Windy Hill- Essendon

Windy Hill- League Venue 1922-1991. League Matches: 629. Finals: 1. Record Attendance: 43,487 v Collingwood (1966)

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I’ve always been interested in the Essendon story. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a time in football of fierce suburban rivalries and territorial battles, the Essendon Football Club oddly called the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in Jolimont home, a two and a half hour, 10 km walk from Essendon. How peculiar that while we often now mourn the loss of locality and sense of place in football, Essendon played so far from home all through their formative years, from 1881 until 1921!

Due to the East Melbourne ground’s closure in 1921, the Essendon footy club finally came home to Essendon and did what most league clubs have done in some way shape or form…bullied a VFA club! Yes, they took the Essendon Recreation Reserve from VFA side Essendon Town who, groundless, ceased to exist, swallowed up by VFA team North Melbourne. And there the Bombers stayed for 70 years until progress saw this club move back to it’s traditional area, the MCG!

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This post is a continuation of a series I’ve been compiling over the past few years that I’ve called Home and Away. In the early 2000s I began documenting with my camera Melbourne’s decaying old league grounds, however Essendon’s is a ground I didn’t explore fully until more recently. I did however manage a few encounters with the old ground.

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Mum is an Essendon supporter so I do sometimes stop and think what might have been. Here are some photos she took from I believe a 1975 game between Essendon, in red shorts, and St.Kilda. Mum’s work colleague Colin Carter lined up for the Saints that day which is why the camera was on hand. Below is a mash up panorama of the photos which shows policeman on the ground, during the match, as the Essendon team runs out!

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 My first memory of Windy Hill is watching the 1988 VFA grand final on the telly and being rather confused as to who Coburg and Williamstown actually were; I thought it was Essendon and Richmond on the telly! I never saw a league game at Windy Hill however I was lucky enough to attend the Richmond v Carlton legends match in 1990, a fundraiser for the Save Our Skins campaign. With the crowd figure nearing 25,000, it felt real to me!

We sat on the members wing in a poky little seating bay, right in front of where the Windy Hill brawl took place! I didn’t appreciate it at the time but on reflection am thrilled to have watched Hart, Bourke, Bartlett, and Barrott in a game of footy, even Bull Richardson had a run. I also saw Syd Jackson, Vinnie Catoggio and Percy Jones play, and of course Barassi. Though he was beyond past it, I can say I saw him all the same. David Cloke played that day too, and in what must be a first, came out of retirement and played league footy the following year!

Richmond took Essendon’s good will in letting them use the ground and ran with it, signing off from Windy Hill with a surprise win the following season. David Cloke played in this game also.0

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The huge crowd at Windy Hill to see the Richmond v Carlton legends match, 1990

The other time I got out to Windy Hill was to see an Essendon FC side of 6 take on an Australian VI in a cricket match played before a very decent crowd. I of course had no interest in the game but was along to see and capture Windy Hill with a crowd, bravely wearing my Richmond polo. It was great to see the winning raffle ticket number being shown to the crowd and in the middle of summer, that footy in the middle of the ground was a sight for sore eyes.

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The ‘working class stands’ at Windy Hill making use of themselves once more, albeit for a cricket match
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In the past few years, particularly living out this side of town these days, I’ve made a number of visits to Windy Hill for a snoop around with my camera. Thankfully I got some shots of the beautiful old Showers stand before it was criminally knocked down in 2007. Interestingly, built in 1939, it was the last major grandstand built in Melbourne before world war two. Whilst not quite as elegant as the art deco grandstand at Glenferrie Oval, I find it difficult to reconcile that it is gone and the concrete jungle on the wing still stands. That’s progress for you I guess!

WH Coleman edit finish 2A mash up of Coleman taking a big grab in front of the summer cricket crowd from a few years back. Click the photo to make it bigger

The Showers stand had a lovely shape to it and was made predominately using blonde brick. I loved finding this old Tavern Bar and Snacks sign which I’m sure has since been thrown into a skip. What I didn’t capture was how this stand looked from the street. It really set the tone for how I perceived Windy Hill and I’m sad that it’s gone.

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In front of the Showers stand on the terraces (now a grassy hill) sat these two turnstiles. I’ve seen them in a few different spots on my journeys to Windy Hill so I get the idea that they want to hang onto them but are unsure how best to display them. I’ll take one!WH Quirky 1 a

Another visit, another position for the turnstiles. I saw this magnificent old boot studding table the last time I visited, at least I assume that’s what it is. When I look at the nailed on cigarette tin I am transported to a different time, to dingy changeroom of any football club in Australia. Again I’m not sure what the plan is here, but hopefully Essendon see fit to place it in a museum or donate it to someone who will!Windy Hill Quirk

Down at the primary school end of the ground lies one of the makeshift scoreboards that was in use for a time during the 2000s for VFL matches. The main scoreboard was demolished with most of the outer after the ground stopped being used in the early 1990s. To read and see more about the old scoreboard, see Scoreboard Pressure’s great post on it HERE.WH Quirky 2

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The old Windy Hill scoreboard in all it’s glory. Photo courtesy of Jeff Lawton

Now this is one of my favourite parts of Windy Hill, walking through the bowels of the grandstand, the light of the playing arena beckoning you onwards. That’s what I love in old footy grounds, the contrast.

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Much of Windy Hill has been demolished however what has endured is a very solid collection of grandstands from the 1960’s and 1970’s, serving as a time capsule of sorts. They’re not pretty and there are no frills however that’s what footy used to be. Generally footy grounds reflect their area, and Essendon had a mix of one ‘fancy stand’ and three ‘working class’ stands. That sounds about right to me. Again it’s the nooks and crannies that I love. Footy grounds used to evolve. Now they come pre-fabricated.

Windy Hill nooks & crannies

I love coming across something interesting that you hadn’t picked up before. The photo on the left below is the back of the R.S Reynolds stand, a stand which I understood replaced the old stand on the right. But it dawned on me that the brickwork looked far too old for the 1970s stand that now stands there. Looking at the photo on the right, there seems to be a consistancy with the the grey band of concrete across the mid-section of the two stands, but the more I looked, the stands just appeared completely different.Windy Hill old and nucleus 1

I consulted many books and websites which all spoke of the Reynolds stand in a continuous fashion as if nothing had happened during the 1970s. So I made the assumption that the shell of the brickwork must have been retained to save costs and the new stand built over it. Finally I had this more of less confirmed in the book Flying High, a history of the Essendon Football Club.

“During 1976, the R.S Reynolds Grandstand renovations were completed at a cost of three hundred and thirty-one thousand dollars. The top of the stand had been renewed and extended.”

My itch, finally, scratched.

I know we often joke about the Essendon bowls club effectively standing it’s ground and forcing the Bombers to leave their traditional home, but I for one wish they’d been able to stay. Whilst it took Essendon a good 40 years to make it’s way back to playing in Essendon, Windy Hill will always be the club’s spiritual home. Thankfully the Essendon VFL team still uses the ground as it’s home, and I hope they continue to do so although the language used around this topic has been rather uncommitted.

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I love a good ‘hotch-potch’ of grandstands. These have a very Waverley Park/Moorabbin feel to them; wonderfully bleak.

In a way things have come full circle. There’s again an Essendon team wearing red and black (as the VFA side did) playing at Windy Hill in the old VFA (now VFL) and the league team plays home games closer to the city. I propose that the Bombers VFL side call themselves Essendon Town or the Dreadnoughts (Essendon Town’s moniker) to bury the hatchet all these years later. Would be a nice, quirky touch.

Finally, I took this still from the 1990 Richmond v Carlton legends game at Windy Hill as I believe, and I’m happy to be proven wrong, that this is the last time we ever saw those magnificent banners around the boundary fence. They have the new LED advertising displays well and truly covered in my book, but any digital club people reading this could do well to replicate these digitally before a match. It wouldn’t be the same but would be a nice touch.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.38.43 amI never experienced an Essendon game at Windy Hill but this is the ground through my eyes. I’d love to see and hear your photos and memories of one of league football’s most notorious venues.

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Home & Away – Punt Road Oval

Punt Road writing

Senior league football returns to Richmond Paddock today in what will be the final dress rehearsal for the Essendon and Richmond football sides for season 2014. A total capacity of 2,100 will however rank as one of the lowest Punt Road crowds of all time, a far cry from the 46,000 whoe squeezed in to see the 1949 clash between the Tigers and the Blues.

Punt Road r9 1949 49,000

But I don’t wish to dwell on present events. This post is going to look back at the old Punt Road oval, often through the lens of my own families eye. As all of my home and away posts have aimed to do, this is to showcase essentially what has survived from yesteryear…an old sign here, and grandstand there, a ticket booth somewhere else.

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Punt Road circa 2006

We’ll start back in 1966, and much like today, the theme is pre-season. Dad ventured to Punt Road Oval, camera in hand, for an intraclub practise match. The reason he attended? To see new recruit Royce Hart who’d received rave reviews upon his arrival from Tasmania.

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These shots were taken from the Cricketers Stand, a place where dad had never watched the footy from, hence the fascination. Similar I guess to when I’d sit on the members wing or even the super boxes at VFL Park for practise matches. These photos offer a great view of the Punt Road end of the ground, the Royal Hotel and the classic Richmond skyline, dominated by the St.Ignatious spire.

The outer hill remains largely intact today, although at the Punt Road (the actual road) end it suddenly narrows. This was due to the widening and adding of lanes to Punt Rd, one of many factors contributing to the Tigers leaving the ground for the near-by MCG in 1965.

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On the right is a very interesting photo, taken again from the cricketers stand. Visible is the outer side scoreboard and if you look closely you can see the old concrete fence which once surrounded the oval. There’s also the overgrown terraces behind the goals, which are no longer. The outer side however is still very recognisable today.

CLICK HERE FOR A 1966 PANORAMA

Some more fossicking around recently led dad to stumble across some old slides. See dad is Richmond through and through (and through) but also followed Prahran in the old VFA competition. And so it was the dad journeyed to what was familiar territory (the Richmond ground) to see them take on Preston in the 1968 VFA grand final. (The 1967 final between Port and Dandenong also at Punt Road is widely regarded as one of the more brutal football games there has been.)

Again dad seemed attracted to the Cricketers stand, and is himself suprised that he’s taken this photo from inside the arena as the ‘two-blues’ entered the field of battle. Punt Road had hosted it’s last VFL match just 4 years prior, so the ground was still ‘complete’ and able to cope with a large crowd.

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The second slide dad uncovered is of the Liston Trophy being presented to Preston player Dick Telford, who after stints at Collingwood and Fitzroy took the VFA competition by storm, also winning his club best and fairest and helping guide Preston to the premiership. Also number 1 for Prahran you can see is former well known Collingwood player Kevin Rose, who captain-coached the two-blues at the time. Also note the wonderful banners adorning the boundary fence, although they have a rather Coburg/Port Melbourne feel to them, perhaps from the curtain raiser?Punt Road 68 GF

Other things I love from this photo are the brass band mid ground, the ‘stuffy and important’ looking men along with the late 60’s Richmond in the background.

Now my first visit to Punt Road was for the 1989 Richmond best and fairest barbecue, a far cry from last year’s Brownlow style best and fariest awards which I live streamed on my laptop! I had my photo taken with winner Tony Free and Matty Knights, hoisted up on their shoulders! The photo, taken in a tent, never turned out. What did however was my less exciting meeting with former player and assistant coach of some description Barry Rawlings. How is our body language?! But it does offer a better look at what was a very tired and run down Punt Road oval.
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The metal pipe seating, the same industrial seating which also surrounded Arden St and parts of Preston’s Cramer St Oval, looks about as inviting as a trip to the dentist, and surely on a cold day, standing huddled with the masses provided a more comfortable experience. Below is a shot from the same day perched up in what I believe at the time was just named ‘the grandstand.’Punt Road 91

Again there’s a great view of Richmond the suburb. I love the ‘plush’ best and fairest venue, and what appears to be an old scoreboard lying on it’s face. I’m not sure of it’s origins as the old footy scoreboard was on the outer side of the ground, however these  team shots below at Punt Road definitely show a scoreboard, complete with cigarette advertising, at the Punt Rd end. I’d be interested if anyone knows more about this.

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1983 and 1988 team photos

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This is actually one of my favourite views of Punt Road, the back of the old grand stand. In my life time it’s been the dramatic back drop to news of sacked coaches, secret board meetings, and has even been the recipient of a pile of steaming chook poo! I just love the feel of the red bricks and make it a point to walk past it on my way over to see Richmond play at the MCG. It also now houses the Richmond Football Club museum which was originally in the bowells of the since demolished cricketers stand come social club. It’s open Mondays and match days at the G, so make sure you get along!
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I’ve always loved this photo of Jack Dyer arriving at Punt Road oval with the local Richmond lads carrying their idol’s bags. It’s a great portrait of what football once was, accessible, local, even a tad tribal. To the right is a photo I took around 2006 of the same spot where Captain Blood entered Yarra Park. The above structure has since been demolished save for a sceric of old standing room which I’m most thankful has been kept. 
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The since demolised entrance gates

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And here is that little piece of yesteryear which still stands today. No more than 50 or so patrons could have squeezed into this tiny bit of standing room, but it looks like it would have been a great spot to watch the footy from. I took a panorama shot from up there so I could let my imagination run away with itself!

Punt Rd panorama from awesome standy thingy

It’s time to turn our attention to what is now named the Jack Dyer stand, the ‘main attraction’ if you like. Although in the midst of having coaches boxes installed and thus reducing it’s capacity, it’s one of those classic footy grandstands that feels much bigger when you’re in it than when looking at it. My nana used to talk about sitting in it with her cousins nd how they’d stamp their feet on the wooden boards each time a goal was kicked. Below is actually a shot from the last VFL match to be played at the ground bewteen Coburg and Williamstown in 2005. It was a sodden day and this was the entire crowd, but it does look nice to have Jack’s stand full of Tiger supporters. Can you spot David Cloke keeping a close eye on however many Clokes were playing that day?Punt Road in the wet

It’s a ‘classic’ grandstand, and a feature that I love is the side glass windows. I’m not sure what it is about these but I love them. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being ensconsed by the stand, protected from a wintery Melbourne day.GRANDSTAND PICS

Whilst I completely understand that the footy club needed to revamp and expand the playing surface (a great thing for the club) it has made a bit of a mess of the natural contours the ground had going for it. I eagerly await the finished product.GRANDSTAND CONGLOMERATE

A little gem which I discovered in one of the narrow gaps I often find myself in whilst exploring a football ground was this ‘Gin Bar’ sign which was on the side of the old grand stand. With the wall in front of it since removed it is now easily seen, and worth having a look at for a glimpse of the past.Gin Bar

It would be remis of me not to mention and photographically demonstrate Punt Road’s location in relation to the mighty MCG. This will be the Tigers 50th season at the ‘G, having shifted it’s home games there in 1965, a masterstroke. The club’s most successful period came on the back of the move, and while progress can at times be hard for the footy fan to accept, premierships help.
Punt Rd & 'GWhich brings me finally to the cricketers stand-come-social club, where my dad did some of his finest camera work back in the 1960’s. This old building intrigued me greatly; from some angles it still looked like an old grandstand, from others it looked like a rundown block of flats. On venturing into the old museum that was tucked away in there you really got a sense of being in the bowels of a grandstand, a wonderfully authentic location for a football museum. I sneakily souveneered a brick when this building was demolished, something which seems silly yet I treasure it.

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Punt Road Cricketers stand

The rundown old footy ground I first ‘met’ in 1989 is no longer that. With a new surface and elite training and social facilities, the ground would be unrecognisable if it weren’t for the old grandstand keeping things rooted in the past. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the ground in use again for the Richmond VFL team, and the seniors practise match against Essendon sure has great lot of novelty factor. I only wish I could have gone!

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Said brick

Punt Road Oval – 1922

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The fact that fans can still use the social club on game day, get off at Richmond station and walk past the ground on the way into the ‘G makes us very lucky when you consider what has been lost in the modern game. Richmond essentially still plays in Richmond, and Punt Road is very much our home, though it was one of the first league grounds to bite the dust. I’m glad she’s being looked after…now let’s start working on her trophy cabinet.

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Farewell to Footy Park

FOOTY PARK WAVERLEYc/o Football Invective-Commentary with Balls

West Lakes and Waverley. Football and VFL Park respectively. They are 100’s of kilometers apart, yet the two are so close in many ways. They’ve even been referred to as ‘sister’ stadia. While VFL Park is long gone as a league venue, the last match for premiership points played in a previous millennia, upon entry into 2013, Football Park is too on the cusp of sharing the same fate. Next year, Footy Park will become a former league venue.

Footy Park farewell

Image courtesy of Adelaide Now

Both grounds were built by respective football leagues, the VFL and the SANFL, looking to break away from their respective ‘home’ bases, the MCG and the Adelaide Oval, which were both controlled by local cricketing authoriteis. Waverley opened in 1970, West Lakes 1974. The move for the SANFL was described as the “most exciting and momentous since the SANFL was formed almost a century earlier.”

Both grounds were built ‘out of town…’ VFL Park some 23 km’s from the heart of Melbourne, and Football Park 14km’s, in the much smaller city of Adelaide. Both also began with grandiose visions, the VFL’s original plans catered for 166,000 patrons and a stadium ‘equal to any in the world.’ The capacity reached the mid 70 thousands, although 92,000 did cram in on one occasion. Similarly, Football Park was designed to cater for 80,000 patrons. It too, never got close.

Footy Park v VFL Park comparison

Plans for Football Park on the left (80,000) and VFL Park (166,000). Looking quite similar!

The ‘sister’ stadia shared the same basic design; concrete and bench seats all the way around,  with an elevated stand opposed to ‘the outer.’ VFL Park ‘boasted’ wooden plank seats, Footy Park aluminum, a feature of many Adelaide football grounds. The plastic bucket seat has however won the day.

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Aluminum seating-still alive an well in Adelaide! Unley Oval image from austadiums.com

The West Lakes oval shape is less rounded and not as expansive as Waverley Park, which could comfortably host little league matches between the fence and the boundary line. Here are the two grounds under construction, can you tell which is which?

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Image on the left courtesy of Adelaide Now

Here is what ringed (I’m referring to Football Park in a past tense I know) the outer of both grounds. Whilst Football Park is clearly smaller, both share near identical features; larger lower section, smaller ‘upper’ sheltered section with the same roofing/advertising hoardings.Footy Park comparison

Here’s an aerial shot which gives a clear look at the similar set up of both stadia.

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Both grounds even had a gap between their stands where a small scoreboard was situated. While VFL Park boasted the notorious ‘Big V’ scoreboard, this ‘small’ one was Football Parks main board until recently.FOOTY PARK sc

Well it’s nearly curtains for West Lakes, both it and Waverley conquered by the very cricket grounds they sought to replace. But they have played their roles admirably, and football now resides at the MCG and Adelaide Oval (as of 2014) in a more powerful position. I hope the South Australian footy people can send the old girl off in style. Ugly as she was, she had character.

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And in a final twist of synchronisation, Football Park will join Waverley in becoming both a housing estate and elite AFL training venue…..together forever.  

Around the Grounds – Moorabbin

Moorabbin Oval: League venue: 1965-1992. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 254. Record Attendance: 51,370 St.Kilda v Collingwood, round 1,1965 (league debut)

Painting of the decaying Moorabbin stands by David Hurwitz.

1965: a watershed year for the Victorian Football League. It can be argued that this year was the birth of the modern game. Barassi threw the long held ideal of loyalty into disarray, while three teams vacated their traditional homes in search of greener pastures. While North’s venture to VFA side Coburg’s ‘City Oval’ was short lived, Richmond’s move to the MCG propelled it to it’s most successful period, as did St.Kilda’s move from their home by the sea to Moorabbin, another VFA ground taken over by a league club, another glimpse into the future.

St.Kilda grand final training, 2010, photo by Jason from http://www.stkildamatchwornguernsey.com/ (Saints fans will enjoy his site!)

The Moorabbin Football Ground was previously home to VFA team the Moorabbin Kangaroos. Cutting a long story short, St.Kilda saw that the south east of Melbourne was in effect, unclaimed territory, and decided upon the shift. Though the move to Moorabbin brought with it heartache, all was quickly forgotten as St.Kilda made back-to-back-back grand finals, winning their one and only flag in 1966.

You can track St.Kilda F.C’s movement’s in the below diagram I put together.

As you can see from the recently demolished stands at Moorabbin, the intention appears to have been to gradually morph St.Kilda into the Moorabbin Football Club, but this clearly never eventuated.

Whilst the ground’s league lifespan was short, less than 30 years, it truly found a place in the heart of St.Kilda fans. Though not quite to the level which Victoria Park has entered football folklore, Moorabbin has still spawned it’s fair share of paintings and literature, holding a certain dreamtime quality for fans of the red white and black.

On the left is another painting from David Hurwitz, painted in a very similar position to which I took the photo on the right! Great minds think alike I guess.

This post isn’t about the Animal Enclosure, the old Moorabbin nightclub or the muddy centre square. Heck, it’s not even about the Jeff Fehring goal from behind the centre! (However if you want a sneaky look, here it is!)

This is a collection of pictures I took of the ground in 2006, in a desperate bid to photographically archive all the old league grounds in Melbourne. As it turns out, much of what I captured has since been demolished, and many links to the past now gone. It seems a number of footy fans shared my vision, and some of their photos and paintings have helped shape this post.

My dad always said that Moorabbin seemed odd to him as it jutted out of the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne; most other grounds were flanked by old hotels, old train stations and old terrace houses. Moorabbin was surrounded by the cream brick veneer housing of an ever-expanding city.

As I circled the ground before entering, I snapped one of the old entrance gates. On closer inspection, it became quite clear that it was occupied, and though I was keen to document all that I could, I decided to continue on.

And what this above photo makes me realise? That modern football stadia is severely lacking in barbed wire!

As I entered the ground from the Linton St side, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of St.Kilda’s gymnasium of the time. Even though this was six or so years ago, it was severely behind other clubs and their advanced setups. This was open to the elements!

What struck me about Moorabbin was the size. The stand which stretched from the wing to behind the goals (below) was very large for a suburban ground, and the terraced outer was rather expansive. It begs the question of why the club actually moved to Waverley Park in 1993. Geelong’s Kardinia Park is nearly three quarters through a long-term redevelopment, the club reaping the benefits of being able to sell reserved-seat tickets to their matches. It is a shame that a ground such as Moorabbin has not shared the same fate.

The grandstand offered plenty of cover and very good views. However, the photo at the bottom left is what I love about the old footy grounds…if you needed a coaches box, you built it on top of the stand, creating a haphazard atmosphere which brought with it great character. A combination of weatherboard, tin, steel and brick!

Now to the outer. This is where the majority of footy fans have watched the action for the best part of 150 years. It’s now all but a relic of the past. Moorabbin’s expansive outer bore many a story, tears of joy and despair, the odd laugh and a round of fisticuffs or two. To illustrate, here’s how St.Kilda diehard Matthew Hardy’s remembered his first experience of the outer at Moorabbin from his wonderful (and highly recommended) book ‘Saturday Afternoon Fever

I love this shot taken by supporter and photographer Berk McGowan of the overgrown mound behind the outer, the scoreboard still erect and the iconic red iron work. It really captures both present and past. (Check out www.berkmcgowanphotography.com)

photo supplied by Berk McGowan Photography

On my explorations, I found my own bit of Moorabbin to take home with me, 2 inch tubular fencing tee piece coupling, with red paint peeling. This was well captured again by Hurwitz’s painting on the left.

 

Here’s the outer side of the Moorabbin footy ground; the wooden seats on the fence for those early enough, looked down upon by the now demolished scoreboard and timeclock. In a great piece on the Moorabbin scoreboard, Vin Maskell looks at it’s history, and where portions of it are now scattered!

  

Old footy grounds were not just protected by barbed wire. Officious and over-zealous signage adorned many on old venue, and it’s hard to imagine it not been written by a gnarly old stallwart. Consider the following examples…the second is from the collection of Tim Best, a Saint fan who used to sell the footy record outside the ground!

 

And what post on Moorabbin would be complete without at least a view from one of the most notoriously vicious and parochial patches of terracing Australian Football has know, the old Animal Enclosure. The name says it all, it was not for the feint-hearted! Here’s a wonderful piece on the Animal closure by Paul Daffey.

Photograph by Tim Best. For more of his photographic take on Moorabbin Oval, click HERE.

While the Saints now train at the Seaford version of Linen House Oval (I liked how ‘Linen’ was so close to ‘Linton’) they still maintain a presence at Moorabbin. Only the Huggins stand remains, yet where terraces and stands once stood, there are now grassy embankments, maintaining the feel of how it once was. With light towers erected for baseball in the 1990’s, Football Victoria could do worse than considering it as a home for VFL football, however I can’t see this eventuating.

The Saints now play at the Docklands, which is far closer to their birthplace, St.Kilda, than Moorabbin, Waverley and Seaford combined. Yet a ‘home ground’ in Melbourne is nothing more than a token gesture these days, and nothing will match the days at the Junction and then Moorabbin. But that’s progress, progress which can be traced back to the Saints pioneering move to Moorabbin in the first place. Leaving wasn’t easy in 1992. There was much supporter angst, yet to no avail. Again consider the words of Matthew Hardy when it came to the last match at the ground in 1992.

And here’s a great clip from the last day at the ground.

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So to sum up the Moorabbin Football Ground as a league venue, I will simply say this…

HERE FOR A GOOD TIME, NOT A LONG TIME

With a little help from my friends…

As always….http://stats.rleague.com/afl/venues/moorabbin_oval.html

Artist & Pies fan David Hurwitz. Please contact him if you are interested in any of his remaining Moorabbin works. They’d make a sensational addition to the Saints fan collection. You can visit his website and contact David. http://www.davidhurwitz.com.au

All photographs by John Carr unless otherwise stated.

Home and Away Glog!

Just what is a glog? Great question. It’s kind of like an interactive way of displaying….oh heck, just have a look at one!

Home and Away Glog

Unfortunately it is ‘un-embedable’ at this point, so a screen shot will have to. Below you can see what I’ve done, it’s a map of the rail network in Melbourne (adding in the defunct train lines in MSPaint) with a little footy on all the stations of the traditional Melbourne league venues. Great. But once you’re in the gloggy thing, click on the footy and you get taken to my post on that particular ground.  

 I haven’t gotten around all of the grounds as yet, so if you click on a station/footy and nothing happens, then just sit tight, I’m getting through them. There’s a Moorabbin one brewing as we speak!

Once I’ve finished my series on the old VFL grounds, it’s then to the VFA and beyond!

May Glog bless you one and all

Around the Grounds – Victoria Park

Victoria Park: League venue: 1897-1999. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 880 (2 finals, 1901 1st Semi & 1904 1st Semi Finals). Record Attendance: 47,000 v South Melbourne in 1948.

Collingwood’s Victoria Park. It’s iconic. It was more than just a home ground, it was a fortress, a statement of the club that played there. Not pretty but functional. Working class with no frills, yet plenty of character. It was the most feared ground for opposition players and fans alike, in a bygone day when a home ground advantage meant something more than your cheer squad getting a choice of which end to sit.

I never saw a league match at Vic Park. Dad wasn’t keen on taking me there for reasons which I don’t blame him, and by the time I could go to the footy on my own it was only used sporadically for games against Fremantle and the Crows. I’ve since been lucky enough to play a number of games on the old ground for the Western Storm in the Reclink competition.

Shortly after the Pies had left the old ground for their shiny new Lexus Centre, it was in a state of decay. Used by the VFL umpires to train on, it’s future was uncertain. It seemed unfathomable to this writer that such a landmark was so easliy pushed aside. Sanity has since prevailed, but more on that later. I took a series of photos as I’m sure a few Collingwood supporters also did. The remenants of a leage ground (since refurbished) remained.

This is the view (above) of Vic Park that captured me as a child. Whilst dad didn’t take me to games here, he often took the chance to take us for a look around the old grounds. What I loved and still do was the overhang of the grandstand onto the street. Its imposing. I was also particularly fond of Lorraine Wilson’s childrens footy books. From her 1982 ‘Come on the Pies’ book, here is a fantastic illustration by Jack Newnham of the Sherrin stand, with all it’s overhang glorified.

 The old wall, a long forgotten feature at many VFL and VFA gronds, was still standing when I took these photos, and sections of it still stand today. This was one of the last remaining walls of it’s type, with Punt Road, Williamstown and Fitzroy amongst the many to have bitten the dust. I love the ‘fortress’ that it, along with the barbed wire, provided. It’s a far cry from the modern day ‘concourse….’ I shudder when I hear that word.

Here are some of the entry points to the ground. As it was used up until 1999, the signage was in good condition and fairly up to date. 

I think Vic Park may have been the first league ground to actually introduce a spacious concourse as seen below! This would fit with current stadia regulations surely, although perhaps there’s not enough modern art and fast food outlets? As I said, it wasn’t beautiful, but it did the job.

Once in the ground, there were nooks and cranny’s aplently to exlore. The two photos below were taken under the Rush stand. Collinwood made sure you never forgot where you were, taking any and every opportunity to stick up the black and white stripes. The Rush Stand was hardly a stand, more a terraced outer with a bit of shelter, and plenty of what the photo on the bottom right says…standing room!

This is taken out the back of the Rush Stand as it joins with the hill behind the goals at the Yarra Falls end. I love the terrace houses you can see in the background, the same houses you can see in old photographs of the ground. The shot beside it shows the old scoreboard from behind, amidst the ghostly gums.

          

Entering any ground from the darkness below has me wide-eyed like a 10 year old. With the plethora of concrete, black and white, the sudden appearance of green really breaks the monotony. 

When I took these photos, Collingwood had just left, and with them had gone what seating the Rush stand had, along with the players names that adorned the Rush, Ryder and Sherrin Stands. The surface still looked in pretty decent condition.

 The precurser to the Sherrin Stand (above), the old Ladies Stand, is captured beautifully here by Ainsley Walters (below).

pic from http://www.neridahmcmullin.com/page/ainsley_walters.html

The old scoreboard, since demolished, stood atop one-eye hill. Many Pie fans wish that it had been refurbished, but it was deemed a health and safety hazard. It’s a shame to see these old scoreboards knocked down all over the place, but I guess that’s progress! To the right of that is a bit of broken seating from the Rush stand which I helped myself to. Seats numbers 75-77, they may have been your seats!

Below that is the since refurbished Ryder Stand, now complete with new VFL coaching facilities and wheelchair access, and to the left we see the old social club form behind. As a stark reminder of Collingwood’s seemingly abrupt leaving of Vic Park, this shot captures where the logo had been removed, only to see an older one it had been covering, if you look closely!

For a more comprehensive look at Victoria Park’s scoreboard and the modern artwork which now stands in its place, check out Vin Maskell’s blog Scoreboard Pressure. Click here for the old scoreboard and here for a piece on how the new sculpture was conceived.

Photo by Anderson Hunt
Whilst fossicking around Vic Park I also found a whole lot of rubbish carelessly ‘disposed’ of by the recently vacated Collingwood F.C. Among them were some notes from I guess a team meeting. I’m sure they’re more into interactive whiteboards and the like now, but some things remain the same.

DESIRE INDICATORS ARE A KEY TO OUR VICTORY…pretty much ‘have a crack!’

And what of Vic Park now? The Pies have returned in the form of their own ‘reserves’ or ‘VFL’ team, who now play home games at the ground. The Rush Stand has come down but the others remain, and the place has been done up nicely. For more on that check out Collingwood and footy nut Jeff Dowsing’s piece on the Footy Almanac website. To get you in the mood, below is some of his pictorial work with the refurbished ticket box, before and after.

No set of footy fans were as connected to their home ground as the Pies were to theirs, with websites, artwork and poetry now devoted to Victoria Park. Even though I follow Richmond, I’m disappointed that I never saw a league match played there, hostile as it may have been and no doubt a feather in the away fans cap should they have survived. The refurbishment is certainly respectful of the past, something I wish all Melbourne clubs would consider as their grounds are no longer useful playing venues. A leaf could be taken out of Collingwood’s book on this one.

I’ll give the last word to a fanatical Magpie fan with a spray can…

 

Make sure you check out the comprehensive and fantastic Victoria Park website, full of stories, pictures, history, memories, video clips and more, all devoted to Collingwood’s spiritual home!

A couple of panorama’s I put together of Vic Park circa 2005. Above is from the social club, below from the Sherrin Stand.

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.

http://www.bellestorie.com/aroundthegrounds/lakeside/video/lakesideoval_0.html

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

http://youtu.be/ueC2tEygRnE

With a little help from my friends…

Football Grounds of Melbourne, Caruso, Fiddian and Main.
http://www.austadiums.com/
http://stats.rleague.com/afl/venues/lake_oval.html
http://www.majorprojects.vic.gov.au/