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.

Happy Snap #17 Dockers First Hurrah!

I just quickly want to post this picture from the family photo album as there are a few interesting little aspects to it. Firstly, this is just seconds before the Fremantle Football Club commenced playing in the Australian Football League, round 1, 1995. The time is 2:10…traditionally when matches used to begin! It’s anyone’s guess these days! We were there because Richmond were again used as the guinea pigs to welcome a new Western Australian club into the big time.

But thanks to my dad, we have some idea as to the Dockers mindset in relation to their powerful big brothers, West Coast, who had won two of the past three premierships. This little home-made sign hanging over the fence simply says…

“Eagles don’t look after members…Freo Dockers!”

A disgruntled Eagles fan perhaps? Sick of success? Or perhaps sick of being on a ten year waiting list to get a seat at a home match? Either way, this Freo fan or fans have failed miserably in one aspect…you can’t read yellow texta from a distance!

Richmond nervously held on for a 5 point win, with little indication that it would be the first of 7 successive victories. As a side, this is the old Western or Ponsford stand at the MCG, and the photo is dated by the ‘Telecom’ (not Telstra) and “Brian Nailor-Ray Martin…Who’s who of news” advertisements!

PS.Thanks to mum for her happy-snappery!

Scoreboard Pressure – Western Oval

Be sure to check out Vin Maskell’s piece on the Western/Whitten Oval for his sight Scoreboard Pressure, an in depth look at scoreboards from a scoreboard enthusiast! A big thanks to Vin for using some of my photos, much appreciated and glad they could be of use!

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

 

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!

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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/