Higher Ground: The AFL v The West Antarctic Ice Sheet

I believe that global warming is real, and that humans have driven it such that everything that lives on this planet will be affected, by-and-large negatively.

I believe this because of science.

Sure, I’m not a scientist myself – After 8 years of university study in physics I fell short of a degree and now, some years later, all I have left is a vague but unsubstantiated feeling that some dude called Schrödinger was not particularly nice to his cat. Nonetheless, in spite of my exclusion from their ranks, I have been around enough scientists to have faith in them as a body of informed opinion.

Collectively, they know their @#$%.

And their @#$% says that we are soon to be in the @#$%, whereby @#$% equals sea water. Yep, the level of our oceans are set to rise as our planet warms up and the ice at and around our poles melts. The exact level of the rise is not entirely clear. Nobody is clear either on when these rises will take effect – It could be in the 10’s of years or perhaps 100’s.

It will happen though – recently a NASA-led group found that the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now irreversible. This is a problem because one of the outcomes of this is that our global sea levels could go up by as much as five metres.

Which is not good for those living in coastal areas or on low-lying islands. Some nations, like Kiribati in the Pacific, will disappear altogether and across all nations, many millions, if not billions, of the world’s people will be displaced. As monumental as that upheaval will be, this looming humanitarian crisis is not the direct focus of this post. See, I write mostly about sport and so I thought I’d bring the impact of that projected up-welling from our oceans into a context that makes sense for footy fans in Australia.

Here then, with some assistance from Google Maps and absolutely no scientific credibility, are the projected impacts of a global sea level rise of five metres for each of the 17 grounds which will host AFL matches in 2014:

Adelaide Oval – Adelaide Crows, Port Adelaide.

This historic Australian sporting ground needs to be preserved at all costs, if for no other reason than as a memorial to the English cricketing capitulation of 2006. Oh how we all laughed as Shane Warne induced that choke. Good times.

Fortunately, we can hold off on the sandbags – Adelaide Oval is a healthy 25m above sea level. A word of warning though for teams visiting from outside of South Australia – Adelaide Airport is separated from the very-nearby Gulf St Vincent by only 4m of elevation and currently, between the runways and the sea, the only barrier is a sewerage treatment facility. Yep, 5m of sea level rise and you’ll be having a @#$% landing in Adelaide.

Bellerive Oval (Blundstone Arena) – North Melbourne.

A rather lovely ground perched on the banks of the Derwent River in Hobart, Tasmania. It is precariously perched though – At a scant 10m above the level of the estuary, I’d be thinking a seawall might be handy, lest the famed Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race ends up finishing by the Members’ Stand.

Carrara Stadium (Metricon Stadium) – Gold Coast Suns.

Carrara Stadium is located on Queensland’s Gold Coast – a stretch of beach-front development characterised by high-rise apartment blocks and canal-side marinas. Suffice it to say that once the ol’ West Antarctic Ice Sheet goes all melty, there will be a whole lot more of those canals to go around. Which is nice if you’re into boating but not so good for the playing of football at Carrara.

Handily though, the Suns’ uniform bears a fairly accurate resemblance to a lifeguard’s costume and their skipper, Gary Ablett Jr, does appear to be able to run on water. It could work.

Cazaly’s Stadium – Western Bulldogs

This Cairns-based ground is named for famed Aussie rules legend, Roy Cazaly, who was otherwise immortalised in the song, ‘Up There Cazaly.’ Sadly for the stadium, it’s not really ‘up there’ in terms of height above sea-level – It’s a scant 3m above the waves and there isn’t any elevation of note between the playing surface and the Coral Sea. On the flipside, the encroaching waters should be tropical so I’d suggest that the Doggies switch to pineapple energy drinks and just kick back on a Pool Pony.

Docklands (Etihad Stadium) – Carlton, Essendon, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs.

Docklands. Yeah, that name gives a pretty good indication as to how that ground is situated post ice-melt. At least the 1st part of the name anyway – the ‘Dock’ bit – docks generally being handily situated at the water’s edge. The 2nd part of the name, the ‘land’, probably won’t be accurate in the future as this ground sits a scant 5m above the current waterline.

There is some grand irony in this as Docklands is the only ground used by the AFL that has a fully-retractable roof, thus isolating the games within from the effects of the often harsh Australian elements. On the plus side there will be some opportunities for future development – maybe an indoor aquarium?

Kardinia Park – Geelong.

In the Geelong team song it has the line:

‘Down at Kardinia Park.’

This is despite that ground having a positive elevation of around 17m. Go figure.

Anyway, the Cattery is safe from the encroaching waters of the Southern Ocean. This is good as most cats don’t really like water, although with the way the Geelong version have been playing this past decade, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway – you get the feeling that they’d still be putting together slick plays at a depth Jacques Cousteau would have balked at.

Manuka Oval (StarTrack Oval) – GWS Giants.

Manuka is in Canberra, the seat of federal political power in Australia. Natural justice would suggest that our leaders, some of whom don’t seem to believe that global warming is real, should go down with the ship if it comes to that, but at an elevation of 570m and being situated a good distance from the coast, this will be an unlikely fate to befall this ground and our national parliament.


Marrara Stadium (TIO Stadium) – Melbourne, Richmond.

Marrara is in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. The ground is set back from the coast and has an elevation of 14m so should be ok. Which is nice because inundation in the Territory can sometimes be associated with an influx of salt water crocodiles. Crocodiles did seem to do ok at football in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’, however that example may have been: a, played out with a round ball; and b, a work of fiction portrayed by an animated cartoon.

Melbourne Cricket Ground – Collingwood, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Richmond.

The spiritual home of Aussie rules is most likely safe – the elevation is around 17m and should any flood-waters make it onto the hallowed turf, the AFL offices in the Southern Stand will be launched to safety via a Saturn V rocket hidden in an attached light tower. From there, the AFL executive will relocate to the Moon or Tasmania, but most likely the Moon.

Stadium Australia (ANZ Stadium) – Sydney Swans, GWS Giants.

Situated in Sydney’s Olympic Park, Stadium Australia is at the comparably lofty altitude of 30m. The AFL’s expansion through the Sydney area is therefore secure from the effects of global warming. Bwah hah hah hah.

Subiaco Oval – Fremantle Dockers, West Coast Eagles

On the surface this isn’t too much of a problem for Western Australia’s two AFL outfits – Subi Oval sits a dry 30m higher than the Swan River estuary. This though is painting a false picture and it’s doing it with watercolours – for Subi Oval is set to be replaced in 2018 by a new facility in Burswood. The resultant elevation, layered on what was once a swampy wetland, will be a lowly 5m above the neighbouring estuary.


Fortunately the Dockers have prepared by: a, using the height of Aaron Sandilands to out-ruck the waves; and b, deploying inflatable anchors to supporters for flotation and stabilisation. The Eagles might be in trouble though.

Sydney Cricket Ground – Sydney Swans.

At an elevation of 40m, the SCG is going to stand above the encroaching seas like a lighthouse, a beacon for all that is grand about Australia’s game. It will also be as cramped as a lighthouse, with players earning a 50m bonus forced to make up the distance via spiral staircases.

Sydney Showground Stadium (Spotless Stadium) – GWS Giants.

Located adjacent to Stadium Australia, this picturesque facility is around 20m above sea level. The nearby Badu Mangroves could signal trouble for access though and create a need for some shallow-bottomed boats to ferry in the teams. I’m not too concerned though, as the AFL has shown some willingness in the past to apply draught concessions for the Giants.

The Gabba – Brisbane Lions

Situated close to the Brisbane River and at an elevation of around 10m, The Gabba has historically been susceptible to the kind of flooding that would make even Terry Wallace, the coach who deployed the ‘superflood’ as a defensive tactic, head for higher ground. The outlook for the Brisbane Lions certainly doesn’t look good and that’s before we even consider the possibility of the water-table rising above the playing surface.

Also, lions aren’t natural swimmers.

Traeger Park – Melbourne.

This Alice Springs’ ground is about as far from any coast as it is possible to get on this wide island and it is at an altitude of 580m above sea level. If Traeger Park goes under then I reckon your best bet is to look for a dude building a big wooden ark, before convincing him that you’re a stand-out representative of your species. On recent playing form this is probably going to be difficult for some Melbourne players.

Wellington Regional Stadium (Westpac Stadium) – St Kilda.

Yeah, the AFL invasion of New Zealand will likely end in tears. The tears of a glacier.

Wellington Regional Stadium is located on the docks, with only Waterloo Quay between the stadium known as ‘The Cake Tin’, and Wellington Harbour. Given that ‘The Tin’ is at just 5m of elevation, the ‘Cake’ within is sure to get mighty soggy – this is ok for your Nan’s boozy trifle but in this case St Kilda will be facing their own Waterloo through a sheen of uncomfortably icy water.

York Park (Aurora Stadium) – Hawthorn.

Tasmania deserves an AFL team – a franchise in the Apple Isle could really float. Obviously this is a figure of speech, as while Launceston’s York Park is only 5m above sea level and is situated on the banks of the North Esk River, Tassie’s second city is a fair way inland and should be ok. Plus, attendees will have less distance to travel from the ferry landing to the game.

Which brings us to the end of our AFL round-the-grounds global sea-rise report. I’m not quite finished though…

I figured I’d wind this post up with a look at one more sporting ground: Bairiki National Stadium is located in South Tarawa, one of the coral atolls that make up Kiribati. This football (soccer) ground is perched on a narrow strip of land that separates the Pacific Ocean from a lagoon. The highest elevation across that sand bar is 3m – when the ice melts and the water rises, the people of Kiribati will need to find somewhere else to play footy.

They’ll also need to find somewhere else to live.


Leftist sports writer, recreational astronomer, husband and dad. Believes in level playing fields and that people with a mental illness are stronger. Can be found in Perth, Western Australia and/or in a stupor.


  1. The Wrap. says

    Thank you Lonworth72. The science we had to have. (Do you mind if I call you Longworth? Longworth72 sounds so Argonauts) And once there’s no more Footy Venues – what’s going to happen to our economy and social fabric? Without those pie with a pot combos at $14.95, what’s going to save us from being swamped by the Hockman’s deficit? Parmas with a pot at $10 is certainly not going to help us trade our way out of the mess. And without our weekly hit of surrogate violence, we’re sure to turn into roaming mobs of club wielding thugs.

    The implications are terrifying. We’ll all have to move to Canberra.

  2. Are you sure ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ was a cartoon and not a manifesto for the AFL?

  3. Calm down Longworth. Things are never as bad as they seem.

    Interesting that our former Prime Minister, also a believer in the concept of human induced global warming, has retired to a house by the sea. Maybe she knows something we don’t?

    Glad the Cattery will be safe.

  4. E.regnans says

    Nice one Longworth72.
    Though “believing in climate change” and “believing in science” are strange phrases. Inappropriate. One doesn’t “believe in gravity.”
    It’s something proven by many people using hypothesis-testing.
    That’s science. It’s problem solving.

    Anyhoo – the capacity of these grounds will need extending, should the millions upon millions of climate refugees of Bangladesh, the South Pacific, and Indonesia, etc etc, come knocking.

  5. Great piece. Andrew Bolt should be forced to boundary umpire at Carrara, wearing a snorkel. E. regnans- I “believe” in your comment!

  6. You know, I used to be swayed towards accepting conventional scientific evidence for human induced climate change, but I’ve been swung around. Yep, we can throw out all that pseudo science detailing off the chart carbon levels, melting ice sheets and abnormal weather. Ex Pm’s buying beach front properties is now a way more scientific approach (and even if the ex Pm in question was ONLY adopting a carbon tax policy to appease the Greens.)

  7. From Physicist Dr. Tom Sheahen, who knows his @#$%: ‘A hot-topic in the media these days has to do with the West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS), a region comprising about 8% of the ice covering Antarctica. Within that region, there are two glaciers that are sliding down to the sea at a steady pace, as glaciers always do. They comprise about 10% of the WAIS, less than 1% of Antarctic ice. This descent has been in progress for several thousand years, and is neither new nor man-caused. It will go on for a few thousand more, after which they’ll be gone.'”

    Scientist William Easterbrook, who also knows his @#$%: ‘From all of the media hype, you would think that the West Antarctic ice sheet is presently in the process of collapsing and drastic sea level rise is imminent. THE WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET IS NOT COLLAPSING! The retreat of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers is NOT caused by global warming, and sea level is NOT going to rise 10 feet.
    The two papers predict that it could collapse in several hundred years, based on retreat of two outlet glaciers that drain part of the ice sheet.’

    Meanwhile, from other scientists who know their @#$%: ‘New paper finds sea levels rising only 7 inches per century with no acceleration’

    Now, back to our normal programming.

  8. Thank you The Wrap – Particularly for referring to all of that as ‘science’. Longworth is fine. I think you’re on to something with the financial angle – The AFL’s variable ticketing scheme is going to get complicated.

  9. Gus, now that you mention it Gillon McLachlan does resemble a young David Tomlinson.

  10. Dips, I’m a Dockers man and so things are frequently as bad as they seem – I tend to be surprised when they’re not. Last year was a pleasant change but I’ve not been fooled.

  11. Thanks E.regnans. I think you might be right about the ‘believing’ in science, although your argument is lessened by the reference to gravity – My old man once booted our prized and only football up into a tree and no amount of pleas to the god(s) of gravity would send it back down.

    I’m still bitter about that.

  12. Thanks Mickey. Is the snorkel strictly necessary? It’s just that we have a limited budget.

  13. T-Bone, I’m detecting some unorthodox thinking in your comment. Be careful with that or you will land a gig in radio-land or on the MRP. I’m particularly taken by your use of the word, ‘pseudo’ .

  14. Thanks for reading and for your comment Peter. I’ll cheerfully accept that there are scientists that disagree. I think that might be the case with everything. My post wasn’t meant to be an article in support of a particular scientific theory, for all that I expressed agreement with one – I was more taking a semi-serious look at what an impact might be if the majority of scientists are right and that we will get some global sea level rises. I happen to like footy and so the impact on this is what I looked at.

    I don’t think we can ever return to normal programming, mostly because we live in an ever-changing world that constantly redefines what ‘normal’ is. If you definition is ‘same as it ever was’ then as a Dockers fan I will have no part of it – I want a flag.

  15. Dave Brown says

    I think you have identified the real reason for the evacuation of Footy Park, Longworth…

  16. I also believe in climate change. Every day I wake up the climate is different.

  17. Dave – I think you’re on to something – And the naming rights for Footy Park are held by an insurance giant – Coincidence?

  18. Thanks for that saint66 – You’ve got me humming ‘Four Seasons in One Day’ – Brilliant bloody Crowded House.

  19. Luke Reynolds says

    “the AFL executive will relocate to the Moon or Tasmania, most likely the Moon”. Gold. Of course the untapped Moon market would be considered before the already converted Tasmanian one.
    Very entertaining and well researched Longworth!

  20. Mark Duffett says

    Spot on about Blundstone Arena. Nothing but sand between the beach and the southern stand; very easily erodable.

  21. Peter

    Cmon, mate: a couple of scientists that dispute the ice sheet melt? Give me a break. I see your couple of mavericks and raise you that there’s a 97% consensus that there’s Global warming. What … they’re all part of a conspiracy? (and the same conspiracy our ex Pm is supposedly part of?) Jesus.

    Further, let’s say there isn’t an ice sheet melt. OK, great. No one wants that vindicated, But the point is there ‘s irrefutable evidence that temperatures, carbon levels and weather patterns that are off the charts. 97% of scientists are in consensus about that. For me, that’s a fricken major worry.

    One last thing, let’s say we could wind back the clock to the dawn of the industrial age and that our forefathers were given a second chance to go with fossil fuels or clean renewables. Wouldn’t we prefer they went with the clean option so as not to gamble with the health of the planet. Well, of course, we would, wouldn’t we?

  22. @Longworth72: Certainly climate is ever-changing; that’s what climate is about. Change.

    Not sure I’m happy however about the recent change in which the Dockers seem to have the Cats’ number. (Mind you, I still reckon a team coached by Ross Lyon will never win a flag.)

    @T-Bone: No-one’s talking conspiracy, not unless you are. But I thought we were here to talk footy, which is why I only offered a couple of quotes — because this isn’t the place for this debate. There’s plenty of places to talk about climate, and few enough to talk and read about footy in the way you can here.

  23. Hi Peter

    Yeah, it’s a footy site and it’d be nice to keep it to just all matters footy, but unfortunately we footy people just can’t help ourselves from letting our political and ideological beliefs creep into it.

    For me, if I hear something that I know is bullshit, and I can prove that it’s bullshit, than, damn it, I’m gonna throw the kitchen sink at it. That’s my way. I’m like Mick Gayfer on that soft cock Craig Bradley: I just help but putting a hard tag on bullshit.

    Look forward to your future comments

  24. Dan Hansen says

    It’s a pity that Stadium Australia isn’t 26 metres lower.

  25. Luke – In defence of the AFL, since the demise of the Chinese rover, the Moon has no other current sporting presence. Plus, when it had brief flirtations with golf and motorsport in the 70’s, while the crowds were sparce, the TV numbers were out of this world.

    Tassie meanwhile just has a breathable atmosphere and an unrequited passion for the game.

  26. Peter – Rosco will win us one. He’s made 3 GFs (Not counting the replay as a separate entity). It may herald the beginning of the Apocalypse but it will happen. Heave ho.

  27. Dan – I’d argue against that based on the memory of Cathy Freeman’s run but I can’t. We all have a ground we can’t love, although mine no longer hosts AFL – It’s got a lovely surface for cricket but the WACA should go under – The facilities are dire and not even the memory of one W. Abraham dashing down the wing is glorious enough to make up for that.

  28. Love it Longworth, gem of an article.

    Quite appropriate the Docklands should be the first to go, perhaps around 2025 when the AFL take full ownership. They’ve become well accustomed to that sinking feeling over the latter part of Vlad’s blusterous reign/rain.

  29. Mark – Do Blundstones make wellies? Might be time to hit up the sponsors for more than just cash.

  30. Thanks JD – Both for the kind review and ‘Vlad’s blusterous reign/rain’ – Brilliant. On the plus side any flooding of Docklands should soften up the surface.

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