More Memories of Kardinia Park: Too cold for footy

By Les Everett

WE’D managed to snag the worst seats at Skilled Stadium.

They were behind the goals at the unprotected end, elevated so as to provide not a better view but full-faced access to the icy wind.

We took our seats maybe 15 minutes before bounce down and it was raining. I was wearing a t-shirt, thick shirt, windcheater, coat, weatherproof hooded jacket and a Dockers scarf. My jeans were soaked before the siren sounded.

At some stage the ground announcer said it was seven degrees – we didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowin’. Geelong captain Steven King won the toss and decided to kick towards us.

“Go Fremantle!” I yelled and icy rain hit the back of my throat, “These are our conditions.”

Two of our party, one at her first footy game, left before half time. They weren’t the only ones. Someone said he hadn’t seen such conditions for 30 years – he can’t have been much over 30-years-old.

A fan behind us bemoaned the inability of modern players to handle such conditions – local games around Geelong were being called off, players were being taken to hospital. Even the greats of yesteryear when men were men didn’t play on days such as this.

Before quarter time I noticed an uncontrollable shivering and when I moved at half time realised my legs weren’t functioning well and my jaw was locking.

My companion fellow Almanacker Neil Belford and I had an out. AFL media accreditation. We spent half time looking for the media box. Past experience at Kardinia Park had told me staff members are pleasant but no one knows where the media facilities are located. I didn’t mind. During one fruitless search we found ourselves in a windowless concrete stairwell – it was warm. I wanted to stay.

Finally we were ushered into a curious glassed-in room occupied by the non-playing members of the Geelong squad (counting their blessings) and other Cat faithful including the legendary Doug Wade. One of the players was Corey Enright, then a fringe member of the squad.

The game, up for grabs at half time, drifted like an iceberg out of Fremantle’s grasp. For the first time in my footy supporting life the result meant nothing, I just hoped the players were ok.

It ended. We headed zombie-ilke toward the Sawyers Arms Hotel. We didn’t need beer; we required rum and red wine and an open fire.

They played the Geelong song and people sang along while body temperatures returned to something like normal.

They played it again.

“Turn it off!” I cried and people smiled.

I realised I liked Geelong fans. Back then they knew pain.

But this game was too much. No one should been outdoors in Geelong on Saturday 14 August 2004.

First published on australianrules.com.au

Postscript: Later I heard that at the half time break Fremantle players were give cups of tea and coffee rather than water and sport drinks. Most were shivering so much they could barely drink. Jeff Farmer’s shivering was so out of control that he was covered in blankets and towels and had heat lamps directed at him. I’ve never been back to Kardinia Park.

About Les Everett

A Footy Almanac veteran, Les Everett is the author of Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football and Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History. He is the footyalmanac.com WAFL correspondent and uses the money he makes from that role to pay for his expensive websites australianrules.com.au and talkingfrankie.com and fund the extravagant Vin Maskell at scoreboardpressure.com

Comments

  1. To further emphasise home-ground advantage, Kardinia Park seems to drift somewhere close to Antarctica on game days – let’s really take these teams from warmer climates out of their comfort zones.

    My memory often fails me, but I am fairly sure that in season 2005, the Geelong Cats and Kardinia Park tried to end the drought all on their own. Fair to say, in my years as a member sitting on the terrace (2004 onwards), I’ve been exposed to some pretty harsh elements.

    I still believe this game in 2004 was played in the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced. From memory, some players developed hyperthermia? Or came pretty close to it. People who weren’t there will never fully appreciate just how dreadful the weather was.

    I believe the scores for this game ended up something like 75-25? This may well be the day Geelong were officially dubbed the “Wet Weather Specialists”, though it could easily have read “The Antarctic Swamp Specialists”.

  2. Round 20, 2004 Susie, Geelong v Fremantle. 10.15.75 (?) to 3.7.25. I remember that game well, I think almost every player on the field wore long sleeves that day, and the ones that didn’t sure did suffer.

  3. Danielle says:

    When it’s cold, windy and raining and there are all these players in their no-sleeve jumpers i begin to think they just want to show off thier guns on tv.
    Can there really be any other reason? lol

    Danni

  4. Dave Nadel says:

    God, You young (and Western Australian) heroes! Anyone who lived in Melbourne between 1970 and 2000 could tell you there is only one word for an intolerably cold day at the football and that word is – WAVERLEY!! Kardinia Park in midwinter, Junction Oval in the fog, Victoria Park in a rainstorm, all were balmy compared to Arctic Park Waverley in July or August.

    I once went to a St Kilda vs Collingwood game (I think in 1991) when for some reason the wind (and rain) came from the Southeast rather than the usual Southwest. We sat behind the goals at the City end and saw Tony Lockett and Peter Daicos kick some brilliant gale assisted goals. I don’t think either scored at the Gippsland end. All the time this icy gale was blowing straight at us. I had gone to the game with the same Leeds born friend that I mentioned in the Damned United thread. By the end of the game our teeth were chattering so badly that neither of us could talk. On the way home, when we had finally thawed out a little my friend said he had never been that cold at the soccer at Ellend Road, Leeds.

    I don’t care how cold you found Kardinia Park, Les, I bet it was warmer than Waverley!

  5. Dave – excuse my ignorance – was there any form of protection at Waverley?

    At KP, on the terrace, there is no wind block, no nothing. The wind and rain blow straight in your face – in this game, to the point I had to wrap a scarf around my face just to breathe.

    Conditions are terrible at most of the “suburbian/country” grounds. That’s why we dub it “footy weather”.

  6. Phantom says:

    Well Les,

    I got sun burned at Rotnest Island one winter and I haven’t been back there since.

    So that’s about even. is it not?

    I was at Smithton last Saturday to watch my son’s team and there was horizontal rain coming across the ground, carried directly by an icy gale from Bass Strait.

    I was the only supporter on the ground at the quarter time huddle.

    When I got back and growled at the other five Cats supporters, who had made the trip, for lack of committment to the players, they just laughed and said we were wondering who that idiot was out on the ground in the rain gear.

  7. There’s an oval on Rottnest. It’s covered in quokka poo.

  8. Phantom says:

    All right for handball as there is no more kicking (and as a greenie may I say rightly so)

  9. Les, I was there that day. It got down to 3 degrees. I was Queensland-dressed having never experienced an Antarctic blast like that one. I can’t remember who I was with (my brother Mick was one), but there were a handful of wind-blown souls dotted on the terrace. (Anyone else there? PJF? Burkie?) Mike Shuttleworth came over and said g’day. I was wearing a sort of Phoebe Figalilly pancho which was useless. I know it was 3 degrees because I was the around-the-grounds man for NIRS (National Indigenous Radio Service) and they were ringing me up and putting me to air because they thought it was hilarious that they were sitting in 26 degree Brisvegas and I had water dripping off the end of my nose and when I gave them the score they gave me the Geelong temperature. Stevie J kicked the goal of the year, without a doubt, and it did not even get a mention in dispatches in the round-up. It is worth digging out a replay of that game to see the conditions. http://australianfootball.com/game/view/Geelong/Fremantle/2004_20_7_6_14
    I have only been colder once I reckon. Playing golf in the south-east of Ireland in stinging rain at the European golf course. I was hitting well-timed drives into the wind and they were going about 140 metres.

  10. That was the day I discovered Stevie J

  11. Sean Gorman says:

    I recall going to KP with Harms and Flanagan – maybe 2006 – to watch a Kangas and Cats game – it was a game devoid of ANY drama at all. I recall the crowd though. Pissed and dinkum. The longer the game got the more P&D they became. They were the pits – irrational freaks like outta some Hunter S Thompson wet nightmare.

  12. Les, I was at the game with my mate Craig.

    After venturing outside for a few minutes we made a very early decision to confine ourselves to a cosy standing spot behind glass in the GFC social club (Because We Could!). Weak as I suppose, but the beer was cold and so were we. We had plenty of mates in there.

    Anyone who dared to open the door and let in the Antarctic weather received an icy stare and some pithy observations about their intelligence (or lack of).

    Coldest day I can remember at the footy. Poor old Jeff Farmer took himself off suffering hypothermia. I’ve never seen it before or since. Really felt for him.

    Great effort on the terrace JTH.

  13. Stevie J starred that day. The only day I can remember that was worse than that one was the 1991 prelim between the Cats and the Eagles at Waverly. I wore my snow gear to both games though and thank god given I saw how close to death those around me were.

  14. Neil Belford says:

    Yep – went to Waverley every time Freo played there until they closed it. It was special, but no match for KP that day, it was really special. Despite the arrival of electricity in Geelong and the construction of two new stands those crap seats behind the goals at the city end are still available to the unmembered masses of the Bellarine. I am cold sitting on a warm tram just remembering it

  15. Neil Belford says:

    I’m home now, the game is coming back to me in all its terrifying detail. I have never watched a replay but for anyone who is into horror movies, I’m sure you will see a sequence that involves the ball being on the ground in the square at the city end for an eternity. It was late in the second quarter and that was the moment, or should I say period, that Freo lost the game. It was roosted into the empty goalmouth by god knows which Freo player, they were about thirty metres out so it was hard to tell, and it landed in a puddle and just stopped. It sat sunken in the mud while players converged on it from every direction at geological pace. I don’ t remember them all but a couple rushed at it from the Devonian and the Silurian, Jeff Farmer followed up from the Archean only to slide past, hurting his hand on the ball as he tried to scoop it up before Darren Milburn and possibly Matthew Scarlett came in from the Hadean to sit on it – as players used to do. The umpire arrived sometime later and punished Milburn by giving him a free kick for being at the bottom of the pack. Milburn looked for a handball but all the Geelong players had fled, and the Freo ones completely and finally had lost interest. I think Jeff Farmer was crying. Milburn took the sensible option and kicked it long, 20 metres around the boundary and out of bounds. Pretty much nothing happened in the game after that.

  16. Go to bed Neil. Take a hot water bottle. Sorry, I promise not to mention that afternoon again.

  17. S. Gorman: unreliable witness.

    We actually saw Geel v North that day.

    Your memory wouldn’t be of any concern to me except for the following reasons:

    1. you are a professional historian and I have quoted you before
    2. you barrack for Freo
    3. you are possibly in Broome or Darwin influencing young adults

  18. LES and Neil + all: you shooda been at K Park long before there were many seats anywhere around the ground.
    This was the Fifties and the best you could do was try and find one of the ‘leaning posts’, a wooden structure placed in the ground with a bar across the 2 uprights.
    Mud was what u stood on but some enterprising folk brought boxes to stand on, at the back of the throng.
    I remember when trannies came in. That was a work of art: holding a bulky radio on one shoulder with a hand whie clinging grimly to the wooden structure to stay upright with the other.
    Southerlies are the freezers, Les. Howling in from the Surf Cast.
    Even in summer, supposedly warmer months, we’d be crouched down behind the dunes at Torquay, Ocean Grove or Anglesea trying to keep warm..
    Bugger going for a swim. Januarys were freezing and when summer did arrive in Feb., we were back at school.

  19. And they’re gonna play finals at this place?

  20. Sean Gorman says:

    Harms! Moi unreliable`? I suggest you read more forensically ones comments – Kangas and Catts I fink i said! Can I suggest a full apology be entered into or I will be seeking legal opinion – John Prior SC. Good Freo boy and defender of the meek and downtrodden. Yours is the first buy next time at the All Nations and I’m having a JUG of Jim Beam n Coke……

  21. Embarrassingly, I must apologise profusely S.Gorman.

    Harms: unreliable reader and gross jumperer-to-conclusions. What was going in in my numb-skull?

    It was an ordinary game though. I recall the sunshine was quite nice.

  22. Sean Gorman says:

    Apols accepted comrade. I recall that North had a white jumper on with like powder blue piping. WTF? I said something like they looked like empty pages waiting to be written on and the Geelong rabble were written off.

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