stop at a pub on the way… Dad and myself for a pie each, and a lemonade (special lemonade for dad… the amber type).

    We would stand in front of the old press box on the wing (I think it was white)… and the language from the callers when not on air!!! Taught this then-primary schooler a few key words!

    Later as teenagers we would ride our bikes (all over Melbourne), and we fronted for the odd Army Reserve Cup games (what once was Sunday VFL football).

    Love the old grounds… cant get that feeling anymore, other than local footy… the AFL has wiped its hands of those days.

  4. Pingback: Lake Oval, South Melbourne, Victoria « Scoreboard pressure

  5. Hi there, used to go to VFL games there (seniors) until they stopped using the ground. The Army reserve cup on Sundays (was it the Statewide cup before that?) was also a place for me to go after being at Geelong for the seniors on the Saturday. After Swans moved to Sydney I remember going to the Lakeside oval after heavy rain. The Southern wing had water over the oval and inside the boundary by about 10 metres. I remember the ball being kicked out to that wing and splatting into the water and the ball just started to float along until a boundary umpire came along and rescued it. The oval was just left in a pitiful state and stopped being used for serious games soon after….. Tony Ryan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s