by Richard Jones
JUST as Paul Daffey and Kevin Sheedy do when they’re on an Australian driving holiday, I like to check out country footy grounds.
It tends to drive my wife crazy, but as we call into every conceivable “antique” (read ‘knick knacks’) shop en route there’s a bit of give and take.
Late last year on the way to visit friends in Mildura, we circled ovals in Victoria’s Wimmera and Mallee regions.
A year or so back it was arenas in South Australia as we headed north via Port Augusta and Coober Pedy to Uluru.
Mid-October this year saw us in Tasmania, a state we hadn’t visited since the Nineties.
And, boy, hasn’t the footy world and the various structures down on the Apple Isle changed in that decade-and-a-half!
We started off south of Hobart after a car-less three days in the capital. With the little rental car available for the next 11 days off we went.
I should hasten to add we’d thoroughly traversed the west and the Midlands on our previous visits. This time it was to be the east coast, the north-east and the north.
First up was Kermandie, home of the Robins. This ground isn’t far from Geeveston in the Huon Valley. We were on our way to Kettering to catch the ferry to Bruny Island and decided to do a little touring on the way to the terminal.
The Robins used to play in the Southern Footy League but despite what looked like a reasonably recent Bendigo Bank sponsorship sign on the clubrooms wall, a bloke in Huonville’s Woolies said the Robins had gone to God.
A little bit of Googling revealed that Kermandie had indeed fallen over in March, 2010.
The Franklin ground abuts the Huon River. “Looks like they’d be fishing a few pills out of the drink here,” my wife muttered as we took a look.
Onto to Snug. Can there be a better place name in Oz than Snug? Ouse goes close, and also Cygnet. They’re both Tasmanian, too.
Tinder Box is a bit close to home with the summer fire season looming and bushfires already reaching catastrophic proportions in NSW. And Tomahawk evokes images of native Americans.
Big sign on the entrance to the Snug Oval tells us it’s the Salmon Pen, home of the Southern Sharks. A chat with a local indicates that this particular name might be the moniker for the Snug Cricket Club.
Although I should point out there is a mention of the Channel Footy Club, halfway down the signage. This club came into existence through the union of the Margate, Kettering, Snug and Woodbridge clubs, since 2009 part of the Old Scholars Football Association: apparently a less competitive and more social league.
ON we went to the east and the north-east after a thrilling three-hour adventure boat cruise down the east side of Bruny Island and out into the Southern Ocean.
Old Dog Matt Zurbo had alerted me to the pictorial significance of the Ringarooma ground.
There it sits, amid rolling pastures just off the Branxholm-Scottsdale road. If Daff was considering a big sky cover pic for Footy Town 2 Ringarooma would fill the bill.
Only trouble is — the club there, too, has folded. A dinky little grandstand sits on the sidelines but now the club is in recess, galvanized iron encloses one complete viewing side of the structure.
Before reaching Ringarooma we’d driven around the Fingal ground, ringed by poplars. “Only two locals play for us these days,” the old bloke in the servo/repair shop told us. “The rest are blow-ins.”
St Mary’s, inland from Falmouth, has one of the strangest set-ups I’ve seen anywhere. The footy ground, home to the East Coast Swans (the Giants are the junior body the council bloke said), has a grass trotting track encircling one section of it.
The red hots come to town once, maybe twice, a year. Hopefully the bloke with the white line marking equipment gets busy beforehand. There are only a handful of tiny, wooden running rails interspersed at irregular intervals around the perimeter.
At Scottsdale, home of the Magpies, we discover that this once thriving major league club now plays in an amateur comp.
The Maggies share their ground with the Agricultural Society.
Other grounds worth a mention: 1/. Redpa, home of the Redlegs, west of Stanley and Smithton in N-W Tassie. The Redlegs won the five-club Circular Head Footy Association this season with a nine-point victory over Irishtown.
After looking at this ground we drove on to Arthur River and the aptly named Edge Of The World on the west coast.
No, not made up. A real place name (I have an iPhone pic of the plaque).
2/. Pipers Park @ Wesley Vale, home of the Kangaroos. Member of the nine-club NWFA and not all that far from a major centre in Devonport.
3/. Penguin, home of the Two Blues. On the central north coast between West Ulverstone and Burnie.
Had a special link for me as Geelong’s 1963 premiership skipper, Fred Wooller, once coached Penguin.
Seemed a small-ish oval, particularly when compared to the expansive Burnie Dockers’ home ground which comes with large grandstands, lights and a bike track.
4/. Wynyard Cats, not a particularly memorable grandstand or ground.
But has best hamburger stand sign I’ve ever encountered.
Here it is, word for word: ‘Nev’s Roadkill (always fresh). Collected every Saturday morning.”
Yep, I’ve got a pic of that one, as well.