These days there are only two places to watch AFL matches in Melbourne, at the MCG and Docklands, but this was not always the case. Scattered throughout the suburbs of Melbourne are the archives of football grounds past where football club cultures were created and legends of the game still roam in spirit.
1. Victoria Park, Abottsford - This ground next to the Collingwood train station was the home ground of the Collingwood Football Club until 1999. Opposition supporters risked 100 minutes of severe verbal abuse when attending this ground, which is one of the reasons why the Collingwood Football Club is the most disliked team in the league, despite its on-field success. The ground is currently used for VFL matches. Many of the stands have been removed so you can wander in and have a kick at any time.
2. Glenferrie Oval, Glenferrie - This tiny oval behind the Glenferrie Road shops was the one of the earliest suburban homes to be abandoned by an AFL team, with the Hawks playing their last game here in 1973. This tiny ground is hemmed in on one side by a railway line and the other by a local road, so lack of seating capacity was a major constraint for the club's progression. I played one summer of cricket here and the short boundaries were punishing on fast bowlers, so I can only imagine how crowded the wings would have been for football.
3. VFL Park (Waverley Park) - This cold concrete dome built in the middle of an arctic wind tunnel in Mulgrave was home to several teams prior to its closure as a match day venue in 1999. The ground size was the largest in the league and was the first to display a giant electronic scoreboard, albeit in orange and black monochrome. Today the ground is the Hawks' training venue and the main grandstand can still be seen from the Monash Freeway.
VFL Park Grandstand (Wikipedia creative commons)
4.Whitten Oval (Western Oval), Footscray - This ground in Barkly Street Footscray was home to the Western Bulldogs until 1997 and currently serves as its training venue. Features of the ground included the Doug Hawkins wing, who unconventionally played on the same wing of the ground every quarter, and the manually operated Pyrex scoreboard at the Geelong Road end. There was standing room only around most of the ground.
The tumbleweeds of Whitten Oval from the Doug Hawkins Wing (Wikipedia creative commons)
5. Lakeside Oval, South Melbourne - This ground alongside Albert Park Lake was home to the South Melbourne Football Club before they moved to Sydney in 1982. The ground has since been turned into a soccer stadium for some of Melbourne's ethnic communities to rekindle centuries of rivalry, but the original grandstand still remains.
6. Princes Park, Carlton - This ground on Royal Parade, Carlton, was the home ground of the blues until 2005. I've played on this ground as a teenager and it was surprisingly short for the modern game. The blues still retain this as their training base.
7. Junction Oval, St Kilda - Prior to the cafe latte set moving into Fitzroy Street, this ground was home to the St Kilda football club. The last AFL game was played here in 1964.
8. Windy Hill, Essendon - This venue was the home ground of the Essendon Football Club until 1992 and is still used as a training venue for the club. The ground was nicknamed Windy Hill by a former player due to the variable wind conditions at the ground.
9. Moorabbin Oval, Moorabbin - After leaving Junction Oval, the Saints resettled at Moorabbin Oval until 1992. Until recently it was also their training venue.
10. Arden Street, North Melbourne - The shinboners played their home games here until 1985. A giant gasometer stood beside the ground, after which the Galloping Gasometer, ruckman Mick Nolan, was named for his girth.
11. Brunswick Street Oval, Fitzroy - The Fitzroy Football Club, now the Brisbane Lions, played here until 1966. I played two seasons on this long, wide ground with the Fitzroy Reds Amateurs, who currently call the ground home. It's one of the few former league venues with open public access.
The old grandstand at Brunswick St Oval (Wikipedia creative commons)
12. Punt Road Oval, which was used by Richmond until 1964 and interestingly by Melbourne when its home ground, the MCG, was commandeered by the military during World War II. Punt Road Oval is now the training venue for the Richmond Football Club.
I think I remember that when I was a kid watching games at Glenferrie the football would sometimes fly into the water at the Hawthorn baths. It was a long time ago & the last time I was there was 1972, but think I remember Peter Hudson doing that in 1969 or 1970.
I can remember when the trains used to stop beside the Glenferrie Oval and everyone opened the doors and sat and watched the game. If the score was close this could last awhile. The drivers even used to toot a goal.