Adelaide Oval: The new home of Football?

It was a moment steeped in symbolism.

In the third quarter – and not for the first time in his career – Chad Wingard leapt above his St.Kilda opponent and brought down a towering mark. The camera angle of the replay was such that in the sliver of space between Wingard’s arched back and the Gavin Wanganeen stand, a church was visible.

The moment was photographic in its depiction of Adelaide as a footy-playing city, but Wingard’s match highlight also represented a more significant truth: these days, the best AFL matches are consistently being played at Adelaide Oval.

Since it began hosting AFL games in 2014, 12 of the 43 matches played at Adelaide Oval have been decided by 2 goals or less, and the unanticipated arm-wrestle the Saints locked the Power in for three quarters on Sunday reflects how even games that aren’t close at the ground still tend to be contests of a high-standard.

While Adelaide Oval’s success as an AFL venue has been immediate, it isn’t entirely unexpected. The venue’s amenity to live sport was optimised by its construction. The curved stands trap and magnify the sound of a crowd, while the footbridge over the River Torrens gives the stadium an “All roads leads to Rome” appeal, just as Brunton Avenue and the paths in Yarra Park do to the MCG.

The stadium’s success was also set up by the Power and Crows’ seasons prior to 2014, each with a narrative that contained equal parts hope and tragedy.

For Port Adelaide, the tragedy was their dismal form and financial situation in the early 2010s, and the death of John McCarthy. The hope came with a new administration and new recruits, and the use of past difficulties to emphasise this hope – the pre-game chorus of “Never Tear us Apart” – has ensured Adelaide Oval is a place to reliably view the passion and camaraderie that Aussie Rules can establish in a group of people.

For Adelaide, the hope came earlier, with Brenton Sanderson and a preliminary final in 2012. After going missing for two seasons, the promise of glory returned in 2015 with new coach Phil Walsh. When Crows fans united and mourned following his tragic death, Adelaide Oval was again the setting for the show of strength and solidarity.

The passion of the fans cultivated in these experiences manifests in the deafening noise they make today, captivating AFL fans and non-fans alike.

Review of Adelaide Oval from TripAdvisor

Review of Adelaide Oval from TripAdvisor

But if Adelaide Oval’s pre-history assured it an important place in modern AFL, then its present is doing that also.

Even with the loss of Patrick Dangerfield as a regular feature, an AFL fan of any orientation can head to a game in Adelaide on any given weekend with the promise of something magical happening, be it a Wingard mark or an Eddie Betts goal from one of his pockets.

While nothing will topple the MCG from its perch as the spiritual home of AFL, more and more, it is Adelaide Oval that is home to the type of game we are proud to say we follow – Geelong v Hawthorn on Monday notwithstanding.

And in a year when the Victorian teams that draw the biggest crowds are destined for the bottom of the ladder, the 54,000 capacity stadium that is so often filled because of this promise is crucial to the AFL’s national reputation and bottom line.

Following its redevelopment, ABC caller Gerard Whately called Adelaide Oval “the most perfect piece of modern architecture because it’s a thoroughly contemporary stadium with all the character that it’s had in the past”.

That may be so, but the character of its present is equally impressive, and the pride of the AFL.

About Alex Darling

Melbourne-born, NSW-based footy fan, lover of the Saints, classic rock guitar and good writing on each of these topics.

Comments

  1. Ben Footner says

    Love the Adelaide Oval.

    For me football has almost become a form of theatre since moving there. I’ve got Crows season tickets and although obviously I want my boys to win, I find myself leaving the ground after every game with a happy mind and full heart – win, lose or draw.

    Bloody love everything about watching footy at this place.

  2. Thanks Alex. Darling is a very famous South Australian name. No doubt there are sporting and pastoral and other links to be explored (do tell more).

    I think the Adelaide sporting culture is remarkable and was remarkable before the decision to re-develop the Adelaide Oval. That those leading the way have had the understanding and foresight to do what they have done with this superb ground is a massive tick for SA, Adelaide and its culture.

  3. Really John? Who are some of these famous Darlings?

  4. Keiran Croker says

    Yes, Alex Adelaide Oval is awesome for both football and cricket.
    As a bias Sydney Swans fan, even though I am Melbourne born and bred, I reckon the SCG is brilliant for both footy and cricket as well. Perhaps the crowd noise is not comparable as many local Swans fans are not steeped in the history of the game. Though they can fire up when needed.
    I think the SCG is now 48,000 capacity with the new stand. So now that all our home games are there maybe with some continued success we will nudge full capacity and push the needle on the decibel meter.

  5. Dave Brown says

    Spot on Alex. Adelaide Oval is the finest large stadium we have in the country – they just got it so right. My best memories there don’t even involve AFL (2014 SANFL Grand Final and BBL 2015 NYE game in that order) but the noise, the laid back atmosphere – it’s just a fun place to be.

    As for your namesake, this is who John was referring to: http://www.redlegsmuseum.com.au/ON_FIELD/PLAYERS/DARLING__Joseph.aspx . Possibly also played a bit of test cricket…

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