Home & Away #4 Arden Street Oval

Arden Street: League venue: 1925-1985. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 529 . Record Attendance: 35,000-North Melbourne v Carlton, 1949.

Melbourne’s football grounds tend to reflect the suburb in which they are found. As I’ve already shown you, Glenferrie Oval, in the leafy, well to do suburb of Hawthorn boasted an art-deco stand, while Fitzroy, Melbourne’s first suburb, with somewhat a bohemian past boasted two elegant pavilions, one of which still stands.

North Melbourne’s Arden Street oval on the other hand mirrors it’s working class roots. Much like Footscray’s Western Oval and Collingwood’s Victoria Park, Arden Street was a no-frills football ground with plenty of concrete and grit. It was practical, yet still charming in it’s simplicity.

 To demonstrate Arden Street’s lack of outstanding features, it was an object separate to the ground itself which is still remembered as it’s most endearing feature; a gigantic gasometer which towered over the outer wing. 

The gasometer overlooking Arden St. Image from –http://www.footballinvective.com/2005/0508.html

The gasometer however is long gone, the humble little ground outlasting it’s neighbour. The old stand has made way for North Melbourne’s new training facility, with very little remaining to suggest league football was played at this ground. A few years back I made a few trips to Arden Street, and was able to capture the decaying ruins of a league venue. Being too young to have ever attended or been aware of a match at Arden St, it was with some level of mystery that I ventured to North Melbourne’s spiritual home. Here’s how the ground stood just 5 years ago.

Firstly the old stand, what I would term a very ‘northern suburbs’ pavillion, much the same design as Carlton’s late Heatley Stand and what’s left of Coburg’s grandstand. Incidentally, North used Coburg City Oval as it’s home ground for season 1965, yet returned home the following year.

With the old grandstand still standing proud, though blocked off from the public, this is Arden Street looking much as it had as a league venue, complete with the old undercover betting ring behind the old stand which was in place for the greyhound races that used to grace the ground. It was destroyed by fire in 2006, though its days were numbered.

This is a snap taken through the old social club-come-gymnasium window. North Melbourne produced some amazing results in the 1990’s considering their facilities. As North players said throughout their successful era, the “weights are just as heavy as West Coast’s.”

North was renowned for playing hard both on and off the field, yet surely the gymnasium in the bar was taking it a step too far!

As you can see below, the old grandstand was in a state of decay, and though I never like to see a grandstand demolished, what’s more important to me is that North Melbourne is still based at Arden Street Oval. Bulldozing the existing facilities and building up to date ones were the only way that North could stay in it’s own suburb. In a nice touch however, many of the old bricks were used in the new structure.

A feature of the ground which I loved was the old entrance next to the social club. It looks to me as though this was one of the last additions to Arden Street as a league venue, coming across as very ’70’s. And what I love here is the glimpse it gives us into 1985, the last year Arden Street was used as a league venue:

Adults $7, Pensioners/Children just $1.00!

Ah…the magic of entering the ground and heading up the stairs to be confronted by the vast field is displayed beautifully here, a feature at many old league and association grounds, and football grounds the world over.

The old players race is about the last remaining feature from days past, other than the oval itself and the grassy contours which once stood as gravelly terraces. The scoreboard and covered shelter areas are long gone and the ground itself has been opened to the public. The seating along the boundary fence also remains, and you can see by the below photo what I meant when I said that Arden Street was a ‘no-frills’ affair.

As I’ve already mentioned, little is left of the outer other than the grassy hills which have replaced the concrete wonderland, so I was surprised to find this little gem which has survived the passages of time. The old ‘Dry Area’ sign still remains at the top of the hill on the outer side, and I had to remove a small branch or two to make the sign visible. The standing room ‘sheds’ that stood on the wing and behind the goals were demolished after the Bradford City fire in England, deemed a fire hazard.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with the words of football great Ron Barassi. This is one of Ron’s quarter time speeches as coach of North Melbourne in the centre of Arden Street oval during the late 1970’s. Let’s just say that Ron did not hold back for the camera! As Ron rants, make sure you take in the footage of old Arden Street as a league venue, the life and colour that once adorned the old ground. Next time you drive past Arden Street, Victoria Park or Windy Hill, it’s worth remembering the contribution they made to football in Victoria. We outgrew them, but they shouldn’t be forgotten.

For more on Arden Street, in particular the scoreboard, check out scoreboard pressure

http://scoreboardpressure.com/2011/06/22/north-melbourne-victoria/

With a little help from my friends…

http://stats.rleague.com/afl/venues/arden_st.html

http://en.wikipedia.org


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Home & Away #3 Western Oval

Western Oval: League venue: 1925-1997. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 665 . Record Attendance: 42,354-Footscray v Coll’wood, r.121955.

 Having already looked back at the old league venues in Fitzroy and Hawthorn, we now head across the Maribyrnong river to Footscray’s Western Oval, now the Whitten Oval.

Photo courtesy of Maribyrnong Leader

Growing up in Melbourne’s leafy east, to me Footscray seemed an eternity away, both in distance and way of life. Fast forward to 2012 and I now live just a few drop kicks and a decent torpy away from the old Western Oval, many myths about Footscray having been debunked along the way.

 I took this series of photos when the ground still stood essentially as it was since top-level football departed it in 1997. Little did I know that the following week saw the scoreboard come down and work begin on the new developments at the kennel. While understanding the need to move forward, I’m sure glad I captured some of the old nooks and crannies that I did before it all came down.

I have watched with great intrigue over the past few years the developments at the oval, and have been pleased with how they have come about. While not as in depth as Victoria Park’s recent refurbishments, the Dogs have maintained much of the grounds feel, including a large section of old-school terracing which still exists behind the Geelong Road end goals. There is however a trendy cafe these days residing between the two old grandstands, a far cry from the old Western Oval where the Scraggers plied their trade.

The two old stands, and on the right the new cafe and administration joins the two.

I love the local touch that the Western Bulldogs still possess; if you live in Footscray then the chances are that they are your team. The suburb still has plenty of red white and blue on display in shops and on vehicles and is a club still connected to their community. Central to that has been the redevelopment of the Whitten or Western Oval, now a community space as well as an elite training facility

When it came to the redevelopments, there were elements of the ground deemed necessary for demolition. First to go was the old scoreboard. I took these photos just days before its demise, with the remnants of ‘congratulations’ for Chris Grants 300th match still on the board.

I also love the old wooden seating in the foreground which stood until recently, a world away from todays plastic bucket seats. They look more like pews, where supporters could kneel and pray. Whilst snooping around, I ventured into the scoreboard, quite tentatively as I’d heard that it was a home to squatters. This photo shows the old South Melbourne board, which must have sat there gathering dust since 1981. How I wish that I had grabbed the sign!

I

What fascinated me most about the Western Oval however was the Gordon St side of the ground. The Doug Hawkins wing. I just loved the integration of footpath, EJ Smith grandstand and Geelong Road bridge, with many a dark corner to explore. I was sad to see this go as it was just full of character, a stark contrast to todays near uniform stadia.



The Western Oval is now an elite training facility for elite athletes and will obviously not be hosting any more league matches. But the ground still has that old feel about it. There’s plenty of terracing left, the old stands are intact and the ground is well cared for, unlike others which have been left to decay. The Dogs still get a decent sized crowds to their intra-club matches too.

The one glaring admission is no signage to acknowledge the Dougy Hawkins Wing. I hope this is rectified at some stage.

(Ed. – This was recently rectified…great work by the club! Click here to see the rectified Dougy Hawkins wing! )

Please share any old stories you have from a day spent on the terraces at the Western Oval. Were you there when Carlton kicked just one goal? Or at the climactic end to the 1987 home and away series?  Perhaps you heard first hand EJ’s final address to his players as captain coach. I’d love to hear your stories. Thank

And be sure to check out Vin Maskell’s piece on the old Western Oval scoreboard on his Scoreboard Pressure site!

http://scoreboardpressure.com/2012/06/04/whitten-oval-footscray-victoria/

Home & Away #2 Glenferrie Oval

Glenferrie Oval: League venue: 1925-1973. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 443. Record Attendance: 36,000-Haw v Carl, 1965.

This is part 2 of my series ‘Home and Away’- a look back at Melbourne’s grounds

Glenferrie Oval. I must have passed it by train a thousand times. I’ve heard many a father trying to convince their unbelieving youngsters that Hawthorn actually used to play games down there on that skinny patch of grass, my own father included. It is hard to imagine that 36,000 once managed to cram into that space.

Surely the most unique of Melbourne’s league football grounds, Glenferrie Oval was opened in 1906, the Hawthorn Football club finally settling there after numerous homes previously. Flanked by train tracks and Linda Crescent, the oval took on an unusually narrow shape, and spectator facilities on the wings were rather creative.

Hawthorn, until recently, had one of the smaller followings of the Melbourne clubs. Having joined the league along with Footscray and North Melbourne in 1925, with the VFL nearly three decades old, these three clubs found it hard to attract large supporter bases. While North and Footscray still struggle with this, Hawthorn’s astonishing success from 1961 (10 flags and at the least one flag in each decade since) has finally seen it become a genuinely big club. It was the first of the three 1925 “newcomers” to outgrow it’s original home, leaving in 1973. However until that point, Glenferrie Oval had been apt in its size.

The grounds first main grandstand, as opposed to pavilion, was an old wooden stand transported to the ground from the old East Melbourne Cricket ground upon it’s demise in1921, standing until the 1960’s, when it made way for the Dr A.S. Ferguson stand…which has since been cut in half!

Above is the old wooden stand, East Melb C.G on the left, later at Glenferrie on the right. Below is the Dr Ferguson stand, which has been neatly halved since its glory days.

The classic art deco styled Michael Tuck stand, built in 1938, was clearly given it’s name in retrospect, as Michael was still some decades from making his debut. The ‘red-brick stand’ as it was known, to me defines Glenferrie Oval. It is superb. Just walking up the stairwell and into the upper tier actually gives me goosebumps. My wife does not understand this phenomenon.

It oozes cinematic charm and elegance, a far cry from the simplistic yet still charming stands which adorned the more working class suburban grounds. The stand has gained recognition world-wide for its unique design and is acknowledged as an art deco design of significance.

Here is a link to a fantastic article on the art deco stand at Glenferrie by Paul Daffey

On one of my trips to Glenferrie Oval to take pictures several years ago, I was snooping around as per usual. I’m always looking for that odd little feature which I’d never seen before. Amid my treasure hunt, I was startled by an older guy who popped his head through one of the grandstand nooks to ask what I was doing. My natural thought was that I was an imposition, about to be told in no uncertain terms to buzz off. With Hawthorn still using the ground as a training facility, my Richmond polo shirt would surely not aid my cause.

However my anxieties were soon at ease, as this gentleman was clearly no threat. In fact I recognised him instantly as Graham Arthur, captain of Hawthorns first flag in 1961. And what did he want? He wondered if I’d like a tour through the ground. Wonderful. I hadn’t let on as yet that I knew who he was, and he’s not the type to parade himself around. Introducing himself simply as Graham however confirmed my near-certain suspicion.

Graham Arthur, still helping the club out at Waverley Park. Photo courtesy or hawthornfc.com.au

As we wound the narrow corridors of the old red-brick stand, it was as if in a time warp. There were signs of current day things, players boots lying here or there, but the walls were filled with old stories. Graham led me around, showing me this and that, still not feeling the need to let on who he was. I’m sure he assumed I wouldn’t have know him anyway, yet I have a keen feel for the games history and study it religiously.

Up musty stair cases, winding this way and that, we came to a room out the back where the trainers put on a barbecue and beer night after training every Thursday. Players, Graham told me, were often in attendance. The very notion in the present day seems preposterous, yet it was a different place and time. It was in this room that Graham took me to a picture on the wall of a young strapping man, clad in brown and gold, sending the air-conveyence closer to goal. I was sensing a reveal.

“You see that bloke there? Well, you’re talking to him right now.”

Very humble, almost embarrassingly so. I played along with him, feigning surprise, though I still reacted so that he knew that I’d heard of Graham Arthur, to give his ego a little boost. Graham and I continued over to the Dr. Ferguson stand, plain on the outside, yet housing a past players bar and a comprehensive Hawthorn museum, since transported to Waverley park. We finished the ‘tour’, which I must add I paid nothing for, over the road at the old Hawthorn social club, since sold off and demolished. I thanked Graham immensely, and continued on my way. Graham Arthur was so easy to talk to and very humble, and the fact that in retirement he returned to his club to contribute says something about him.

But back to the oval. The Sardine tin, as it was affectionately known, was one of the earlier suburban grounds to bite the dust. With no room to expand the playing surface or spectator facilities, the ground always had a limited lifespan. The Hawks have left, and upon my recent travels past the old ground, it’s looking a bit sad. The turf was the first thing to fall by the wayside, and whilst I am far from impressed with the amount of advertising at AFL grounds, jumpers, shorts, even the Sherrin, this tired little ground seemed somewhat lifeless now that even the advertising hoardings no longer lived there. I guess it served as a stark reminder that Glenferrie Oval no longer plays a part in league football.

While the future of the ground is somewhat uncertain, what with it being prime real estate, thankfully the red-brick stand carries a heritage listing, meaning it at least will be safe. And as the years go on and I pass the ground with my own rug-rats in toe, I’ll point out the high-rise suburb that used to be Glenferrie Oval, with the seemingly out of place art deco grandstand to the side of it and say…

“Hawthorn used to play there kids.”

“Yeah right dad!”

Here are some more photos I took around 2004-06

With a little help from my friends…

Book:We are Hawthorn, http://hawthornfc.com.au, Football Grounds in Melbourne, Santo Caruso, http://stats.rleague.com/afl/afl_index.html

 

Also, check out these fantastic links-

Scoreboard Pressure’s look at Glenferrie scoreboards over the years…

http://scoreboardpressure.com/2011/09/14/glenferrie-oval-victoria/

http://www.peterelliston.com/Webpage_Football%201961/index.htm#6

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJVYBhyuDPE

 

Another fantastic video showcasing Glenferrie circa 1969…a whole quarter! Courtesy of Damian Watson on the Footy Almanac website.

Home & Away #1 Brunswick St Oval

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 cricketers stand today.

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.’