A day at the MCG – not watching sport but reliving history



I was fortunate to be in Melbourne for the opening weekend of the revamped Australian Sports Museum (previously known as the National Sports Museum). Since the 1980s,  I have visited the MCG many times even though I live in Canberra I’ve watched AFL and cricket matches, undertaken tours of the ground, attended sport history conferences and visited  the National  Sports Museum and MCC Library.

Australian Sports Museum


I was eager to see the revamped Australian Sports Museum as I have followed closely the development of sports museums in Australia. In 1986, the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) opened the Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum in the MCC Members Stand. The redevelopment of the MCG for 2006 Commonwealth Games led to new Ponsford, Olympic and Members Stands. The National Sports Museum (renamed from Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum) was moved into the redeveloped stands and opened in March 2008.


It was decided to revamp the National Sports Museum to make it more interactive using the latest technology. The revamp cost $17 million including $5 million contribution from the Victorian State Government and the Museum was renamed the Australian Sports Museum.


So, what were my impressions of the revamped Museum?


The museum is divided into several distinct galleries – Olympic Games, Sporting Nation, Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Cricket, Australian Football, Horse Racing, and Game On – an interactive sports arena. The layout seemed to have similar feel to the National Sports Museum as the galleries appeared to be in the same location.


The Olympic Games gallery had a very small display for each Games, the 1956 cauldron, general memorabilia and a large screen showing Australian Olympic highlights. This gallery reminded me that museums can only ever physically display a small part of their collection. I’m sure the Museum has significant Olympic memorabilia in their storage area.


The Sporting Nation gallery endeavoured to highlight community sport throughout Australia. It appeared to me that throughout the revamped Museum there was a deliberate attempt to highlight the fact the sport is not just about elite sport with many images of community sport.


The Sport Australia Hall of Fame has an honour board, an interactive display and memorabilia of some of its members.


The Cricket gallery kept Shane Warne’s hologram from 2008 – it was made shortly after he retired from international cricket and it was good to see this hologram remain. It captures Warne’s thoughts and image at the end of his record-breaking career.


The Horse Racing gallery offered insights into the racing industry and had major displays on Michelle Payne, Black Caviar and Winx. The area also had an interactive horse race.


The Australian football gallery had the usual display  of memorabilia and several interactive areas. There were holograms of Taylor Harris and Bachar Houli. Harris tells us her Australian football journey including the trolling she received after the image of her kicking a football was captured. It is great to see the Museum highlighting some of the negative issues in modern sport such as social media trolling.


The Museums hosts several national sporting halls of fame and interactive displays were used to allow visitors to find out brief information on inductees. I liked how these displays linked inductees to other inductees. For instance. Darrel Baldock’s entry had links to AFL Legends, East Devonport, Latrobe, St Kilda, New Norfolk, 1996 inductees, 1938 births and All Australian teams. This method of interactivity allows you to have serendipitous journey.




To engage visitors throughout the Museum,  there are many interactive polls and trivia. These ask for responses to questions such as:


Who should get credit for winning a horse race? Jockey or the Horse


Do sport and politics mix? Yes or No.


At the start of your visit you are given a sweatband with a microchip that records your responses to polls or interactive games. At the end of the tour you can logon to the Museum website on to look at your responses in quizzes and polls.


In the Museum, there is an entrance to the MCC Museum. This area has a completely different atmosphere. It is darker and the displays consist mainly of memorabilia and photographs relating to MCG and MCC sports. In many ways you enter an ‘old world’ museum that focuses on history and tradition. The MCC Museum is also accessed through the Members Stand.





The final area of the Museum is called Game On – an area I think is designed primarily for  children and young adults ie school groups. It is here where you can surf, row, kick, pass and throw. It is essential that modern museums have these areas to attract  younger visitors. My hope is that these younger visitors absorb and reflect on the history of sport in Australia displayed elsewhere in the Museum.


Overall,  the Museum is a must visit for those interested in sport. It does a fantastic job is documenting Australia’s sporting history particularly mainstream sports. The Museum aims to promote diversity with small displays on female and indigenous athletes. I was disappointed there was no dedicated display highlighting Australia’s Paralympians – an area that I research in.

Melbourne Cricket Ground Tour


Over the years I had toured the MCG several times but not since its redevelopment for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.


The MCG tours are led by dedicated MCC volunteers in their distinctive MCC blazers and they take you through several significant areas. You start off going down to the playing surface. It is here where you are informed how that ground changes for cricket or AFL seasons. It is a bit surreal looking up at empty stands that can seat or stand 100,000 spectators. What a buzz it would be to compete on the MCG.





The next stop on the tour is the players viewing area for cricket matches. Our guide proudly pointed out the seat that Ricky Ponting always sat in.


Our guide throughout provided us with lots of interesting facts about the MCG. For instance, on the honour board for overseas teams he pointed out that Ian Botham was the only player on the board for making a century (119 in 1980) and take 5 wickets in an innings (5/41 in 1986).


In this area below the spectator stands you get to see the MCG ‘city’ – changerooms, car parking, transport alleys, catering, storage etc  etc.


We visited the change rooms for home and away teams – these were modern and spacious with lots of rooms including state of the art recovery pools. Nearby was the Ron Casey Media Room – where coaches are grilled after matches.


Next on the tour was the Bill Lawry Cricket Centre – state of the art indoor cricket training facilities. Located outside the Centre are the outdoor cricket nets.


The final area covered in the tour was the MCC Members area. You have the opportunity of visiting the famous Long Room modelled on the Lords Cricket Ground. The wood panelling and carpet give the room  a sense of grandeur and tradition. In the Long Room, there are paintings of MCC Presidents and Secretaries – all men. Outside the Long Room is a fantastic tapestry created for the MCG’s 150th anniversary. It features significant events and athletes. I could  have spent hours looking at it to identify the events and athletes captured on it.


Our tour on this day we did not visit the historic MCC Library  founded in 1873 but I had visited it several times in recent years in undertaking research. On non-match days it is open to the public by appointment. On match days it is open for the use of MCC members, their guests and the media.


What impressed me on the tour was the recognition of significant sporting achievements and moments at the MCG through large photographs, statistics, records etc. This is continued outside the MCG through statues and plagues.


I have always been impressed that the MCC, a private club, has invested considerable resources in preserving and promoting Australia’s sporting history.


If you have three to four hours to spare, I suggest that you visit the MCG on a non- match day.


Further information on  Australian Sports Museum and MCG Tours.



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About Greg Blood

Sport librarian for over 30 years. Interest in Australian sport history and policy. Member of the Australian Society for Sports History.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for this Greg. I am reliably informed (thanks Andy) that Barrie Robran’s training guernsey is still on display, but does JTH still appear on a huge video screen near the entrance or is he now a hologram too?

  2. Swish,
    I presume that JTH is now in the horse-racing section,
    with the moniker “The Mug Punter”.

  3. Thanks for a lovely article, Greg. Did not see any reference to soccer and am just wondering if the round ball game gets a guernsey somewhere?

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