If this grandstand could talk……………



by Chris Bracher

The guardian of the Western end of Albert Park Lake, she stands statuesque; the Lady of the Lake. A book-end mirrored at the lake’s Eastern end by the Blackie-Ironmonger stand at the Junction..


These bookends also marked “tribal” lines in a less sophisticated sporting era, when the “Battle of the Lake” between the fiercely loyal VFL followers of St.Kilda  and South Melbourne took on mammoth local importance. She wasn’t yet built to see the record crowd South-St-Kilda of over 40 000 in 1923 but for over five decades she stood witness to the deeds of the red and white…..the “Southerners”….the “Bloodstained Angels”, the” Bloods”, the “Swans”.

She has seen Champions of the era’s – Pratt, Nash, Goldsmith, Matthews, Clegg, Bedford,  Round,  and marvelled at the deeds of the best of them all…..triple Brownlow medallist Bobby Skilton. Her spaces have echoed with the famous cry of “Up There Cazaly” in Winter and the sound of bat on ball in Summer, as she gazed upon South’s finest cricketers. Household names such as Hassett, Johnson, Miller, Redpath…and in later times Yallop, Walker and the great West Indian Captain  Clive Lloyd have all met with her approval. She is too young to have seen the “Big Ship” Warwick Armstrong, Bill Woodfull and Clarrie Grimmett wear their red caps with pride, but she knows of the impressive list of Australian test Captains to have called this ground their home.

She stood fortress-like over the dark Lake Oval pockets in the VFL end of season night series, which ran at South from 1956-1971. In an age where floodlight technology was primitive, the shadows of this corner of the field hid the dirty deeds of some of the leagues hardest men! But there was no cover of darkness in 1985 for young Collingwood forward John Bourke  during the VFL’s Army Reserve Cup Bourke exploded in a fit of rage, kicking a South player, tripping the umpire and then jumping the fence to take on a spectator! “The boy’s gone mad- they’ve got to take him off” was a line from commentator Ray “Slug” Jordan that has become etched in the memory of many. The upshot of Mr. Bourke’s moment of madness was the VFL/AFL’s longest suspension ever, of ten years and eight games!

She’s had companions throughout much of her life; the peanut man, local cult-hero Tommy Lahiff as he marshaled young cricketing aspirants over many years and the caged cockatoo that mimicked the sounds of the crowd. But they all left……and so did her team. She cried on that day in 1981 when the Swans of South Melbourne ran onto the ground for the last time, before heading North to a stuttering start as the  Swans of Sydney. The black banner erected by the Bloods cheer-squad on that infamous day eerily reflected her mood. 

For part of the 1980’s her cavernous interior rocked to the sounds of “disco” music and she is dear to the hearts of many Melbourne couples who danced and romanced at “Redheads”. She then watched for a decade or two as the oval terraces grew weeds, her more modern sister stand was removed, her paint blistered, her roofing iron twisted and the Lake “oval” became “oblong” to accommodate a dislocated neighbor from the round ball code.

But she lingered, hanging on as Grand Prix cars sped around her and enduring a gutting of her interior.  In 2005 her walls creaked with pride as her long-departed heroes finally delivered upon a Premiership promise …72 years after their last……and crowned her with a flag delivered to her heights by her favourite son, “The Chimp”, “Skilts”.

And now she will live in perpetuity – the threat of the demolition ball long behind her. She will remain that red and white constant at the end of Clarendon St; a beacon of joy for all Southerners.



The Lakeside Oval – Some Key Facts


The Lake Oval commenced life as home to the South Melbourne Cricket Club in 1862. South Melbourne Football Club joined as co-tenants  in 1878. South were a founding  member of  the VFL in 1897.

In 1888 the ground hosted an Australian Rules match between SMFC and the English Rugby Team! in 1888, as part of a tour of the colonies by England. The English team won this match. Sadly, the English team returned home at the conclusion of the tour without their Captain, who had drowned in Sydney Harbour!

The Lakeside Oval hosted 704 VFL matches during its period of operation, including the 1899 and 1901 Grand Finals.

The VFL Night series was hosted at South Melbourne between 1956 and 1971. This competition was a knockout comp for teams that had missed the VFL Finals in that year.

South Melbourne Football Club played in a number of different red and white guernseys…horizontal stripes from 1880-1903, red and white vertical panels from 1904-1906, a red sash on white 1907-20 and 1922-31, white interlinked initials –SMFC – centred on a red jumper 1921 and a red yoke “V” on white from 1932 – 1986. The current Sydney Swans design was adopted in 1987.

The current stand that will undergo renovation stand replaced the original wooden “pavilion” that was destroyed by fire in 1910.

The Mike Brady Football Anthem “Up there Cazaly” was inspired by the deeds of South legend Roy Cazaly, who’s leaps to mark would inspire this call from the crowd.

Other than for major Australian Rules Football and Cricket (and lawn bowls on the old “bowling green wing, over which the main soccer grandstand has been built)  the ground has been used for a variety of sporting pursuits, including Claxton Shield Baseball, a famous grass-track match race between Ron Clarke and Kenyan Champion Kip Keino, and (after the departure of the Swans) the VFL’s Sunday Reserve Grade competition feature match for the “Army Reserve Cup”. Old Xaverians used the voal in the mid 1990’s and the final match on the ground before reconfiguration  was in fact a VAFA Grand Final.

South Melbourne Cricket Club has spawned 44 Australian Test Cricketers and 6 Australian Test Captains….Blackham, Trott, Armstrong, Woodfull, Hassett and Johnson. Another three Captains Horan, McDonnell and Yallop spent part of their careers at South. Graham Yallop went on to operate an indoor cricket centre at the ground in the 1980’s on the site of the current function centre.




About chris bracher

Known to stare longingly down Clarendon St still wondering how his red and white heroes ever left him, Chris Bracher's pining for his relocated team has been somewhat appeased by recent Bloods glory....but the pain never truly goes away!


  1. Chris – nice wrap about the grand old lady. I watched quite a few games at the Lakeside Oval as a youngster as some of my cousins supported South Melbourne and I would go with them. It wasn’t always possible for me to get to Geelong to watch the Cats play so I went to South Melbourne games rather than miss out completely.

    I remember standing on cans to see the play, kicking the footy afterwards on the ground, dodging rivers of urine as they trickled gently across the terraces – ah yes those were the days.

  2. Chris Bracher says

    Thanks Dips.
    The Bowling Green wing will live long in my memory and the old hand-operated scoreboard on that side (complete with the tin number plates hung on nails…none of the fancy technology for South!)

    Thanks for your comments. Ironically, Gelong was the closest ground to where I lived so Kardinia Park features amongst my earliest footy memories.

    For the record, I served on a Committee of South faithful to save teh stand from teh wreckers ball and am deklightd to see it re-purposed as the new Victorian Institutre of Sport . Tghis goeas some way to addressing the hideous decision to orientate teh soccer field away from the stand when Hellas moved in, whch rendered it less than ideal for watching sport.


  3. Ripper read Chris. Sadly missed venue so easy to get to from the city or in my case the Western side of town.

    One controversial morning/afternoon I spent at the Lakeside Oval occured on the Labour day holiday 1984. Monday March 11 1984 was the scheduled second day of the District cricket match between South Melbourne and Footscray. The Dogs had knocked up a score of 300+ on the previous Saturday headlined by AIC Dodemaide’s first district ton.

    Prior to taking the field on the second day the umpires were informed the Swans change rooms had been broken into, the thieves taking off with the clubs cricket balls. When South couldn’t produce any cricket balls to allow play to start within 10 minutes of the scheduled commencement time Dogs captain Ray Bright appealled under VCA Rule 10,his team were awarded the points, and secured a place in that seasons finals in the process.

    Didn’t go down too well with the home teams officials – understandably.

    Great venue for baseball, I attended a few Claxton Shield games prior to the first version of the ABL commenced in 1989.


  4. John Butler says

    Lovely stuff Chris

    So much tribal history attached to these old grounds.

  5. Hi Chris,
    I enjoyed this piece very much. Although a North supporter, I always had a fondness for the
    Lake Oval. I saw the last ever VFL game there (South v North), but was probably a little too
    gormless at the time to realise the significance. (I do remember it was a terrible day, weather-
    I played a game of footy there (a preliminary round of the Herald Shield) in which our team
    was whipped by Silvio Foscini and his Mazenod team-mates. I also played a few indoor
    cricket matches there back in the mid-80’s.
    It is indeed sad that many of these fine old grand-stands have been demolished. I was
    extremely disappointed when the Arden St stand came down, as it held so many memories for me.

  6. Great piece Chris

    Many great memories of the night games in the 60s. Like most men in those days my father, a mad Bloods supporter, worked 2 jobs (Victorian Railways at Newport and the Rising Sun Hotel in Footscray)so when he could actually take me and my brother to the Lake oval it was a very special time. My Nana lived in Buckhurst Street Sth Melbourne so many a quiet sherbet was had by my father and uncle at the Golden Fleece pub as well as back at the house after the game. Cheers Shano.

  7. As Chris Brachan has mentioned, it was disappointing the stand wasn’t refurbished and utilised as a stand when South Melbourne Hellas moved in.

    Having said that, the stand has survived, and now looks great – even a simple coat of paint can do wonders. And as for the venue itself, it has that rare charm so absent in modern stadiums, of actually having a visible physical history.

    There’s the old stand, the brand new one, and the 16 year old Hellas one which has also had a bit of a makeover.

    October 2010 – being held up by girders

    October 2010

    March 2011

    May 2011

    September 2011

    General stadium renovation blog posts

  8. Er, meant to write Chris Bracher, Brain working half pace today.

  9. Barny/Josh's dad says

    Went to a game, Sth Melbourne vs Melbourne back in the late 1970’s with my brother-in-law and some of his mates,who were members of “The Bloods Club” so had access to a bar, down some stairs behind the goals. Bar was open before game and at end of each quarter. Very distinguished gentleman was there as wlth us at each break.he looked familiar but could not place him. After game some Sth. players attended,Teasdale, David Young to name a couple, was introduced and while refilling 2 jugs from the bar I turned and spilt some of the beer over this gentleman’s three piece suit, at the same time working out who he was. Sir Billy Sneddon, don’t worry about it son was all he said after I apologised several times.

  10. Tons of memories from that great ground, I nearly cry every time i drive past it, I left Melbourne after the ’82 season I was so upset about South leaving, i had no reason to remain in Melbourne so I moved to Perth & refused to watch them on TV for many years & rejoiced in every defeat, even though I knew in my heart that they could not remain in the competition with no money & little support, even though they had the basis of a decent team in the late 70’s/early 80’s, if only the Danihers hadn’t been given away to Essendon ………

  11. The Emerald Hill Chronicle says

    Come back into the red and white fold Gerry.

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