AFL Round 20 – Adelaide v North Melbourne: Footy Park – never loved, never forgotten

By Richard Arrowsmith

I’m coming over all nostalgic this afternoon, on my second-last visit to Footy Park.  Not that there will be many tears because, let’s be honest, this isn’t a stadium to love.

I won’t miss the one hour drive, and I won’t miss the dreary walk from Seaton High to the stadium, along dodgy footpaths and past rows of parked buses.  I will miss the cheery Seaton High volunteers directing traffic onto their oval, and I’ll spare them a thought as they face up to losing what must have been a massive fundraiser for so many years.

The Max Basheer Reserve (training ground or car park, depending on the time of week) has the atmosphere of a country race meeting – barbeques, Eskies and card tables laden with drinks and Tupperware.

Kids are kicking footies on a mini oval with an inflatable boundary.  The rock climbing wall is in full swing – literally, when some little people lose their footing.  Young men in suits who may or may not be junior Crows players oversee proceedings.  The generators powering the inflatable oval are standing in misappropriated Australia Post tubs.  Tut, tut.

A little guy in a Saints jumper walks past with his sister, who is wearing what looks like a ball gown.  Dad carries a bag with an image of Bob The Builder.  Who is presumably on a rookie list somewhere.

The A-list emerges from the Westpac Centre after, presumably, looking over the team’s preparation with knowledgeable eyes.  The gate staff may or may not check your bag, it’s all a bit token.

It’s all more vivid today.

Familiar faces.  The lady who looks like Sheila Hancock.  The severe-looking woman dragging on her cigarette, radio headphones clamped over a hairstyle that would be bouffant, given a choice.  People you’ve shared a half time analysis with, giving a small wave.

Into the stadium, and the open space.  Gently raked stands, a happy crowd buzzing in the sun for the first time in weeks.

The Northern Stand looks forlorn, barely into its useful life and the curtain is coming down.  I sat up there once, with my daughter Lucy, and watched the Crows overcome Freo in the epic 2006 Qualifying Final.  We made more noise throughout the three quarter time break than I have ever heard at any game.  Scott Welsh put us in front and raised his hands in triumph – to us, personally, it seemed.

It’s not a great game; in the words of the commentariat, “fails to reach great heights”.  Adelaide draws away from a disappointing North.  Roos fight back to groans from the crowd.  Crows respond and hang on for a win that could yet help us to the finals!  From ninth spot!  Oh, please.  Let’s just get it over with.

This is the ground where, in 1995 and in his first game, Andrew McLeod dribbled through the winning goal against Hawthorn, in the teeming rain.  Ben Hart took Mark of the Year here in 1996.  Shaun Rehn wrecked his knee on the infamous “bounce plate”.  Mods kicked 13 against Carlton.

But there is a redeeming feature.  And, not for the first time, its name is Rory.

Before every game the players receive detailed instructions on their role, positioning and so on.  Then the coach takes Rory Sloane aside and tells him “Just be where the ball is going to be next, get it, move it on, and do it again”.

After yet another running mark he lines up for goal from the pocket.  Modra took a hanger around there once, and Troy Bond, standing at the foot of the pack, looked at his teammates with a little boy’s grin and “Did you see that?!”  From behind me I hear “No way will he get this” and then and there I know the result.  Goal.

Late in the second quarter he dashes to a contest and earns a free right in front of us.  The crowd responds with a mix of cheers and delighted laughter.  A bloke in Row B runs to the fence and offers him a beer.

When Ken McGregor kicked the last goal against Essendon in 2006, he couldn’t understand why the crowd went berserk – we were 22 goals up, after all.  But the crowd could see what Kenny didn’t know: it was goal number 30 for the night.

In the last he runs 40 metres with the flight of the ball, takes the mark right next to the goal post and gives us a crucial goal.

That’s where a square post (who thought that was a bright idea?!) nearly wrecked Wayne Carey’s knee in 2003.

That’s the goal square where Modra took Mark of the Year in 1993 – and again in 1997 – and against North both times.

He’s astonishing.  I don’t think he’s ever been assigned a tag – probably because opposition coaches realise it’s pointless.  But – and it’s a sadistic thought – I’d love to see someone try.

The walk back to Seaton High is always easier after a win.  Housing Trust homes disgorge cars from their lawns, and a family sits patiently in their car, waiting for the people parked in front of them to return.  The odd horn honks.  The crowded footpath, the stumbling over cracks.  The long drive home.

No, I won’t miss it.  But I will remember it, always.

 

Adelaide                     3.5       7.7       9.8       11.13   (79)

North Melbourne        0.2       3.5       8.10     10.10   (70)

GOALS
Adelaide: Douglas, Otten, Sloane 2; Johnston, Dangerfield, Grigg, Lynch, Petrenko

North Melbourne: Adams 3; Wells, Thomas 2;  Black, MacMillan, Goldstein

Best

Adelaide: Sloane, Crouch, Henderson, Douglas, Laird, Jacobs, Dangerfield

North Melbourne: Wells, Adams, Gibson, Thompson, Cunnington, Atley

Umpires: Schmitt, Hay, Mollison

Official crowd: 31,801

Our Votes: 3 Sloane (Adel) 2 Crouch (Adel) 1 Henderson (Adel)

 

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    I never went to Footy Park, it was too annoyingly out of the way particularly for me who left the state in 1977 and who on occasional trips back since just found the effort of trying to get there too difficult. All the same you capture the nostalgia built up over the years really well. Can’t wait for the 2014 season at the Adelaide Oval all the same.

  2. Avoided the horrible place. It has few, all bad, memories – the Bays losing the first GF there ( and vowing “never again”) and Phil Maylin being knocked out very early (Danny Jenkins??) in the Peckers’ first ever final and, with my Woodville friends, conceding and leaving.
    Not happy at the concreting of Adelaide Oval but have no sentiment for West Lakes.

  3. My best memories of the place are all pre AFL .. 76 GF with crowd inside the fence. 80’s GF’s NAFC v GFC epics

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    I no I am in minority but I love Footy Park the bus ride Barby in the car park time for a drink afterwards get the last bus and still Zoom Home Give me Footy Park over
    Adelaide oval any day Great Memories

  5. As a South Australian I never warmed to the concrete canyon of West Lakes compared to the central location and grass mounds (now gone?) of Adelaide Oval. Always seemed to be dewy and slippery even on a dry day due to its proximity to the lake and ocean.
    Still though Crio I do recall being there for the Bays’ 1985 GF win over the Roosters. Sticks Kernahan’s magnum opus 7 goals in his last Glenelg game still stick in my mind. Pack marking and kicking goals against a strong wind to will the Bay’s home.
    Surely not all bad memories for you.

  6. mickey randall says:

    For me it’s the ’76 GF won singlehandedly by Rick Davies of Sturt against Port. I was ten and sat inside the fence on the grass. Biggest crowd at Footy Park ever- 66,000. Davies played one of the great games. I reckon he took over twenty grabs. And, of course to beat the Filth when they were overwhelming favourites!

  7. I didn’t see the 85/86 Premierships… the move to Footy Park helped prod me away from SANFL for a time (and was O/S those years)

  8. Mark Schwerdt says:

    I saw the first game there (Centrals v North) – apparently there was a visitor’s book available to sign and quite a few people (not me) lined up to record their name – I wonder what happened to this artefact ?

    Saw every GF there from 74-88, plus Centrals GF loss in 95 (the only time I returned to FoopballParg after moving interstate) and every Crows game from 92-94 – it was a soulless place when the crowd was low for a SANFL game (check out http://safootballvideoarchive.webs.com/) but given a full house, had plenty of atmosphere IMO.

    Still have corrugations on my bum from the aluminium bench seats though.

    Don’t forget, it was also a World Series Cricket venue.

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