Steve and Damo’s Ground Trip: Part 2

by Steve Healy

Last holidays, me and Damian Watson set off on an expedition to conquer all the former VFL suburban grounds (bar Geelong) in one day. Unfortunately, we fell terribly short and still had Princes Park, Arden St, Brunswick St oval, Windy Hill, Glenferrie and Whitten Oval to conquer. We picked this particular Friday as the date to do part two, as we both had the day off after completing exams.

It’s just after nine o’clock on a cold and cloudy morning in Melbourne. The young people smoking on the steps of Flinders St Station provide some warmth that floats through the air. I greet Damo, who wears his Carlton jumper, and we set off on what will be a long and exciting day, five grounds to visit (we both agreed that visiting Whitten Oval was too hard) followed by the game at Etihad Stadium.

Princes Park/Visy Park/Optus Oval/MC Labour Park:

Unlike last time, we arrive to our first ground of the day without any hiccups. We get off the tram and circle the ground that is currently known as Visy Park. Just as we get worried that we won’t be able to enter the stadium, we find an opening and, in the words of Damo, we “circumnavigate” through the stands, where we spot a couple of Melbourne Storm players walking past. We sit on the interchange benches and have a kick on the surface (where we tried unrealistic attempts of Malcolm Blight’s goal), but the real highlight is when we discover that one of the Statistician’s boxes are open and there is a fabulous view of the field, as well as an 80’s TV and a telephone. The door of the Bruce Doull room has been left open and we had a peek inside there, although it was currently being renovated. We also have a look at Carlton’s training facilities, and see Carlton’s “Wall of Fame” where Carlton players with 200 games or more feature. As Damo observes his heroes we open the door to Carlton’s gym room which has the best modern technology you will ever see. As we leave the venue the topic pops up about whether it should still be an AFL venue or not. While Carlton’s massive training base stays at the former Heatley Stand end there is a slim chance that it will happen.

Arden St:

On the way to Arden St oval we discuss some classic Friday night matches in the lead up to the match tonight. This trip proves to be the most difficult of the day as we lose sense of direction without a map on the streets of North Melbourne. After finally finding Arden St, we are somewhat let down with the lack of productivity at the venue and the swamp-like surface on some of the ground and leave after a short kick (including a couple of magnificent goals in a row by myself). We don’t bother to look around at the facilities and after I try to reenact David Hale’s near-season ending injury from the preseason, we head off to our next venue.

Windy Hill:

Having not gone to Windy Hill (or been in the general area) before, we get off the train and go on a short walk to the venue. We head in on to the surface and we see some Essendon officials just hovering around. I bring out the footy and we have a kick towards the Primary School end, while dark clouds hover above. Unfortunately, the heavens open and the torrential rain comes down, driving us in to the stand to sit down and watch the ground become even wetter. Unfortunately, the upper area of the stands is not accessible. By this stage it’s amazingly starting to get late in to the afternoon and we start to worry whether we can get through all the grounds. The rain dies down so we decide that it’s time to leave even though it’s freezing cold and huge puddles line the streets. However, on our way out we marvel at the orangey tiles on the footpath that feature former Captains, Brownlow medalists, and renowned Essendon Club members.

Brunswick St Oval:

A tram ride up Brunswick St is a sigh of relief for me as I’m sitting out of the elements for a short time. To add to the discomfort I also need to go to the toilet as we arrive at the iconic ground that bred such names as Bunton and Murray. A door to the change rooms is open and we find some old Fitzroy memorabilia which is a relief as the stand isn’t accessible and the ground is in bad condition to have a kick in. We leave after a short wander around the change rooms in our bid to reach Glenferrie oval before dark.

Glenferrie Oval:

We get off at Glenferrie station, for our last visit of the day. Glenferrie oval, home of the Hawthorn Football Club from before their VFL berth until 1973, and their training base until 2005. Unfortunately, the ground has been newly resurfaced and the goal posts are yet to be put up again, but that doesn’t stop us from re-enacting Brereton’s boot-on-the-head on Rayden Tallis in a practice match at the ground in 1994. Professional football hasn’t been seen at this ground for quite some time, mostly due to its size of just 105 metres across (34 less than the MCG). To my dismay, the old Michael Tuck Stand is heritage listed and unable to access, as well as the Ferguson Stand which is in line to be demolished.

The day is at an end and we celebrate the fact that we have now been to every old VFL ground bar Whitten Oval and Skilled Stadium. Like last time, the first ground of the day we went to was probably our best visit. We head off to Etihad Stadium where, unfortunately for Damo, Carlton loses in the big game. Damo and I have done what many could not have; we have battled through tough conditions to get to every ground possible. And last of all, thanks to Billy Miller, for inspiring us to do so.

About Steve Healy

Steve Healy is an entity of a Melbourne supporter.

Comments

  1. Great stuff guys.

    Sounds like something I really need to do before I die.

  2. Steve Healy says:

    Thanks Josh, there’s plenty of time to do so.

    And you’ve already been to at least Arden St

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