Sunday, 2 January 2005

Sports Ground Crackdown

Every legitimate sporting venue I’ve been to in this country. I might have forgotten some.


Melbourne Cricket Ground

The king of them all. Every ground in the country would like to be this good but unfortunately for them they’re, erm, not. Even with it’s newly sanitised and upgraded corporate image it drips history all-over. As I’ve said in the past my favourite spot in the place was the top deck of the Ponsford Stand until it was cruelly destroyed, then I moved to the Olympic Stand which has followed suit. My love for the place has diminished noticeably since the original Ponsford died but I’m sure nothing else is going to take it’s place. A particular highlight of the stand used to be the giant picture of Tom Moody in the bottom deck. No idea what happened to it - I would have taken it. You can still find mid 90’s pictures of (then) AFL and Test Cricket captains in the bottom level of the Great Southern Stand. Helpful if you wish to bow before Steven Kernahan or Alec Stewart. Please also note the shithouse timing of the first game I ever saw there. I think we left halfway through the third quarter. I’m surprised I came back to be honest.

An additional highlight occured during the Melbourne/Port Adelaide clash of 2003 when my mum almost punched a Port fan because she was so annoying. Hillarity ensued.

I could do an itemised history of all the entertaining things that have happened to me in this ground since 1990 but there’s too many other venues to get through for that.

First time: July 7th, 1990. Melbourne 10.13.73, North Melbourne 31.14.200
Last time: September 4th, 2004. Melbourne 15.9.99, Essendon 15.14.104
Status: It’s certainly not going anywhere.
Great moments: Allen Jakovich 11 goals vs Nth Melbourne 1991, beating North in Rd2 1998 - the day I realised I was really hooked, Jeff Farmer 9gls vs Collingwood 2000, knocking over North in the Prelim final the same year. So many more great moments - too many to list. Undisputedly my favourite ground in the world.

Telstra Dome

A pretender to the throne. League flunkies, Ian “f’ing” Collins and corporate yuppies will declare it as the greatest place to watch a game in the world. They’re probably right if you want to spend $50 on a seat just to have a television that you can watch the golf on while the game takes place but for the rest of us the place is decidedly average. They’ve never really managed to get the ticketing and queues issue right, the food and drink is even more horrifically overpriced than anywhere else and they never open the TAB’s on the third deck. When given the option I choose to sit at the very back on the top deck and watch the whole game unfold at the same time. Not surprisingly nobody else agrees. My low point of dome experience came when we lost to North Melbourne by a point there in 2000 and I cut the shit out of my hand punching a seat. In an early victory for construction quality the seat won a convincing victory.

A lowpoint of the stadium’s existence came when the Melbourne Storm, during their ill-fated tilt of playing out of the Docklands, hammered the Wests Tigers 64-0. In retribution I stole a giant black pipe from their fence. I’ve still got it - come and get it Collins you fuckwit.

Possibly soon to play home to the Melbourne soccer franchise and it’s 150 supporters. Or not if sanity prevails.

First time: April 23rd, 2000. Melbourne 20.18.138, West Coast 12.5.77
Last time: August 14th, 2004. Melbourne 7.4.46, Sydney 10.7.67
Status: You’ve got to take what you’re given. I’ll be there when I have to be.
Great moments: Spending my 21st birthday at the wrestling (2001). We’ve won a few games there but none of them is really memorable. I wasn’t even there when Neitz kicked 9 against Carlton.

Optus Oval

Probably a nice little ground where nobody’s there, but sadly like most other Melbourne fans I didn’t bother showing up to either of the ‘home’ games that we played there and missed the chance to actually enjoy the place. Instead I managed to stand on the wing a couple of times, have my life threatened by a bogan Footscray supporter and then be forced to pay $30 for a grandstand seat because the bastards had sold everything else. Fell victim to my pre-1999 policy of not going to any game that wasn’t at either the MCG or Waverley. I’m sure I didn’t miss too much - although we did win a ripper there in 1998 that I almost threw my radio out the window in joy listening to at home. I also missed Luke Williams play his greatest game in an MFC jumper a couple of years later because I’d been working all night and slept through the game. I didn’t even bother going to our game there this year - I had a killer hangover and didn’t fancy paying $30 to sit next to some toothless fuck with twelve children.

Quoth the Ramones “Glad to see you go, go, go, go”.

First time: May 15th, 1999. Melbourne 7.11.53, Footscray 17.15.117
Last time: July 6th, 2003. Melbourne 14.13.97, Carlton 14.6.90
Status: We’ve got one more game there and it just happens to be the last AFL match ever played in the place. Therefore tickets will be scarce and the place will be packed. Give it a miss.
Great moments: When we did over Carlton with a blistering last quarter comeback in 2003. That’s it. I also went to a practice game there between Carlton and Collingwood that nearly descended into a riot on the tram back to the city - but it didn’t which proved to me that both sets of supporters are complete softcocks.

Bob Jane Stadium

Definately the up and coming star of the list. Just over three years ago I’d never set foot in the place. Of course I knew where it was but like most alleged “football” fans in this country I blatantly refused to go on the grounds that it was the Australian league and nobody cared about local football. One friday night we decided to sample it, saw one of the shittest games of all time, and haven’t left since. I love the place - it’s only a few years old and already looks like it’s been there since the 70’s but it’s great nonetheless. I think it’s something to do with having been in all the offices, the changing rooms and other assorted rooms and the fact that there are no other teams sharing it. It’s our ground and our ground alone. No pesky sharing arrangements - although I’d be happy to flog some space out to anybody with the cash. It’s probably also got to do with the fact that I’ve met more top people during games there in three years than I have in all my time following the AFL. There’s a sense of community that you just don’t get watching other sports - you can walk around on match day and see all sorts of people that you know. I can’t wait to go back in the new season. Clarendon ole indeed.

First time: December 21st, 2001. South Melbourne 1, Wollongong Wolves 3
Last time: March 13th, 2004. South Melbourne 2, Marconi-Fairfield Stallions 0
Status: Ongoing. Almost never to be seen again during the offseason.
Great Moments: Con Boutsianis goes sick against Marconi in 2001 and scores a goal from 30 yards out and then one directly from a corner, South 6 - Sydney Olympic 4 (2002), beating Marconi in what we thought would be the last South game ever there earlier this year.

Olympic Park

Of course I’d been there before 2000. Everytime we had a school sports carnival, or god forbid an interschool one, we were dragged along there to cheer for our house/school etc. If we were really unlucky they forced us to participate in races. I used to go and deliberately support schools other than my own. There was some school from North Melbourne who had a giant “NORTH IS SPEED” banner that was clearly a leftover from a 1970’s cheer squad so I started going for them. Of course in later years we’d come to put “North Melbourne” and “Speed” together for totally different reasons but that’s beside the point.

Sadly my school always won and we were subjected to months of self congratulatory back-patting and the insinuation that somebody who wins a high school discus event is some kind of god. It’s a wonder I didn’t completely turn off sports and devote my life to something more important after all that. Olympic Park was, however, the sight of the ultimate highlight of my school track and field career when I managed to run fourth in all of Year Seven in the High Jump with my innovative “run straight at the bar and dive over face first” technique. Classic scenes - I was devestated not to win.

Anyway I almost made my competitive (i.e real) sports debut here a year earlier but the plan to watch the Western Suburbs Magpies vs Melbourne Storm farce (Wests with a 42 point start on the TAB managed to beat the spread and lose by a mere 30) were destroyed by the fact that I was in bed for a week with a searing temperature. Thus my one chance to watch the team I allegedly supported was wrecked. I had to wait a year later for the merged side to come to town. To cut a long story short Steven Kearney broke Jarrod McCracken’s neck, we played shit and got thrashed. The Storm took a break for a year to slaughter us at the Docklands (see above). We returned a year later - another loss. 2003? Loss. This year I was convinced - we’d just destroyed Parramatta a week before and were finally in decent form. Loss. Plus several heated debates with the sort of bogans who had no idea what they were watching or how to interpret the rules and just decided that everything must have been a conspiracy against them even when they were winning. Clearly they had decided that they were far too manly to watch a sport such as AFL and were attempting to hitch their wagons to a butcher competition. All very homo-erotic if you ask me.

The whole place is pretty rotten. The actual “stand” itself is ok if you’re into that sort of thing, the covered seats on the other side belong in some shithouse eastern European ground and the two ends behind the goalposts are complete rubbish. And there’s still a running track around the field - I hate that. I don’t care if they have athletics there more than any other sport it’s still ugly. The only upside to it being the ability to ping plastic bottles at the twat Storm mascot as he drives around it on his bloody motorbike. It’s in a nice spot - they would have been able to do plenty with it if Melbourne had got the Rugby Union team and the government chipped in their promised $60m. Now they’re potentially left with just a pissy soccer team and nobody is offering them a red cent to fix the place. Bad luck.

First time: May 12, 2000. Wests Tigers 10, Melbourne 40
Last time: June 5th, 2004. Wests Tigers 24, Melbourne 30
Great moments: No, still waiting. Giving up a 100m race at about the 20m mark and just walking off in the early 90’s was fun. The announcement during the 2003 Tigers/Storm match that “Free copies of the rules of Rugby League are available from the club office” provided an opportunity to rip the piss out of them.

Knights Stadium

Having missed the game we lost there two seasons ago I’m happily sitting on a perfect record at Sunshine. The first will always be the most memorable. Just after I’d started watching South we made the trip there to find Hellas go two goals up within the first ten minutes. The Knights hit back and equalised in the 82nd minute upon which their striker Joel Porter ran right over to us behind the fence and clearly yelled “Fuck you, fuck you all” to a predictable response. Things were looking very shaky for those last few minutes until little Massimo Murdocca (oi you, come back) took the ball, ran the entire half and smashed it home to create jubliant scenes. Even a peace loving hippy such as myself ended up climbing on the fence and inviting Mr. J Porter come over and provide his expert commentary again. Emotional. We slaughtered them there this season.

The ground itself is nothing special. The ‘grandstand’ side (named after their most famous export one Mr Mark “Lardarse” Viduka) is alright but the opposite side - where one is doomed to stand as a visitng fan - is pretty heinous. It’s basically just ten ascending steps with bits of wood and that red fake clay shit they have on pissy public tennis courts. And speaking of pissy the lack of appropriate conveniences on this side of the ground mean that half-time entertainment consists of a giant golden shower as most of the crowd relieve themselves on the fence. Who said Australian soccer football had no class? The ground is also directly underneath the flightpath of Melbourne Airport and thus is constantly buzzed by bloody big planes flying suspiciously low. And it’s next door to a bloody huge quarry - how does that help things?

Not sure but it does.

Then there’s the manual scoreboard operated by 10-year-old kids. When the score starts getting out of hand they just refuse to update it or change it so that the Knights are winning. And there’s no clock so you have to do your own timekeeping as far as the halves are concerned. I love the place - if I’d lived anywhere near it I’m sure I would have ended up following them.

But I didn’t, so I don’t. No regrets.

First time: February 10th, 2002. South Melbourne 3, Melbourne Knights 2
Last time: November 16th, 2003. South Melbourne 5, Melbourne Knights 0
Status: Looks like I’ll miss our game there this year due to work. Pending an unlikely relegation for either side should continue into the future.
Great Moments: As above

Kardinia Park

Not the most pleasant place to go. I appreciate being given the right to stand, even if nobody else does, but that small piece of sanity doesn’t wallpaper over the rest of the cracks in the place. First things first it’s in Geelong. Enough said on that issue. It has either shithouse manual scoreboards and/or tiny little ‘electronic’ ones the likes of which you see at suburban cricket games. And it’s got a manual time display that winds back at the end of every quarter. Like they had at the MCG about 10 years ago. I can’t say I’ve ever sampled any part of the ground that wasn’t the standing bit out in the open but it doesn’t look too impressive. And given that we never win there - even before I started going - the walk back to the train station is always a highlight as thousands of inbreds attempt to crack funnies about the result oblivious to the fact that they’re one of the few teams with as shithouse a premiership record as we’ve got.

I remember that train station walk the first time I went - some random local bogan was hanging shit on this skinhead guy in a Melbourne jacket (!) who suddenly snapped and started chasing him down the road. The local had the footspeed advantage and got to his car quickly enough to get in before the MFC branch of the Chelsea Headhunters could kick the shit out of him.

Sadly he didn’t drive away quick enough to avoid having the living shit kicked out of his car on the way. I’ve only ever seen the skin one other time and he was being questioned by the cops on platform 10 of Spencer Street station. What a hero.

First time: April 10th, 1999. Melbourne 12.19.91, Geelong 14.13.97
Last time: May 16th, 2004. Melbourne 12.15.87, Geelong 15.11.101
Status: Ongoing
Great moments: Pulling out the “Yeah we lost, but you still live in Geelong” line two years in a row.

Waverley Park

Contrary to earlier reports I’ve now discovered that the first game of AFL/VFL football I ever saw in person was at this very ground. I vaguely remember an entire family of Collingwood fans hearing that I’d hitched myself to the Melbourne post ‘88 GF bandwagon and dragging me along. Can’t remember if I gave a shit or not but the 23 point victory must have stirred something in me. I do recall sitting under the scoreboard during a Melbourne/Collingwood game there at some point - might have been this one.

Somehow again I ended up there a year later for the infamous Collingwood/West Coast drawn final. I was there with some “where are they now” kid from primary school who lived near the Camberwell tip. He might have been a Pies fan because I remember I was going for West Coast but when, as recounted here, one Mr. P Sumich took his mark in the forward pocket and lined up to win them the game we were standing right next to him and I inexplicably turned and started trying to put him off instead. And he missed it - and we rejoiced. Then after the final siren we pinched all sorts of banners, sticky tape and shit from the Eagles cheersquad while they were having a kick on the ground.

Then Collingwood won the Premiership and didn’t even acknowledge my part in it.

In the grand scheme of things I never travelled to Arctic Park too many times. In the early to mid 1990’s when I wouldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have the initials MCG this was the only other place I’d venture to - and that’s because you could use your train ticket to catch the bus there from Glen Waverley station. The first game I can clearly remember travelling to and being there for was the 1991 Semi Final between Melbourne and West Coast. We lost by 38 points and the next season the old Met ticket/bus plan was replaced with a Met ticket/give us $5 for the bus scheme instead and the ground was blacklisted for years. I didn’t go back until 1998 when I saw Jeff Farmer kick the goal of the year and got pissed on with rain from a great height during a match against Hawthorn.

A major feature of the ground, for me, was the shithouse sepia scoreboard. Especially during the pre-game ‘entertainment’ when the umpires were introduced to a cartoon of an ump having shit piffed at him - it was classic. The place was also noteable for featuring, in Mike Williamson, the most annoying pre-match crowd warmup man ever before Voice of the G.

1999 saw the death of not only the ground but almost me as well. An ill-advised comment to an elderly St. Kilda fan during our Round Two clash saw me facing the prospect of a 1 on 10 punch on with a group of their fans. Wisely I took the “yellow streak” option and ran walked away. Later in the year our last competitive game ended in a major pounding at the hands of

Hawthorn. I spent my entire day hanging shit on a ground attendant who looked identical to TinTin. If you’re reading I’m not sorry, I meant it all.

My final visits came in the 2000 pre-season during two Ansett Cup games. The first was a reschedule after Kardinia Park had randomly flooded the day before. A grand total of 450 people showed up on a Monday night to see us lose to Geelong. Not entirely sure how, it must have been during the freak group competition years, but we ended up there once more for another loss to Essendon. An anonymous member of the public and I returned there after it had been closed down intending to ransack as much shit as we could get. Sadly we couldn’t get over the fence and were instead left with an operating manual for the famous scoreboard. Hardly a valuable artefact - although it told me the code to put in to make that “tossing shit at the umpire” graphic come up.

First time: September 9th, 1989. Melbourne 17.9.111, Collingwood 13.10.88
Last time: August 8th, 1999. Melbourne 8.6.54, Hawthorn 18.14.122
Status: Ground deceased.
Great moments: Can’t remember anything particuarly exciting happening.

National Tennis Centre

Or Flinders Park, or Melbourne Park or Rod Laver Arena. Your selection. I totally forgot about the next six venues until my days as a patron of Australian basketball were brought up the other night. As you can probably tell by the pissweakly researched first and last times in these I don’t really care. I never did care but when a friend of ours played for the Victoria Titans we used it as a cheap excuse to go the games, drink heavily and make dicks of ourselves. Several great moments occurred during these years. The most notable being the lobbing of the cushion that you could see flying across the TV screen on the Fox Sports coverage, kicking a footy onto centre court at the conclusion of a game and one of our party informing the referee that he’d shagged his wife. The fact that she was our year level coordinator at high school and was sitting a few rows in front didn’t seem to phase him. What a hero.

First time: 1988 Australian Open Tennis
Last time: Some basketball game. 2000ish. Possibly Adelaide vs Victoria Titans
Status: Even if via some colossal fluke I go to the tennis again it’s unlikely I’ll be shelling over hard cash to sit on centre court.
Great moments: See above

Vodafone Arena

All NBL related memories from 1999-2002ish have to come under the heading of both Vodafone and the NTC because my memory fails me about which was which. It was certainly Vodafone where we pinched the emergency evacuation and car parking sign. And where a certain Lebo almost got into a fistfight with some bogan over his use of certainly four letter anglo saxon terms. The bogan’s pissweak “hey, support the game!” comment backfired when we mocked him solidly for the conclusion of the event and everytime he turned around as if he was going to bash him we started lecturing him on supporting the game and not causing violence in front of the kids. What a tool. If anyone else who was there has any further anecdotes regarding what happened during those years please write in - I’ve almost totally forgotten.

First time: Random NBL game - 2001ish
Last time: Victoria Titans vs Adelaide 36′ers - 2002
Status: Dubious unless I develop a bizarre interest in cycling
Great moments: See above

Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre

Aka: The Glasshouse. I went there twice in the very early 90’s and consequently remember very little of it other than the fact that I deliberately started supporting the Gold Coast Rollers just because Andrew Gaze had come to our school and given us free tickets for the game. There was also a totally kick ass NBL board game where I always went Gold Coast. My memories of the place are otherwise very slim. We were going to see some shithouse Australia/Brazil basketball game there for free somewhere around 1998 but at the last minute our tickets fell through and instead of paying $10 to see something so ridiculous we indulged in underage drinking instead.

First time and last time Either one of The Harlem Globetrotters or Melbourne Tigers vs Gold Coast Rollers in 1990
Status: It’s now a giant shed owned by the Collingwood Football Club. Enough said.
Great moments: None

Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre

Basically a dinky little basketball court in the back of a swimming pool complex where you’d pay $20 to watch the near-death Victoria Giants (formerly Victoria Titans and about 1000 other nicknames) with nine hundred other people - the majority of whom were ten year old children. Thank god I usually scored free tickets. The last game I saw there ended in a near riot after a brawl between the two competing teams. Sadly the amount of stooges representing each team almost outnumbered those of us in the stands and the potential for disaster was averted. They gave us free tickets to come back to the ‘rematch’ a few days later but we didn’t even bother to show.

First time: NBL Blitz competition - 2002
Last time: Victoria Giants vs Adelaide 36′ers - 2003
Status: Very little chance. They don’t even play basketball there anymore
Great moments: Being in a crowd so small that grabbing a court announcers microphone and yelling “Go Adelaide!” as I walked past actually made him stop and start talking about me.

State Netball and Hockey Centre

Sight of the very last basketball game I was/will ever be roped into attending. Another ’boutique’ sporting venue for yuppies. Which basically means you can pay $20 to watch a sport nobody really cares about and be told off for raising your voice above a whisper while all the time having Ja Rule music pumped into your right ear at approximately the same sound as a 747 taking off. The Hockey bit doesn’t look to bad though - reminded me of the field we used to play soccer on during high school with an additional grandstand. Again food and drink was ludicrously expensive and the place was full of 10-year-olds. Basketball shits me.

Only time: Melbourne Tigers vs Victoria Giants - 2003
Status: I seriously doubt it.
Great moments: Yeah right.

Geelong Arena

How did I end up there? No idea. Don’t even know who was playing. I was just in it for the road trip. I distinctly remember being felt up by the Panda mascot of the Giants sponsor. I managed to set off an alarm on the pinball machine in the fish and chip shop over the road by kneeing it in the coin box. Something else hillarious probably happened - I can’t remember it.

Only time: Victoria Giants vs somebody - 2002
Status: Not bloody likely
Great moments: Nuh

The dubious ones…

Victoria Park

Can you count non-competitive matches as having “been” there? I’ve seen Footscray train at the Western Oval but I’m hardly going to claim to have been there. At least some prominent things have occurred in the few times I’ve seen games played there. The first, a shithouse pre season friendly, was highlighted by standing behind the Freo coaches box and listening to Damian Drum deliver the biggest spray I’ve ever heard in my life. A rough translation would be “WHATTHEFUCKISTHATCUNTDOINGTELLHIMTOGETTHEFUCKOFFTHEGROUNDANDIFHEEVERDOESTHATAGAINILLFUCKINGSACKTHECUNT” - clearly the signs of a man under stress because of the shit team he was coaching. Melbourne rocketed to a 40 point lead at three-quarter-time but upon the instructions of our celebrity Lebo Amul to their huddle to “kick it long” they did just that and almost stole a victory. Goes to prove who would have been the better coach if you ask me. In the two or three times I’ve been there we managed to steal a giant sign reading WILLIAMSTOWN on one side and FRANKSTON on the other and a huge bar prices sign. They’re both sitting in an unnamed person’s garage as we speak waiting for the day South Melbourne play Frankston in the VPL or we open our own pub.

Suffice to say by the time I first visited the place it had decayed to a level where you couldn’t believe that they played league football there just a few years earlier. Feel free to remember it from it’s hey-day (i.e as appeared in The Club) rather than the rancid hellhole it had become. And there was a surprisingly large amount of graffiti purporting to be from women who wanted to sleep with second rate Collingwood players - “I heart Andrew Tranqulli” was the most disturbing.

First time: 1999 - Melbourne vs Fremantle practice match
Last time: 2004 - Collingwood vs Sydney practice match
Status: I don’t think they’re even playing scratch matches there anymore. We’ve still got their signs…
Great moments: As above

Jack Edwards Reserve

It was a midweek practice game, there was nobody else there, we walked in carrying a large pizza and spent 90 minutes watching the game from a tower placed perfectly next to the field with trains flying by a few feet behind us. Top night. It’s got a few football fields randomly tied together and one, the actual arena itself, with a fence around it and some advertising. There’s a big clubhouse in the middle. Nothing special but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. That’s another reason (of many) why I can’t get excited about the A League. I’d much rather have gone here or Perry Park, Brisbane (which I’ve been past in a bus if it counts for anything) than Telstra Dome, the Sydney Football Stadium and/or Express Advocate Stadium, Gosford. Maybe I’m sick. No idea.

Only time: 2003 - South Melbourne 3 (I think), Some random team (possibly a Victorian youth rep side) 0 in a practice match
Status: Returning next Wednesday night for a South/Oakleigh friendly.
Great moments: Large pizza action. Chatting with the South goalkeeper during the match.

Reggio Calabria Club

Another midweek practice match. There was a freeway on one side, the Commonwealth Games athletes village behind one goal and a restaurant behind the other. The grandstand had 25 seats. It was shonky. Some madman came over to me and started listing all these sportsmen who he was ‘good friends with’ and then asking if one of them “still played”. The post-match kickabout was spent trying to ping balls into the window of the restaurant and distress the people trying to eat.

Only time: December 30th, 2004. South Melbourne 0, Essendon Royals 1
Status: Essendon are playing home games at Bulleen for the next two seasons so we’re unlikely to return anytime soon.
Great moments: The first “sack the board” chant of the new season. Ironic of course. We love the new board.


Bruce Stadium, Canberra

Twice I’ve been there and neither time I gave a shit about the result. Well that’s not strictly true as both times I’d been drafted onto the Canterbury bandwagon so I wanted them to win but it didn’t exactly wreck my life when they lost. The first trip there was the remarkable one - it was the Bulldogs first home game after they had their points stripped for salary cap rorts during the 2002 and somebody had to accompany the local Bulldogs fan to make sure he didn’t combust. We drove all night to get there, with temperatures at a sensational -6 degrees, made our controversial trip to Parliament House and pissfarted around the city for a day before the game. And what a game too - some decisions that could best be described as “highly questionable” cost the Bulldogs victory and in their highly emotional state the fans started showering the ground with shit. Of course I got into the spirit of things and tonked a particuarly smart arsed security guard right on the top of his head with an empty coke bottle. Hardly the most heinous crime ever committed (possibly in Canberra it was..) but it certainly got him thinking.

Then we left, drove all night back again, I had no sleep and started hallucinating. Classy.

Our second trip proved far less eventful but the Bulldogs were once again rorted out of victory by dodgy decisions. They’re clearly cursed never to win there again. I’m determined to eventually see a Tigers game at Bruce. Nice place it is too - one of those small rectangular grounds that just fits enough people in without being optimistic that they’re ever going to attract crowds of 50000. The carpark was an absolute bastard to get out of though - thank god I couldn’t drive.

First time: August 25th, 2002. Canberra 38, Canterbury 34
Last time: April 26th, 2003. Canberra 26, Canterbury 22
Status: Highly unlikely. A road-trip next year looks a long shot.
Great moments: Clearly the riot. The “Woolford loves the Cock” banner was pretty classy too.

Stadium Australia, Sydney

Another place that I’ve never seen a side I actually support play at. My two visits, four years apart, have been for NRL Grand Finals. The first was entertaining given that we went in not caring who of Melbourne or St George won but as the game wore on and the most obnoxious sports fan I’ve ever seen in my life started to annoy the shit out of us we began to turn.

State pride had nothing to do with it - we just wanted to see this fat bastard get rolled. He was waving around a photocopy of a pre-season TAB ticket ensuring him a small fortune if the Dragons won the Premiership. As they burst to a presumably unsurmountable lead he became even more annoying and started offering to take anyone’s bets about the result. Some guy sitting in front of us tried to take him up on it but his wife cracked the shits, they had a huge argument and all stormed off to leave us listening to bargearse crapping on about how great St. George were. Then the comeback started. Anthony Mundine could have put it beyond doubt with one pass but tried to go solo and fucked it up. Then the controversial Penalty Try decision that gave them the game provided us with a highlight. When the decision flashed up on the scoreboard we instantaneously turned to our nemesis and let him have it in a fashion I’ve never delivered before. Sadly he was in too much shock to actually take any of it in. I’ve never seen a man go so white in my life. Hillarious.

The second time around was as the beneficiary of a competition victory. They put us up at a decent hotel and sent us to some corporate lunch before the game. Sadly I’d had so much to drink the night before (and randomly ended up on the Harbour Bridge) I couldn’t partake in the free drink provided. We then proceeded to get soaking wet sitting in awesome seats and watching the hated Roosters lose a grand final. Top night. Top stadium too. It provides a template, take note Telstra Dome, for modern stadia in this country.

First time: September 26th, 1999. Melbourne 20, St George-Illawarra 18
Last time: October 5th, 2003. Penrith 18, Sydney City 6
Status: Definate chance of another visit next year.
Great moments: Both Grand Finals were pretty funky. The second trip was especially classy.

Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney

Nice place. I recommend the Campbelltown Motel Formule 1 while you’re there - it’s just down the road. Reminiscent of Bruce Stadium but with no seating at either end. It does have an innovative feature where entrances to the two hills at either end of the field are created by rock formations arranged to form a gap to walk through. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. At one end there’s a giant rock wall that you can walk behind and find the TAB. We also saw a cheerleader hanging shit on some horny audience member who tried to pick her up.

I refused to stand with the opposition supporters in my game there - as I was quite terrified by them to be honest - and took up a place standing looking down on the ground from a position to the right of the in-goal area. It was a freaking sensational view - perfect for rugby league. Wests would later lose the game through a combination of their own ineptitude and a shonky referee call on an in-goal knock on.

The process of exiting the ground proved to be a complete debacle as the only bridge across the railway line was so packed - and with a sizeable queue - that we ended up joining a group of people attempting a deadly crossing through a pipe and up a slippery as anything slope of mud. Hillariously I made it to the top scot free only to see the person behind me go flying backwards down it and land heavily.

Only time: July 23rd, 2004. Wests Tigers 20, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24
Status: Number of home games at Campbelltown and Leichardt dropped dramatically next season. Depends on the games…
Great moments: Piss off!

The Gabba, Brisbane

Sure it’s a nice enough ground. I won’t deny that. But any place where they need to put the words to the victorious club’s theme song on the screen so the bandwagon bogans can sing it is automatically tainted in my book. There’s nothing particuarly exciting that can be said about the place. Maybe if you sit in that grandstand with all the jaunty coloured seats it might be different but I was directly behind the goals and it did nothing for me.

Only time: May 13th, 2004. Melbourne 12.11.83, Brisbane 18.15.123
Status: I’ll be back next year.
Great moments: There’s a top pub down the road. The next thing I knew I was in the suburbs somewhere and it cost me $50 to get a taxi back to the Motel Formule 1 at the Brisbane Airport. What a night.

Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide

Lovely place. Shame about the results. Twice I took a bus 9 hours there, watched South Melbourne lose and caught the same bus back again immediately. The first time was fine we lost fair and square (and the post match punch-up livened things up a bit after certain hillbilly sections of their support started lobbing shit at us) but the second was just heartbreaking. By that time we knew that the fuckers in charge of the A-League (or APL as we then knew it) had decreed that none of the old-school ‘ethnic’ clubs would be let in - even if they did have the third best crowd average in the league - and that every game could not only be our last in the competition but the last as a club if we collapsed under a mountain of debt. This, coupled with the events of our first trip, meant that tensions were turned up to a million upon arrival and when our array of anti APL banners were confiscated by security and some crunt NSL official things went ballistic. Somebody ripped a flare (might have been one of the ones I smuggled in for all I know) and the same NSL goons came over to ‘warn’ us. So somebody ripped another one - this time their exact words were “one more and you’re all out”. So naturally as they couldn’t actually manage to kick 200 of us out at the same time without a world class riot taking place people just took the piss and started letting the things off everywhere. Then things started getting surreal - not only did security show up and start demanding to see inside bags but they were joined by some sinister looking wankers in suits who wouldn’t identify themselves or tell us where they were from. I’m still not entirely sure who they were or whether it was entirely legal.

Surely we can’t have been evil enough to have warranted special Sinister Squad (SS) cops. I know it’s Adelaide and everything but even they’re not that sheltered.

So the game started and we took the lead - pandemonium ensues - the rest of the first half is spent with South pretty much on top. Even I, the eternal pessimist, was starting to think of what would happen if we won the NSL competition and weren’t allowed to enter the new league. Of course this was never going to happen and one of the most dubious sendings off in history on the stroke of half-time tilted things back in favour of the ASA’s love-child team. United equalised with 20 minutes to go and the ten men of South were out on their feet and it looked like our best option was to ride out sudden death extra time and go for penalties. We got away with the first half of ET but with about five minutes left we gave away a penalty that I’m willing to concede all these months later was there - god I’m depressing myself just writing this - “It cannot end like this”

I thought but sadly it could. The moment the ball hit the net I turned around and walked out of there. I’ve never shed tears over a sporting event yet (and that’s probably only because Melbourne have never lost a close Grand Final) but this was the closest I’d ever come. Some punk kid started taunting me outside and I let rip with a huge tirade about how I’d done his mum and how he should ask her who his dad was - the little arse was shattered. Somebody chucked a rock at our bus on the way out of the stadium and the funeral atmosphere was only briefly shattered by the sighting of Chicken Mania and the bus driver being called a goose.

It’s a very nice ground. Reminded me a lot of Bruce Stadium - even down to the god-awful home team theme song. I’ve never been to Members Equity Stadium in Perth but I’d have to say that Hindmarsh is the best football stadium that I’ve been to.

It’s a shame that’ll I never be back. We even scored free fruit off the Adelaide Produce Market the first time we went there - you can’t beat that. So did the hillbilly prick who lobbed a banana at me.

First time: February 6th, 2004. South Melbourne 0, Adelaide United 2
Last time: March 20th, 2004. South Melbourne 1, Adelaide United 2 (AET)
Status: Unlikely to return anytime soon.
Great moments: Going in front during that second game.

Here’s to plenty more additions in 2005!

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