A Cats Eyed View of Subi

Barring some disaster my team in the AFL are now done with Subiaco Oval. We’re done with sitting in Block 141 at the City End being hardly able to see the Subi end of the ground; Done with a pre-season day game or any regular game in the afternoon up to July resulting in three degree sunburn; Done with constant reminders of “92 and 94 mate!” a millimetre from your face by someone who fancies themselves as the William the Conqueror of personal space. We’re also done with walking out feeling very disappointed with the effort from the boys as AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ roared from the speakers after a loss to the Dockers.


After last Thursday’s largely forgettable loss to the Flat Tracks the Cats leave Subi with the rare feat of being the only side outside of WA to have a winning record at Subiaco Oval. Has it been a happy place to go to over the years? Many cherished memories of the place? Well, the jury is out from my own point of view for the most part to be honest despite doing better than most in the West. Still, the place has definitely marked certain times of my life despite not being a supporter of either franchise.


I was there for that first Eagles game against Richmond in 1987 as a 10 year old. In the three tier stand at the Subi end I saw a Phil Narkle inspired Eagles make a remarkable comeback in the final quarter. While my two older brothers handed in their allegiances to Collingwood and Essendon at the Heritage Listed gates that day to drink the new WA franchise Kool Aid I couldn’t warm to this new team. It all seemed a bit contrived. Maybe it was the Eaglettes, too many East Fremantle players, my attachment to West Perth and the WAFL or the fact I already had Geelong to watch on a Sunday evening in highlight form to fill the necessary need to have a side in a faraway league. A kid sometimes follows a sporting team for petty reasons.


I didn’t see Geelong in action there (and for the first time in person) until 1992 when Gary Ablett run amok through the midfield and on the half forward flank picking up around 40 possessions and kicking 5 goals in the April sunshine. As a high school kid up on the hill at the City End it was a learning experience. The Chernobyl like clouds emanating from the KFC vans on top of the hills were side by side with closed lid plastic jugs of Emu Export (sometimes airborne and heading towards anyone in navy blue and white). Little spot fires of violence broke out around the vicinity as I was lost by my brothers in the crowd and had to make my way out and back to far away Rockingham by myself in Cats colours on public transport. This was perhaps the first time I realised Subi would not be a happy haven for away fans.


In 1997 I was there for my first Freo experience as late in the season we walked away with a win on a lovely sunny August day believing we were a chance for the flag from second spot before piss poor finals scheduling by the AFL, injuries and Grant F****g Vernon in Adelaide put paid to that. Being a student and living the dream just above the poverty line literally across the road from Subi in the early 2000s it was great to wander over the road, purchase a ticket and then come back later watching the Cats slaughter the Eagles in two successive seasons as Ken Judge was thrown under a bus and a once great state/Eagles side bottomed out in front of sparse crowds. The second of these wins in 2001 was a treat with Ronnie Burns running amok with 5 goals as he pointed straight at me running around the boundary in celebration after another wondersnap. Burns being a West Perth player who headed to Geelong with far more flamboyance than Derek Hall.


As the seasons went on there were some appearances by West Perth in the WAFL GF but it was a more of a chore to go to Subi as it lost its magic and whimsy of being the big venue you would aspire to play at or visit in WA. This was the way I saw it as a youth. You could meet the players in a 70s décor room after the game and hit up the eternally wonderful JB O’Riellys over in West Leederville but it all seemed to be tiring and dated like a 1980s Stones album. After being to Melbourne and seeing the wonderful facilities on offer at the G and the brand spanker Telstra Dome everything seemed archaic at Subi including when the old members stand was removed to be replaced by a new two-tiered effort that robbed the ground of what character it had left. The visits became more sporadic before moving overseas as just before I left I saw Pops Kelly break his leg as we fell just short one freezing Saturday night in 2004 but sensing this young team was on the rise.


On the return home to Australia and on the day I turned 30 I watched with glee near the Fremantle cheer squad as the Cats tore apart the previous years’ Prelim finalists on their amazing charge to the 2007 flag. Seeing this super side in the flesh indicating to me and even the most cynical and mentally scarred of Geelong supporters that this could be our year. Visits came every now and then to Subi but it was getting harder to make the effort to go to a ground in desperate need of a reboot or a walk down the green mile which would of course eventually be announced. The ineptitude of the WAFC also didn’t help as resentment fans WAFL fans such as myself grew as the clubs who played there every year in the Grand Final were increasing sidelined.


The Cats soared for some time as we all know and won in Perth more often than not including a record belting of the Eagles on a glorious June night in 2008. An Eagles supporting brother of mine (the Essendon one) was forced to watch at the City End surrounded by Cats supporters as the boys put on a clinic and Thompson ate a sandwich in the coaches box. As Cats visits mounted up the seats seemed to get tighter, the beer blander and the locals more obnoxious as I got more cranky and forced myself to go to Subi to watch the side. Some other Cats supporting friends in Perth refused to go anymore for excuses both petty and not. Violence was once excuse some used. Poor views another. My mother’s first visit to a footy ground for anything to cheer on her Dockers resulted in being asked to leave the area right behind the Cats cheer squad. It seemed a happy nanna with a Freo scarf sitting next to her Cats supporting son as Freo scored an upset win in 2010 was seen as a threat by Subi security.


Now it seems it’s hopefully over  for Geelong at Subi and while there are stories and there is a need to celebrate the ground and its immense history I’ll stop short at mourning its passing. The Cats record and history at the ground is something to be cherished though and some feat to get away from the place with a winning record that should be recognised. Wins and losses by the side bookmark moments in life for me which will be cherished when the place is long gone. Those walks out through the big doors and down to the trainline underpass were always with an extra bit of strut when you had the four points banked. No doubt in some years’ time people will look all misty eyed on the place remembering how great it used to be but in reality they’ll have in the back of their mind queuing up forever at facilities or the narrow walkways when mentioning the place in conversation.


So long Subi, and thanks for all the fish.


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Adam Fox says

    Ah, the Round 4, 1992 match. Part of that early season experiment playing Ablett in the centre. He was, as Bllight would say, “more than handy” with 27k/9m/8hb and 5.1. Typical reckless, attacking Geelong. Won the match despite only effectively winning one quarter. The second, kicking 11.3. Wasn’t there but got a copy of the match a couple years back finally.

    The 2008 Anzac Day one point victory was a favourite and partially my fault. I told Pavlich he’d hit the post after the siren. Was a damn sight better than consecutive losses to West Coast in ’04 and ’05 resulting in major injuries to Wojcinski (knee) and Kelly (broken leg). The WC fans I recall were gracious on both occasions. “Oh, is he injured? HAHAHAHA!!!”

  2. Glad we could send you off in style last week DG. Yep, Subi is a 1970’s stadium that doesn’t cut it for creature comforts these days.
    But Cats complaining about parochialism? Pot kettle black. Distance creates an outsider defensiveness and aggression in any group. The Cattery was to VFL, what Subi is to AFL. And the “angry little man” syndrome hasn’t diminished with the years. KP is the worst home town umpiring venue in the country.
    “Noise of affirmation” indeed.
    Now that KP has had the facelift and tummy tuck, it’s Perth’s turn to cougar up our venue next year.
    You can take the mongrels out of the venue, but you can’t take the claws out of the cats.
    Long may it thrive in our PC age. Character building.

  3. No denying that, even from a Cats fan. A tad over-protective at home to say the least (except for Kent Kingsley where there’d be a deathly silence until the goal umpire confirmed a goal). Don’t get that so much watching them at the MCG.

  4. Dennis Gedling says

    PB, I thought I should admit that KP isn’t/wasn’t much different but then I wouldn’t get a bite. Completely agree re: character building. Last Thursday wasn’t for the purists supporting either side. Were echoes of that Bulldogs game against the Eagles on the Friday night a month previous where the Eagles just seemed to stop in the second half.

    Was at that 2003 draw at KP when Michael Braun got a 50 metre penalty right on the siren to tie it up. The vitriol on the old terracing along the wing where the Hickey stand now is was quite extraordinary.

  5. Sean Gorman says

    Nice Job Den – Subi really is a toilet with an oval. In saying that State of Origin games and the 81 gf when the Tiges blitzed the Bullies remains a highlight. Pavs last game and his 300 where I actually cried also has a special resonance. Seeyalater Subi. x

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