Thursday, 19 July 2012

Swiss List

Image courtesy of John Carr
A very small discovery, on quite an old car, by John '@TheHolyBoot' Carr, written up and posted at his wonderful blog, The Holy Boot's Football Emporium, has inspired this post. Also added to that blog post was a comment from Vin (who runs the wonderful and his comment complete with a link to some wonderful pictures of the new Waverley Park.

So, today, we look back at what was once football's 'new home' in Victoria, VFL Park.

Envisaged by the 12 clubs and the management of the VFL to be its own home ground, as well as a bulwark against the power of the MCC, VFL Park was carved out of meadows and market gardens in Melbourne's South East.
The logic at the time was that the population of Melbourne was spreading steadily in that direction, and with a freeway running right by, it was the perfect place to capture and focus the footballing public's attentions.

VFL Park under construction. Image
Australia's own 'Field of Dreams'... yep, Sir Kenneth Luke may well have heard the phrase "If you build it, they will come", about 30 years before the book 'Shoeless Joe' was published, which was the basis for the movie 'Field of Dreams'.

... Or maybe not.

While it eventually was only partially completed to plan and accomodated about 100,000 fans, the original plans were much grander (see below*) and were to cater for 166,000 fans. You could image the hellish traffic around the stadium with that sort of loading! 

It was, for almost 30 years, known as 'League Headquarters', home of the VFL (and later AFL), but home to no team (until in its latter years, St. Kilda and Hawthorn moved there).
And it is that 'home to no team' period that we will focus on in this blog post... when VFL Park (later known as Waverley Park) was Australian Football's equivalent of 'Switzerland'**... neutral territory.

So we have extracted all the games played at VFL/Waverley Park and worked up a table on who was the best team to have graced that grounds wide open spaces.
The table below ranks the teams to have won the most games, with a Match Ratio factor applied to allow for variances.
Table composed of all games played# -less those where St Kilda and
Hawthorn played regular 'home' games there
From this table, we see Fremantle as the best performed VFL Park team, with a 100% win record... albeit from only one appearance.
It would be more prudent of us to instead declare Hawthorn as the best team to have played at 'wide open Waverley', winning 70% of their games there.
They are then followed by Carlton, Richmond, West Coast and Collingwood to round out a nominal 'best 6'.

You could also argue that this mirrors the best teams of the 70's and 80's as well, with strugglers in that period (St. Kilda, Footscray, Fitzroy and South Melbourne / Sydney) all sitting near the foot of the table.
The best and worst teams for those decades are tabled below*** for reference.

It is also home to:
The largest winnig margin in VFL/AFL football:
     28-Jul-1979 Fitzroy   36.22.238   def   Melbourne  6.12.48   (190pts)

The equal second most goals kicked by a player in a game:
     02-May-1992   Jason Dunstall   Hawthorn   17 goals 5 behinds   vs Richmond
* corrected after error highlighted in the comments (see below)... thanks John 

And the famous / infamous 'lights out - riot' night game that caused a re-write of the rules relating to night football.
     08-Jun-1996   St Kilda   9.13.67   def by   Essendon   13.11.89

And in non-football related Waverley action, it was also home to:
   -The 1980 KISS concert in Melbourne.

   -The first few years of World Series Cricket. (and weren't the West Indies well catered for in the players box).

   -The pinnacle of all things VFL/AFL entertainment... Angry and the Batmobile!   (Oh, the glory days of the AFL... only recently revived with Meatloaf!).

* Some grand ideas were the order of the day for VFL Park. 166,000 people indeed!
Image via
Image via

** And as anyone who ever attended a game out Waverley way, it was just as cold as Switzerland too.

*** Rankings of teams through the 70's and 80's here.

# Full list of matches here 


  1. Fantastic and comprehensive work there! Waverley Park....I'm not too sure what to say! The lack of a promised train line was a killer, as was the old 2 exits from the car park.

    Was at the final Waverley match, Hawks v Sydney...the place was jam packed. I sat on a golf tee and headed home with a patch of Waverley's centre square turf. Yep...I was travelling by bus!

    Also at the REAL final match, the 2000 VFL grand final between Sandy and North Ballarat...yep, 8,000 fans in a 75,000 stadium. Not a great farewell.

    Think you'll find Fred Fanning with 18 goals might hold the record....not Dunstall's 17, THANKFULLY for us Richmond supporters!

    Great stuff

    1. Errmm... correct! Fred Fanning with the 18 against St. Kilda. How did we forget that.

      Amended above.

      Also, the thinking of the stadia placement was very 60's thinking...
      1) a freeway handy, so everyone will drive there and
      2) ONE rail line passing will help.

      Lesson from the MCG is there is all lines terminating very close (Flinders St) so being next to a hub is much better, convenient.
      Further, multi-modes of transport at MCG also help (trains, buses, trams, cars). Waverley only had 2, and none close to a hub.

      And there was nothing about nearby for pre-match / post-match activity... pubs, restaurants etc.

      Same mistakes at Footy Park, SA.