Footy grounds of yore

The older you get the more your mind drifts back to earlier times, not that they were all good, as some would  have you make out, but when it comes to sport and football in particular, all the memories are good.

Footy grounds, especially the eleven suburban grounds of the old VFL, bring back happy memories, and as a very young lad there was always something that stood out at each venue. As a family we would use public transport to and from the grounds and those journeys were always exciting, especially comments from fellow travelers after the games.

Fitzroy  . The visitors members entrance.  As I walked through this imposing structure,  I thought it was a small grandstand for the Essendon supporters. I was wrong , we walked up to the goals at the eastern end and sat on the planks just behind the goals. We always got to grounds very early to watch the thirds as they were known then, we didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Essendon.  Being a Don supporter this was my favourite ground.  Our home ground and we called it the Essendon Footy Ground. Many years later it was called Windy Hill .  As you walked through the iron turnstile and had your members card clipped we would make a dash for the planks behind the goals.  I always loved the  modern A F Showers Stand to our right. We never sat in it though ,  if it was raining we would sit in the old wooden Dick Reynolds Stand . The Showers Stand was  pretty empty until just before the main game started, mum reckoned it was all the cricket club members who came later. Sadly the Showers Stand was demolished to make way for the pool and gym complex.

South Melbourne. I’m not sure whether it was called Lakeside Oval then, but it sure was near the water, I reckon I could see swans on Albert Park Lake from where we would sit. I loved the small building on the outer boundary line which I think was the umpires, timekeepers and press box. I was always worried that some player might get bumped through the front door of this building. Only the impressive brick Grandstand remains today.

Hawthorn. The straight boundary line running parallel with the railway line, and how the trains would always slow down to almost walking pace so the driver and probably the passengers could see the progress score. We didn’t have to leave home as early when we played Hawthorn, just a tram ride up Glenferrie Road. and we  always seemed to come home with a win.

St Kilda. I always thought it a huge ground with  three very impressive  grandstands. It was just a short tram ride for us from home and we looked forward to playing St Kilda, because they were then, the easy beats.

Collingwood. We used to catch the train to Victoria Park and walking from the station to the Visitors Entrance was a bit scarey for us Dons. Nothing ever happened of course, but we kept close together just in case. Inside the ground all the Essendon barrackers  tried to sit together for support.  It was definitely them against us. Grandstands of all shapes and sizes surrounded most of the ground and everything seemed to be painted black and white.

Carlton. We really hated playing Carlton but loved to beat them. One memory that has stayed with me  was when I had to go the visitors toilets, and believe you me ,it was not a pleasant experience for dad or myself.    If we beat Carlton we were as happy as all heck, if we lost we went home a bit gloomy.  Little did I know that some sixty years later I would be living near this ground

Richmond.  The walk from the Richmond Station to the Punt Road Oval was full of excitement, but the ground always looked small to me I guess it has something to do with its near neighbour across the park. The teams looked great in their respective jumpers, the Dons black jumper, red sash ,white shorts, the tigers Black with gold sash, black shorts.

MCG. The size of the ground, the grandstands and the atmosphere all made an impression on me, but what I recall is the Indian Myna birds making a hell of a racket in the old Southern Stand. We would get to the ground early as usual so the birds didn’t have much competition when it came to making noise.

Footscray. I seem to remember you had to get off the train at West Footscray to get to the oval, and two things that stick in my mind is wind and rain, not that that worried you too much. Sitting on a plank behind the goals with  rain dripping down your back was great fun when you were a kid, and we usually won.

North Melbourne. It had to be that gigantic gasometer just outside the ground on the opposite side to a huge(well it seemed big to me) grandstand. Sometimes  the gasometer  would be full and I wondered what would happen if a match was dropped near it. Both landmarks gone.

Geelong. Not a suburban ground and we never did the train journey or the drive to the country when we were kids. Years later while teaching on the west coast I would venture to Kardinia Park and the highlight to me was the Past Players Pavilion.  A cute little stand that I reckon would seat no more than a hundred past players.  With the redevelopment at Geelong, this stand has been moved to an outside oval .



  1. Alovesupreme says

    You have provided a prompt for some fine reminiscence.
    Occasionally when I have trouble sleeping, I track through the various grounds – VFL, VFA, and lesser comps, making a mental list of my recollections. I specifically think of those I’ve played on, those on which I’ve umpired, and those where my only role has been as a spectator.
    Thanks for sharing your memories.

  2. John Butler says

    I really miss the variety the suburban grounds offered.

    Docklands has ‘amenity’, but we’ve sacrificed a lot.

    Great stuff Rod.

  3. Dave Nadel says

    I am assuming that you are referring to original home and away grounds. By St Kilda, do you mean Linton St. or Junction Oval? When you write about Fitzroy are you referring to Brunswick St or Junction Oval? I ask this because Junction Oval was definitely my favourite “away” ground. I went a few times as a kid when St Kilda played there, and a lot as an adult when Fitzroy played Collingwood. It was clearly the prettiest ground in the VFL and in its Fitzroy days the most comfortable for opposition supporters apart from The “G” and Waverley.

    I went to a see a Sheffield Shield match at the Junction Oval in the mid-nineties and was appalled by how much the ground and the Grandstand had declined. I haven’t been there in the last decade but I hope some money has been spent there. It is just too nice a ground to be allowed to decay the way it had late last century.

  4. Dave, Yes I’m talking about the VFL grounds in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. At that time there was no talk of moving to other home grounds, that all happened many years later. Rod
    PS. I made a mistake about the Dick Reynolds Stand, it was a brick structure with wooden seats and stairs.

  5. Great nostalgia Rod.
    We’ve certainly lost a lot in becoming the AFL. It’s a long, long way from sitting in the rain on a wooden plank – (luxury..we used to dream of wooden planks standing in the outer, perched on empty beer cans) – to sipping champagne in today’s corporate boxes, but who’s to say which fans have/had the most fun? I remember when Kardinia Park had a wooden picket fence around it, and now and then some enterprising fellow would remove a few pickets and there would be a line of us urchins scurrying through. Victoria Park was a fearful place for opposition fans, and the walk to and from the station was quite fraught when you were a kid. I have a lasting memory of bricks, concrete and barbed wire, like a forbidding prison compound. In those days before climate change, it always rained at the footy. A Cats navy blue and white scarf looks black and white when it’s wringing wet, so camouflage provided a measure of protection.

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