Billy Miller’s Lakeside Oval lament

Home of the original Night Premiership and the Commodore/Comedy (and Army Reserve) Cup, the Lakeside Oval was the home of the Swans until 1982 and the scene of many battles for the “Lake Premiership”.

Billy Miller tells more. (Click on the link below.)


  1. pauldaffey says

    What’s happened to the Lake Oval (I think that’s its proper title, despite popular perception) gets my vote as the biggest disgrace in Victorian sport.

    The old grandstand overlooks a corner of the South Melbourne Hellas pitch. It just looks so forlorn.

    I fail to see why South Melbourne Hellas had to play at that particular ground. What they’ve done with their crap club rooms is an eyesore.

    Couldn’t a specialist soccer ground have been built elsewhere?

    Old Xavs used it as a home base until 1994. The Ammos were playing finals there until the same year. Then it all changed.

    I reckon the Ammos would have relocated from Elsternwick to the Lake Oval if it were still a footy ground. It should have been encouraged as a living piece of Victorian football heritage.

  2. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    As usual Billy has a very developed and keen sense of St Kilda history that is pre-Moorabbin.

    The Lake premiership between St Kilda and South Melbourne was a genuine local derby that well and truly preceded all the fabricated Cup matches (like the Madden Cup, Hird-Archer Trophy, etc).
    For both clubs that struggled for so long this was the only “premiership” each could win – along with local bragging rights.

    It continued after the Saints moved to Moorabbin, but soon faded, that had more to do with St Kilda actually being genuine premiership contenders in that period.

    Only ever saw the one game at the Lake Oval – 1977 when South beat the Saints by a whopping 78 points. It was a free-wheeling game back then.

  3. Daff – I agree completely. I reckon footy (AFL) might regret treating a lot of its heritage grounds so shabbily. A game without a sense of its history will be just that; a game (see basketball). Whilst footy clings on to some of its heritage it has a chance of long term survival.

  4. One of the major problems the then VFL encountered was the Albert Park Trust who controlled the ground – they were very anti-VFL and any prospect of ground improvements there were unlikely whilst the Trust retained control. Probably the current day AFL if they had a mind to, would have worked a way of achieving this through the State Govt, but back then the State Govt was also anti-VFL – remember they wouldn’t even allow the VFL to play on Sundays!

  5. Ian Syson says

    Daff, blame the Grand Prix. South Melbourne were given Bob Jane Stadium as compensation for losing Middle Park. They didn’t particularly want to move but saw this as their only way of staying in the region. Bob Jane is the only decent sized soccer stadium in the inner metro area (aside from Olympic Park).

    I’m not sure why you think the clubrooms are an eyesore. While they have their glitches, they are probably the best facilities at any soccer ground in Melbourne — for spectators and players. Why don’t you come down on Sunday (5pm) to their first home game this season and check it out from the inside? I’ll be behind the goal at the city end.

  6. Isn’t Victory’s Semi at the same time?

  7. Ian Syson says

    I’ll be going to watch *my* team — and not the franchise! You up for it? The Souvlaki’s always great at the beginning of the season — and the ouzo and full strength beer have their own enticements.

  8. pauldaffey says

    i Mark,

    Yes, I was flying off the lip. Sounds like politics played its part, and I suspect you’re right that a state government would now work harder for a better result. We’re talking only 15 years, but the climate is very different now.

    There’s actually a good story in this. If you could see the minutes of the Albert Park Trust’s meetings and then follow up the trust members and see what they think now.

    If I only I had the time, etc.

  9. Paul Daffey,

    Often when the state of the old Lake Oval and the Swans leaving is brought up, South Melbourne Hellas (and soccer) cops its share of criticism – often with the neglect of certain facts.

    Firstly, the remaining 1926 stand is not and has never been under the administration or control of SMH – post the building of Bob Jane Stadium it has been the preserve of other government entities, most likely in this case Parks Victoria. It really should have been refurbished and used as one of the goal ends in the restructure of the venue back in 1994/95, but that’s the way it went.

    South Melbourne Hellas and the now defunct Hakoah Melbourne built Middle Park Stadium together in the early 1960s – in an area that had been one of the Melbourne heartlands of soccer since the 1880s – it was entirely logical that the club would want to be relocated somewhere in the local area. The fondness held for Middle Park amongst the SMH fanbase (and even amongst opposition fans) surpasses whatever improvements in facilities we got. But the feelings and history of soccer fans are seldom considered valid in the mainstream sporting press.

    It’s also interesting the Swans’ 20 year (minimum) neglect of the venue also rarely rates a mention – an issue becoming relevant again thanks to the Brisbane/Fitzroy court case over the merger logo agreements. Let us also not forget the VFL ban on playing on Sundays was a boon to another competition – the VFA – which the VFL ceaselessly attempted to destroy, including by usurping its grounds (Coburg, Moorabbin and Sunshine come to mind).

  10. pauldaffey says


    Fair enough. I’m not blaming the Souvlakis. They just wanted a ground. And, yes, it would have been hard to find a space big enough to suit them elsewhere in the region.

    Would Fishermen’s Bend/the back of Port Melbourne have been too far away? I reckon Melbourne footy club should consider building a ground around there. Money’s an issue, of course.

    I suppose I’m comparing the clubrooms’ functionality to the more uplifting presence of a grandstand in working order, a grandstand that looks over the playing surface, not one that mopes in disrepair behind the back corner.

    And, no, sorry, I can’t make it this weekend (going to Mitta, of all places, for my brother’s 40th.) But I will take a rain cheque. I reckon we could get a crew together.

  11. pauldaffey says

    Rain check?

  12. Ian Syson says

    Paul, there are three games (including this weekend) at BJS before we get booted off to allow for the development. The final one, against Heidelberg, will be a doosie. Maybe that’s the right game?

    Must go, my horse is playing up. Must give him a rein check.

  13. Richard Naco says

    Weather in Prague is miserable today.

    Quite a few rain Czechs there too.

  14. Giddyup!

  15. Paul M,

    I take your point that it’s not Hellas’s doing, and yes, the Swans had severely neglected the Lake Oval ground (good point).

    It was a different era, too. It’s only in the last 10 years that AFL clubs have begun to build museums and take care of their histories at all.

    It’s entirely understandable that Hellas and Hakoah wanted a ground in the Middle Park area. Not sure at all where they could have gone besides the Lake Oval.

    But my point still remains that the Lake Oval should have been redeveloped as a footy ground.

  16. Ian Syson says

    I’m intrigued by the imperative ‘should’ Paul. An area was being disrupted by the GP and the decision was made to relocate an active and passionate soccer culture that had been made homeless onto the place of a faded footy culture that seemed to be tired, unwanted and in any case exiled in Sydney.

    I’m reminded a little of the situation at Gillon Oval where Brunswick Footy Club once reigned supreme. Now in its place is an Ammos Cs team taking up far more space than seems appropriate for either the quality of play, level of participation or level of interest while all around it soccer clubs (Brunswick Zebras — who at least play in black and white stripes — and Essendon Royals) with nearly a thousand players between them are scratching for space.

    I think a reasonable argument could be made to turn Gillon Oval into 2 soccer pitches and thereby make much better community use of the playing surface and facilities. (As an active member of Brunswick CC I’d be disturbed by this idea because of what it could do to the playing surface). I’m not suggesting that another reasonable argument could not be made: that footy should have continuity. But when you put those arguments up against each other the winner will be decided around the issue of how far footy should have preference over all other sports even when arguments about attendance, popularity and playing numbers are lost.

  17. Ian – HERESY !!!

  18. Ian Syson says

    I know it’s heresy and I know even I’d be disturbed if it happened. But the bureacratic/rationalist model we’ve all been sucked into makes this kind of thinking inevitable.

    The councils are now asking that sports clubs be inclusive of females and non-Anglos, a requirement that has the potential to hurt footy deeply.

  19. Yeah, Ian, heresy!

    So there!

  20. Daff,

    I’ll be open and say that while I’m a passionate Collingwood fan, my allegiance to that club and its code in general are not comparable to my love of South Melbourne Hellas and soccer (some may have clicked the link and been transported to my SMH blog).

    It wasn’t only the Swans that abandoned the area – the Saints abandoned it as well, down the other end of the precinct. Why shouldn’t the best supported club in the area who had a commitment to remaining in the precinct be treated fairly, especially considering what it was being asked to give up? And especially since its supporter base put a lot of money and manhours into the building of the new venue?

    Moving to the industrial backblocks of Fisherman’s Bend would hardly have been satisfactory, on a number of levels. SMH was one of the few soccer clubs to have a ground that was both near public transport and in a good inner city location. The code has had to fight tooth and nail – against councils and against vested interests such as australian rules tenants of venues they were interested in using – for years. Too often they ended up with grounds on the edge of a council’s territory, far from public transport and other amenities – a case of out of sight and out of mind perhaps.

    It’s sad that aussie rules in the Albert Lake precinct has fallen on such hard times – but they were a long time coming, and reflective both of the poor management over a number of decades by VFL clubs and the exodus of anglo/celtic families to suburbia (and whom the VFL attempted to chase in the 1960s and 70s) and their replacement by migrants. Even now, a walk through the precinct will show that aussie rules is a poor cousin in the district, with many women’s and amateur soccer clubs using the local facilities – and it will only increase when SMH moves its junior teams back to the area after many years spent in Caulfield (but that’s another story).

  21. pauldaffey says

    Hi Paul,

    Sorry, been in Mitta Mitta for the weekend. Very wet. Great fun.

    Yes, Fishermens Bend was a stupid idea. I take that back for all the reasons you mentioned. They might as well have been asked to play in Mitta Mitta. (I’d go.)

    No doubt there was an Anglo-Celtic exodus a few decades ago, but I believe the South Melbourne area has changed again in recent years. Like all inner-city suburbs, it’s become the preserve of those who like a so-called cosmopolitan life.

    Those types embrace all codes. There should be scope for everyone.

    In footy, South Melbourne Districts is a changing club. It traditionally has been for the area’s working-class gents. But with the influx of the cosmopolitans’ kids into the junior ranks, I can see the demographic of the senior club changing in years to come. (I grant you it’s a lowly club at this stage, playing in the lower ranks of the Victorian Amateur Football Association.)

    Anyway, I’m off the topic. I would have liked to have seen the Lake Oval developed for footy.

  22. Ian Syson says

    Paul, I guess Fitzroy is your model. Footy is more popular at the grass roots level than it was say 20 years ago and that’s reflected in the increase use of the Fitzroy Cricket Ground and surrounding ovals. But what I’d really like to see is the Cricket Ground returned to its former glory with a turf wicket!!

  23. pauldaffey says


    Yes, you’ve picked it. I can see South Districts following in Fitzroy’s footsteps.

    Not sure about the turf wicket. Probably be a great thing.

    I’ve been thinking about the Gillon Oval in Brunswick in between canoeing down the Mitta River (now flooded). Very interesting tipping point there if what you say is true about the two soccer clubs. A story of much wider ramifications there.

  24. Ian Syson says

    The politics at Gillon is interesting. NOBS have been trying to set up a Brunswick junior footy club for a while now but the other local footy clubs are worried that they’ll get a lot of competition for numbers and so have managed to hinder the process. I’d think there are enough local kids interested in footy to make it work though. The soccer clubs have their own ground but Essendon Royals share Ormond with Moonee Valley Footy Club (and there is some tension between them) and Brunswick Zebras are fractured across three grounds. I reckon MVFC would love to see the Royals piss off to Gillon Oval because it would kill two birds — shut down Brunswick junior footy club and get Ormond to themselves. MVCC would be pleased also because the junior soccer really scuffs up their second ground.

    If these things were governed by rationality it would be an easy situation to resolve but we’re talking about local sport so . . .

    At the Brunswick cricket club we (or at least I) don’t really care who has the ground in winter as long as kids are using it regularly and so we get a chance to attract them to the club in the summer.

  25. pauldaffey says


    As far I know, NOBs do want to form the Brunswick JFC but they’ve been hindered by a competition to enter.

    The Essendon JFL requires all clubs to have seniors and juniors. The NOBs seniors play in the VAFA.

    The other possibility, the Yarra Junior DFL, reckons Brunswick is too far from their zone.

    Not sure whether they’ve tried the Western Region league.

    The AusKick that the NOBs run is very successful. It would make sense to create a Brunswick Junior Football Club for the AusKick kids to join. The junior club would then feed into the NOBs seniors.

    NOBs, which is actually (I believe farcically) now called NOBs-St Pat’s, would then reconsider changing its name to Brunswick Amateur Football Club.

    I think it could work very well.

    Moonee Valley footy club would of course suffer, but then Moonee Valley has all Moonee Ponds and the eastern half of Ascot Vale to draw from. The cultures of Amateur clubs and Essendon District clubs are very different as well.

    It’s about time there was a junior footy club in the West Brunswick/Brunswick/East Brunswick area. It’s actually a massive gap waiting to be filled.

  26. Dave Nadel says

    You’ve moved off the topic a bit now but the fight over Footy vs Soccer on Lake Oval and Albert Park generally was a classic case of divide and rule (and largely, both footy and soccer adminstrators fell for it) They should have been united in company with almost all the local residents against the alienation of Albert Park.

    Kennett tried to present his hijacking of Albert Park for the Grand Prix as part of his Government’s commitment to sport. In fact it was an anti-sport gesture forcing the relocation of cricket, soccer and footy grounds. As was pointed out at the time, the majority of European F1 GPs are held at purpose built stadiums not street circuits. Ours should have been too.

    Obviously Albert Park is now a lost cause as is the old Lake Side Oval but I have to ask both Footy and Soccer fans on this thread mourning the Lake Oval and Middle Park Soccer Grounds, “Where were you in the mid-nineties when we were trying to stop Kennett stealing Sports Grounds and Public Parks?

  27. Andy Ryan says

    Just a little add on to the NOBs at Gillon Oval point. The situation is that NOBs are slowly dying out as the school (St Joe’s Pascoe Vale and North Melbourne) is closing down. NOBs has survived even though there has been only one new player from the school to play seniors in the past 10 years or so – and that’s because the club sponsored his schooling!

    Having recognised the situation NOBs found St Pats Ballarat as a recruiting ground – as NOBs has been recruiting from the country for several years now, mostly through university colleges – and took on the the St Pats name, thereby reviving a former St Pats old boys team, as a way to survive. The fact is that the St Pats connection is tenuous but has had a boost this year through a new coach who was a St Pats boy and, more importantly a strong sponsor who is also a St Pats boy. Those of us who are old NOBs and been at the club for years expect to see our side of things disappear.

    I for one have been spruiking the Brunswick Amateur Footy Club concept for some time, especially as I was a supporter of Brunswick Football Club in the early 80s. As much as I would hate to see NOBs disappear, it’s basically out of our hands now that the school is gone.

    So the whole thing boils down to whether St Pats boys continue to come to Gillon to play, which would have to be driven by St Pats people, or someone gets the junior club up and running and pushes that through to a senior, Brunswick Amateur team. As far as the cricket club goes, probably the latter is better, although the St Pats connection should give them access to a lot of mature players from the country (although any that have stayed in Melbourne over the summer as most are uni students have been finding their way to other cricket clubs – St Francis de Sales in Oak Park and West Coburg – because of connections within the footy club).

    Hope that is of some interest.

  28. I was about 11 years old. But for SMH, it was a double edged sword. Every improvement (as far as I know) that was built on Middle Park was actually an illegal one. Previous attempts to add more facilities to the venue had also been opposed by the local council and local residents groups. They probably saw the Grand Prix being located at Albert Park as inevitable, and decided to at least get something worthwhile out of it.

  29. pauldaffey says


    I was … absent!


    Thanks for filling us in. If Brunswick Amateurs do get up, I think they should play in NOBs’ purple jumpers.

    Sorry, I was a bit harsh on the St Pat’s connection.


    Sounds like the hands were tied.

    And thanks for your input on this thread.

  30. ThirdgenBlood says

    As a passionate third generation South (Bloods) supporter and member, I’m old enough (just) to remember as a young fella my old man taking me to this grandstand to watch the Swans play. This derelict old heritage protected grandstand is like Mecca to true Bloods supporters. At some stage most years we all travel there to look and remember when we were South Melbourne. In fact, during the week leadup to the 2005 Grand Final (which we won for the first time in 72 years!!!) someone painted on the side wall of the stand “ITS TIME”, ala Labor’s election campaign pitch in 1972. The inside may be busted apart and unfortunately still has the remnants of Redheads nightclub stuff, but to the initiated one can stand in there and see where the mechanics of the club operated, as well as get out to the seating area and sit in the stand and remember. (Trust me, I know. Locks can’t stop the devoted…) Moving forward it is part of Athletics Victoria’s plan to redevelop as Collingwood have taken over the Olympic Park precinct – typical.. Sydney Swans for years have been trying to take ownership of the grandstand to convert into a Victorian training base, but have been consistantly thwarted by Bob Jane Stadium and Parks Victoria. Their only chance to maintain any thread of original local identity was to successfully lobby to get the grandstand heritage listed some years ago. And fly the premiership above the grandstand roof when we won it back in 2005… GO BLOODS!!!

  31. Work has begun on the stadium’s redevelopment – I’ve been keeping track of the saga from a South Melbourne Hellas point of view on my blog if people are interested in having a look through. There are some recent photos and a link to a youtube clip of an artist’s impression made by Major Projects Victoria as well.

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