Adelaide Oval in the Eighties: Rodney Hogg, Adidas Romes and Mondo Rock

 

 

 

I remember the sweet, coconut aroma of tanning oil. It made us glisten like boxers or glamorous full-forwards and accelerated our baking so we were flapping roast chooks on the sloping grass. Applied upon arrival to our skinny selves it was a blessing if we forgot to re-drench our arms and backs during the second innings. Best let the sun inflict its damage without encouragement. Today, detecting its distinctive smell, I’m instantly at Adelaide Oval during the summers of my youth.

 

With headlights peering into the warm dark, our convoy of HQs and 180Bs would make its way about Kapunda’s streets and then steer south to Gawler. We’d load eskies and bags of food and a couple of our Mums’ blankets onto the train carriage ready for the roughly hour-long ride.

 

On the red hen sliding past Womma station there’d be a sudden fizz as someone like Davo opened a Southwark stubby while secretly hoping the guard wouldn’t appear. Meanwhile, our parents would yawn and empty some cereal into their bowls.

 

There was always a queue, but at 8.00am we’d burst into the ground and rush the open space on the south-eastern corner’s hill. Here the blankets became important as they were thrown out like magic carpets and we claimed our territory half-way up the mound.

 

Although the world wobbled on a different axis back then I was always astonished when at precisely 8.05am I’d hear the first industrial whistle from under the scoreboard. Accompanied by a satisfied roar, it was the spear being pulled from breakfast’s first empty keg. Across the day these would punctuate the air as a gassy summery score.

 

Many wore those blue shearers’ singlets which were an oddly ironic uniform, even among those of us who’d never wrestled a sheep. Our hats were barely functional rather than chic. Most didn’t bother. Our hair was unfashionable in the cruel way that only teenaged hair can be. The perms could be especially devastating, and high school yearbooks confirm these vicious facts. There were double-plugger rubber thongs and Adidas Romes and youthful enthusiasms.

 

I’d see a neat sign on the back fence declaring that under its small tarp was the “Duck Pond”. Pleasingly, I never knew the etymology for this. Nor did I bother for some mysteries are best unsolved. The equivalent of permanent residents at a country caravan park, this was a comforting citizenry whose annual presence was as welcoming as the first sighting of a beer snake being paraded about the crowd as if it had been transported from an Asian street festival.

 

There was an innocent charm in the catering. I suspect the total combined menu was pies, pasties, chips and hot dogs. I fear that sausage rolls were a culinary omission, and don’t think chicken salt had yet been discovered in the pans of Adelaide’s barren north. Tacos or stir fry? Scarcely conceived.

 

The only vaguely healthy option was fruit although this was largely confined to a whole watermelon, injected with Smirnoff the night before behind someone’s Dad’s shed.

 

I recall that Brendan always smuggled in drink. At the forefront of innovation for clandestine imbibing were his bar-noculars, which appeared to security guards, parents and the constabulary as a set of binoculars doubtless used by a cricket tragic. Happily, these were optically useless but alcoholically tremendous as each black tube held a neat quantity of neat spirit. It was perhaps the sole technological marvel of that decade.

 

At 9.30 the teams appeared on the heritage scoreboard. Which bustling Rodney would open the bowling: Hogg or McCurdy? Would ‘Roo’ Yardley deliver some offies with his high, tidy action? Which Kim Hughes would turn up? The swashbuckler or the drunkenly swinging? Surely David Hookes would finally get a run on his home ground?

 

As part of their sports science-free warm-up the players might slow jog a lap, and I recall the crowd commentary on IVA Richards. “Check out the shoulders on him! He looks like a middle-weight!” And, I can still see Clive Lloyd, all hunch-backed and huge, laconic and cat-lazy.

 

Back then 220 was a handy score, and the Windies and England often had us covered. Lillee and Thomson and Marsh were near the end while AB was bracing himself for the torrid decade ahead. I also remember ‘Sod’ O’Donnell and ‘Henry’ Lawson and Kepler.

 

After the match we’d play cricket in the Creswell Gardens or head to the SA-FM Sky Show by the Torrens or maybe take refuge in the Cathedral Hotel or venture down to Glenelg for a swim.

 

On the train, we’d rattle homewards and then pile into our cars with their Pioneer cassette decks and Mondo Rock blasting through the open windows into the still dark. We were worriless for tomorrow was Monday and the Australia Day long weekend. School and uni were weeks away.

 

Our world was still wonderfully small, and for a few days every summer Adelaide Oval was at its centre.

 

‘Salad days’ at the Adelaide Oval

 

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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Best use of “Womma Station” in a memoir, or in fact anywhere Mickey. Friends of ours were married one early 80s Australia Day weekend Saturday, and the reception was at the then Ansett Gateway. We were surprised to be sharing our elevator with a sweaty Lance Cairns, still in his double brown uniform as he returned from a long day against the visiting Poms.

  2. Lots of great memories here, Mickey. In the late 70s, four of us (two young married couples) used to take along a rather tasty chicken and salad lunch with a Woodies lemonade bottle liberated of its original contents and replaced with an amusing little white, possibly from the Clare Valley. Very civilised.

    And the Mondos rocked! A much underrated band. My daughter was born at the time when “State of the Heart’ was a hit.

  3. The good old Daze!

  4. Ah, the Jacky Howe. I must dig out some old photos of them.

    Gabba Hill experience very much the same. Lots of ringers’ hats too. Healthy anti-authoritarianism. As noted in Confessions of a Thirteenth Man.

    The binocular ruse is spectacularly brilliant.

  5. Swish- Womma is surely this fair town’s most iconic station, largely due to the deadpan, unenthusiastic way in which the drivers all announced it to the passengers over the PA. I loved the NZ one day kit of the 80’s. Known in some cruel circles as “physics teacher brown.”

    Ian- I note that Mondo Rock are touring during winter. Am considering going. The Clare Valley still does excellent whites, as you’d expect.

    6%- Daze is well chosen.

    JTH- barnoculars still available through Amazon, eBay etc. Brilliant. Love hill culture too, but wonder at the differences by city and ground. I’m sure you touched on this in CoaTM. Would love to read more. We always avoided the scoreboard hill as it was a little too willing for us, and the south-eastern hill was more subdued.

  6. This is wonderful stuff, Mickey.
    I found myself nodding my head in whimsical agreement as I read each line.

    As someone who has smuggled in a few bottles of vodka to the Adelaide Oval in recent times, I love and greatly admire the barnoculars ruse

  7. Yes, remember it all. Have outlived the Creswell and Bradman Stands at that southern end, bit of a worry. Used to love the huge Moreton Bay Fig on that south-east mound, no need for coconut oil, just camp under there all day. Collect enough Halls drink bottles to cash in and pay for the day. Catch the train home to Oaklands, currently having a wonderful urban forest destroyed. Back the next day to do it all again with not a parent in sight! Do not get me started on the footy Grand Finals of the 1960’s and the mob outside the eastern gate… Great stuff, Mickey, thanks.

  8. Thanks Smokie. I reckon the Queen Mum would’ve been a fan of the barnoculars. Probably at Royal Ascot.

    Bucko- I was a fan of the former Bradman Stand and remember well my first day in it which was the debut of Mark Waugh who, of course, scored a sublime century having replaced, I think, his brother. I love the Moreton Bay Figs at the northern end. Must be one of the world’s few 50K+ stadiums with beautiful flora within its landscape. I hope these are not replaced by another stand.

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

  9. Rabid Dog says

    Great story. Living in Lizbeff West, Womma was my ‘home station. Swish, do you recall the ‘particular odour’ of the underpass? I recall always smuggling Goddards rum into the game by emptying the contents of a Schweppes bottle and filling it with rum and a dash of cola. Watching from the new stand will never be the same.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful reminiscing Mickey. Bar-noculars! Love it.

    As great as going to the cricket at the MCG has been and is, I feel us Victorians have missed something that all other states have had with their hills at their Test venues.

    Saw Mondo Rock 2 or 3 years ago, they were in superb form. So many fantastic songs.

  11. Thanks Rabs. There’s probably an entire story on Womma, its truths and its place in local mythology.

    Luke- the only rugby league game I’ve ever been to was the Roosters v the Bears at North Sydney Oval. I love the Doug Waters Stand there which, of course, is simply a grassy hill. Brilliant.

    Thanks fellas.

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