Playing Australian Rules Football in the snow is more common than you think. There was much fuss made in the media about the "first-ever AFL game played in the snow" between the GWS Giants and Hawthorn on 9 August 2019. However, for some local footy teams, snow is a familiar hazard dating back many decades, including in Melbourne.
For football fanatics, a chance to see the game played in extreme conditions is both intriguing and exciting. But when and where in Melbourne should you go?
Two higher elevation footy grounds around Melbourne that I am aware of are located at Olinda and (technically just outside the metro area) at Kinglake. The Olinda footy ground is over 560 metres above sea level, whilst the ground at Kinglake is at around 620 metres above sea level. There may be other grounds that receive snow further afield (e.g. around Ballarat), but these are the two that I know around Melbourne.
Check the weather forecast for these locations. When the forecast is for snow above 500 metres (or lower), that's a good indication that the ground could turn white. Historically, snowfalls above this elevation have occurred every few years.
Olinda Ferny Creek vs Yarra Glen junior girls footy in the snow
With a weather forecast that promised Sunday morning snow down to 400 metres, I headed up Mount Dandenong to see the Olinda Ferny Creek team in the AFL Outer East league. Before the game started there was a white blanket covering the whole ground, with an innovative groundskeeper marking the boundary line by pushing the snow aside, leaving a green ring of grass around the whole oval, just inside the fence. On the grandstand side wing, some of the snow was starting to turn to slush with puddles a few centimetres deep hidden underneath.
How were the conditions handled by the players? I am telling you, the kids up in the hills are tough. With an air temperature of only three degrees, and a light fog, the junior teams started taking the field. Despite the icy conditions in the air and underfoot, the kids were as enthusiastic as ever to hunt the footy, and handled the conditions extremely well.
I'm sure these are not the only footy clubs in Victoria to experience snow on game day and that the "first ever AFL game played in the snow" happened long before August 2019. I'm yet to find out when the first-ever game of Australian Rules Football was played in the snow, but hopefully, someone reading this article can put a date on an earlier local clash.