Lorne Footy Club: Mind the Water

Lorne’s Stribling Reserve would have to be one of the most spectacular sporting arenas in Australia.  Standing high on the western side of the oval you overlook Louttit Bay and the Southern Ocean. But this has not always been the home ground for the Lorne Football and Netball clubs known as the Dolphins and the Lorne Cricket Club.

As visitors to Lorne on the Great Ocean Road could not help but notice, flat land around the town is at a premium. Sometime in the early years of the 20th century a footy team was formed. “The Seasiders” as they were known,  played their home game on “The Flat”.  This land, which really is the secondary sand dune along the foreshore,  was not only their home ground, but a paddock for grazing cattle and sheep. Hopefully a clean-up was organised before the footy started. Other sporting clubs that played on the Flat were the Netballers, Cricketers, Lawn Bowlers and Tennis players. Today  all the sporting clubs have moved and visitors to Lorne  look down on this area from the main street, and see a grassed area, with family groups picnicking , a children’s playground,  trampolines and the Lorne Pool.

Playing on the Flat posed many a problem in those days. If the match was played during a high tide, the sea side of the ground was  pounded by waves. To make matters even worse, if an “easterly” was blowing, the waves actually broke onto that wing of the ground. In the early thirties a vertical rock wall was built that extended the length of the ground but that was washed away by a huge storm some years later. A corrugated iron fence was then built, but that was unsuccessful. A section of this fence still stands today among the trees on the foreshore.  In the meantime, if the ball went over the boundary  line, it meant that the boundary umpire or one of the players had to brave the sea to get the ball so play could continue. Can you imagine how it would feel to get out of the water with plenty of it  still in your boot? Another” solution” some years later was to erect a sloping rock wall which was only partially successful, depending on tide, the size of waves and the dreaded easterly. That wall still remains there today.

The “Seasiders” had a great jumper, the bottom half  was  bright red, the top royal blue with a golden star on the chest. On the day of the game the locals would get dressed in their footy gear at home and meet at the ground. The visiting teams  came from towns such as Dean’s Marsh, Birregurra,Wensleydale, Winchelsea and Apollo Bay.  Up until the Great Ocean Road was opened in the 30s the Apollo Bay team would arrive by steamer. The inland teams would come by “bus” which was really a truck or van usually open at the back. They would get changed in the Bandstand which was located at the Northern end of the ground, close to where the swimming pool fence is now. The Bandstand was a wooden structure with shutters which was partially opened for the match, but that was all, no hot water or any water to clean up  after the game. I wonder how many went for a” dip” after the contest? They were all pretty tough timber workers and farmers from those towns so I imagine a few braved the winter waves for a clean up before heading home.

In the early 50’s, discussions were had on the need for a new sporting oval for the town. A slopping area above the town known as The Library Paddock was selected as the site for the oval. One of the most influential members of the town, Hector Stribling, used his undoubted knowledge and expertise to organise a “cut and fill scheme” to create today’s oval for the Lorne Dolphins. This was completed in 1955 and the first home game was played against Birregurra inJune. Over the years excellent facilities have been built for the footballers, cricketers and net ballers ,a far cry from the early days on the Flat.

I wandered over on Saturday to see the Dolphins make a come-from-behind win against Irrewarra-Beeac. They kicked seven goals in the last quarter, it was a must win for the local team if they are to have a chance of playing in the finals.

Special thanks to Doug Stirling for his help with this history. He is  a living legend of Lorne, who has well over eighty years of stories and yarns about the town.



  1. John Butler says

    Great stuff Rod

    Though I notice you avoid mention of the Bombers. :)

  2. There was another game played on Saturday, but I was a long way from the “G” and news travels very slowly in the country, especially if you lose by a bucket load of goals against the old enemy. And next week we play the other old” hatred”. I’m feeling “very confident”.

  3. Paul Daffey says


    Great story. Love the paddle steamers from Apollo Bay, and I want to get one of those jumpers.

  4. Alovesupreme says

    Some wonderful memories conjured up by your account of Lorne’s history. As a young tacker, I can remember fielding in one of those interminable cricket matches on the Flat while holidaying in Lorne. Rules were ever-one fields (in my memory that would have numbered 50 odd), wicket-taker – cathcher or bowler, gets to bat. Needless to say, I never had to face up.
    In 1950s football, the teams you mention (with the exception of Wensleydale) were still going around, in the Polwarth League, along with Forrest, Coragulac, Queenscliff and Beeac (half Lorne’s rivals last Saturday), I didn’t ever see a match there, but your contribution has the ring of (watery) truth.
    I have fronted for three successive years for the Great Ocean Road marathon in May, and the race certainly begins in Antarctic conditions.

  5. Great stuff.

    It seems Vin Maskell was at the same game on the weekend… with both eyes on the scoreboard as usual..


  6. Re John Butler’s opening comment: Ireewarra- Beeac are the Bombers, so they also lost to a local rival last weekend. The Bombers and the Dolphins played three consecutive grand finals from 2006 to 2008. The Dolphins won the first two, then the Bombers began their hat- trick of premierships in 2008. The things you learn chatting in the scoreboard..

    Excellent story, Rod. Very evocative.

  7. Rod,

    I’ve just added a link to your Almanac story on scoreboardpressure.com

    Looking forward to your next story.

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