The curious charm of empty Etihad


Interesting creature, the Foxtel Cup. A new competition, it’s a made-for-pay-TV knockout competition between sixteen clubs from the WAFL, the SANFL, the VFL and other state and territory leagues. The fixture has to fit in with clubs’ byes, availability of grounds, and Foxtel programming. That programming also calls for short quarters of about 20 minutes.

Teams, then, need to get a good start because there’s not much time for catch-up footy.

On Saturday 9 July Williamstown, a strong VFL team, hosted East Perth, a struggling WAFL team, at an empty Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. A few hundred supporters turned up, taking advantage of the free admission.

The emptiness had its charms.

For starters there was not the incessant noise that bombards you at an AFL game. There was none of the constant cajoling from faceless amplified voices to bet and barrack and buy. None of the quarter-time blare-blare-blare or half-time blah-blah-blah. And none of the abuse you hear from volatile over-enthusiastic fans.

Pre-game I was treated to some quality contemporary music at decent decibels. (Don’t ask me whose music it was. Lady La La? The Foam Fighters? My Morning Arctic Monkey?). As my mate Mike, a veteran of music festivals said, “Good sound system here.”

Once the game got going you appreciated the sound of the football itself: the lovely thump as the green T-shirted umpires bounced the Burley into the Docklands centre circle, then the crisper sounds of white boots on yellow leather as players kicked the ball. (On such a cold, windy night the closed roof probably helped contain, and even amplify, the sound of the ball, the true sound of the game.)

Another bonus was that the scoreboard simply showed the action on the main part of the screen and the scores at the bottom. No advertisements, no gambling odds, no garish graphics. Just the footy. Imagine that. (But I can’t for the life of me see why a fancy electronic scoreboard – whether it be at Etihad Stadium or at much, much smaller grounds – cannot spell out the teams’ names in full.)

As it was, ‘Will’ got the jump on ‘E.P’ with a six goals to none first quarter and the Seagulls, wearing a clash jumper for possibly the first time in 147 years, were nine goals up at half-time. The two-blue Royals tried to make a game of it in the second half, spurred on by the dozen or so fair-dinkum diehard very vocal Royals supporters sitting by the interchange bench.

The Royals lick their wounds. The Seagulls, stacked with players on the Western Bulldogs list, will play the grand final on 6 August, most likely in Adelaide, against the winner of next weekend’s Claremont-Port Adelaide semi-final.


Final score: Will 16.7 (103) E.P 4.8 (32)

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks for the report Vin. Talking to Williamstown player Ben Davies’ father Tim yesterday, he also reported a pleasant day at the football. His verbal report lacked your poetry, but he did point out something you missed – the bar was open.

  2. The dozen or so Royals fans sitting in front of me were more than happy to keep the bartenders busy.

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