History of Princes Park
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GROUND
3 September, 2004 CARLTONFC.COM.AU
by STEPHEN WALSH
Stephen Walsh is a history honours student and is writing his thesis on the history of Optus Oval (Princes Park). He has spent much of the year researching what others have said and written about the ground in the past. While not part of his thesis, Stephen has written the following article on what the ground has meant to him for the past 22 years.
I love Princes Park. I have been going there since I could walk. Probably earlier. I have literally grown up there. The ground was where my passion for the Carlton Football Club and football grew.
I think it was a Carlton v Hawthorn game in 1991 that sold it for me. That year Hawthorn would go on to become premiers, and we would have our worst ever finish (11th) at that point in time. We lost convincingly, and if it wasn't for a late Simon Minton-Connell goal, the result would have been over 100 points.
Although I'd been to the footy before that countless times, it was this game that sold me. Some may find it odd, but it was the level of passion that I witnessed for the Carlton Football Club, and the way the crowd (including my sisters and I) harshly treated the Hawthorn supporters. They had no place to be at our home. We took on a rather large man sitting across from us who was a passionate Hawk. We could not believe it. How dare he sit amongst Carlton Football Club reserve seat holders?
This continued for every game I attended at Princes Park until the mid-90s. The team grew as I did. We became a team to be reckoned with. We cheered as we beat Essendon by 52 points in 1992. We cheered as Kernahan made amends against Hawthorn in 93 (after the infamous kick against the Dons the week before) and as we scraped over the line against the lowly placed Swans in the last round of that year, which ensured a second Placed finish to the year. We went berserk as we crushed Richmond and WCE at the end of 94. A premiership seemed inevitable. If the finals had been played at Princes Park, we had it in the bag. It was not to be.
We basked in the glory of 95. What a year. Undefeated at Princes Park. Bradley's rushed behind against Geelong. What a game that was. The best I can remember at the ground.
However, the ground changed in 1996. The outer was on the 'outer'. A distinguishing sense of the ground's character was lost. It was replaced by a large, sweeping structure which could have been found anywhere in the world. The ground had grown up too. It no longer could truly claim to be a 'fair dinkum' suburban ground, but rather a boutique stadium, which would ensure Carlton's immediate future as a power to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately that was not to be the case. We wanted to keep the ground as our home - after all, Collingwood was still at Victoria Park, and the Bulldogs would provide financial support for the construction of the new stand by playing games at the ground. Up in the Pratt Stand, the mood was the same. The same people year in, year out. Friendly, passionate Carlton supporters. There was never not enough to talk about. 'What a player Kouta's going to be'. 'Why isn't young Lance getting more game time?' ' Is Kerna gone?'
It was comfortable, and it was familiar. We loved it. Playing at the G or at Waverley was not the same. You didn't feel as welcome. It didn't feel like 'home'.
However, times have changed. Collingwood have moved from Victoria Park, but more significantly Western Bulldogs have moved from Princes Park. Like Hawthorn and Fitzroy had done earlier in the decade. We were alone. The writing was on the wall. The construction of the new stand had been a compromise. An expensive compromise at that.
The future was clear. As soon as the Legends Stand was unveiled, we were being lured away from Princes Park. Would it happen? 'Pigs arse' it would. Carlton was our home. We had built it. The other clubs wished they were in our position. We had power over everyone. As the tide turned in 2000 with the coming of the homogenous bowl in Melbourne's docks (if not with its announcement), named after a soon-to-be-overrun bank, Princes Park looked out of place on Melbourne's sporting landscape. It was Melbourne's Prince of Parks.
So the ground is no longer to hold AFL matches after next year. A tear will be shed. A last drink will be drunk. We will mourn. But life will go on. We will prosper. We will create a new sense of 'homeliness' at our new homes. Although these are shared grounds, we can make them what is essentially and fundamentally Carlton. This is achieved not by landscape, but by the people around us and by our shared experiences.
Goodbye Princes Park. I wish you didn't have to go. But life goes on.
Contributed by Lygon Legends (Stephen Walsh)
BY DANNY FAHEY
As a wee lad it was sitting in the smoke filled pub til 1:50
And then the mad dash in dad’s beloved old FJ,
Parking in a dank laneway somewhere near the ground,
Followed by the frantic rush with all the other supporters,
Like creeks joining, forming a river, the crowd would gather
Sweeping me along until we hit the Princes Park grasslands
And the grass, like a bright green ocean, would open us up
Before us the gates, the Heatley stand and the shining Carlton monogram.
Behind and around me I’d hear the voices calling like wolves to the moon
'Fooooty re-cord, footy re-cord! Get your fooooty re-cord!'
Later it was a train ride to Royal Park and the slow jog
Around the walls of the zoo and across the many ovals
Kicking newspaper footballs that came apart with each kick
But always lasting until the ground came into sight,
Then once again that Carlton monogram and the waiting gates.
Inside the ground was a push, a human equivalent of a caterpillar,
Segments still and then segments moving until everyone found a position.
Princes Park is the smells, the smells of men and smoke
And old, wet overcoats, the smell of beer in cans and beer on breath,
Or the worse smell of all, the smell of the toilets when dad took me for a pee
And my feet stood in an inch of water mixed with urine
While I waited behind a thousand men for relief.
It’s the peanut man who could hit every outstretched hand
As a penny was lobbed for a bag of peanuts,
It’s the walk around at halftime with the blanket,
Another player’s testimonial and everyone threw a shilling
Or two to contribute to another number’s retiring.
In those days the turnstiles clicked as old men in long coats
Hovered like tram conductors, collected your ticket
And I’d stand line, ticket firmly clenched, listening,
Knowing each click meant I was a step closer
To the grand entrance into the ground, the walk up the rise
And the grass, the green, green grass of Princes Park.
Always we'd stand together on the concrete steps
Under the old time keeper's clock, a famous clock
Only beaten by the Clocks of Flinders Street
As the most important meeting place in my life
Until progress tore it down and we lost another piece of history.
Dad and pop and my brothers would be there, and others,
A community of spirits meeting each fortnight under the clock.
I’d scurry in amongst the feet of the crowd gathering 12 tinnies
To make a platform, a wobbly Dias that allowed enough elevation
So that a small kid like me could see above the crowd and catch sight
Of a Jezza mark or a Big Nick tap or a Sydney Jackson drop kick.
As a young man it became a tram ride, the famous number 1 up Lygon
Then the mad dash from the Rising Sun to the ground,
Approaching from behind and entering the gate near the old outside toilet.
Again a walk up the rise and then the view of the grass
And the sound of people's voices, that's the ground for me
People's voices, all shapes, all kinds, calling, chatting, screaming
An ocean of voices, a blanket of sound that gathered me in
And held me captivated throughout the entire game
As people pushed and shoved and lurched this way and that
Ebbing and flowing in sympathy with the game, the sound,
The sound of football, the colosseum scream of Christians and lions.
And around us the stands of Princes Park holding the sound, capturing it,
Increasing it until the whole of Carlton reverberated with the scream ‘Ball!’
Then the final siren and the scramble home as dusk turned to dark
And a thousand car horns sound, their air is filled with voices
And radios and the clinking of the tram bells along Royal Parade.
The ground empties, and everyone heads home
Leaving the ground silent, empty and, at least until Tuesday, just a little sad.
MEDIA COVERAGE OF PRINCES PARK 1993-2002
By STEPHEN WALSH
Media coverage of Princes Park (Optus Oval) from November 1993-2002, paying particular attention to economic and historical issues. The ground’s name-change and Legends’ Stand redevelopment will be used as case studies.
Princes Park may appear merely yet-another average sporting ground located in a city well-equipped with excellent sporting facilities. It does not have the mystique and majesty of the MCG, nor the luxury fittings of Docklands Stadium, and although it has its own interesting history and is well-known for its picturesque surrounds, Princes Park is most significant for being the last Melbourne ‘suburban’ ground serving as a venue for AFL matches. As such, it outwardly represents a different era of Australian sport to many people nostalgic for the way things ‘were’ – arriving early on game-days for a small space of standing room in the ‘outer’; frequent battles with inclement weather and parochial, almost tribal, opposition supporters; the inherent character and charm of suburban grounds and the way the football club connected with its suburb.
However, the presentation and staging of Australian sport, including ‘Aussie Rules’, has changed markedly in recent times, and the corporate and media markets are now significant. In the decade of focus in this essay, Windy Hill, Victoria Park, Moorabbin, the Western Oval and Waverley have all been replaced as AFL venues. Economic factors have become far more important than nostalgic links.
It is interesting that the Carlton Football Club (CFC), often referred to as the ‘corporate club’, or ‘silver-tails’ have become the champions of retaining the suburban tradition. As other clubs have upgraded by moving to larger venues, Carlton have upgraded their own venue. Economic benefits (whom did the redevelopments serve) and gender issues (who made these decisions), as well as whether nostalgia played a large part in the strong reluctance of Carlton to shift from Princes Park, will be considered in this essay.
Princes Park is competing for tenants with the ‘new age’ grounds from Melbourne and interstate (Docklands, Stadium Australia and the MCG) in a war that it may ultimately lose. The CFC decision in late 1993 to sell naming rights for the ground to Optus for a lucrative sponsorship was an early shot fired in the war. This action created enormous controversy, became the butt of many jokes in both tabloid and broad-sheet media, and was signalled by some journalists as being the ‘beginning of the end’ for traditions in Australian sport – “all the sponsors’ dollars in the world won’t save our game from spiritual bankruptcy”. It appeared anything could, and would be bought by the commercial market ‘in the best interests’ of the game. The sponsorship was sealed after McDonalds had placed its logo on the ball, and advertising was planned to feature on the back of football guernseys the following year.
The name-change issue prompted The Age journalist Kenneth Davidson to write – “sport is entertainment, but its hold on supporters is built on values, which in the main, are not commercial values”. These values, namely loyalty and tradition, still remain an important aspect of Australian sport and illustrate that nostalgic influence was still profound in 1993. It is little wonder that when the announcement was made, many supporters did not hold with the club’s view that corporate sponsorship went hand-in-hand with tradition – “Optus uses as its slogan… ‘yes’, but a common reaction to yesterday’s news… was ‘no’”.
Nowadays, commercialisation is more accepted, and ‘Optus Oval’ became a Melbourne trend-setter – and now many famous sporting facilities across Australia have donned a commercial mantle. By 1998, with the renaming of Kardinia Park to Shell Stadium, commercial sponsorship of sporting grounds had become a non-existent issue. More of an issue in the latter case is that too many name-changes – four in five years – have seen many people revert back to using the original name. In this case, and possibly with others in the future, tradition has won over economic factors.
Despite being the first such arrangement in this city, the Optus/Carlton alliance has remained strong, and the contract has recently been extended. Again, Princes Park becomes the trend-setter. Despite initial criticism, the media and the football community have generally accepted that without the support of a major ground sponsor, the CFC would not have been able to make required improvements to the ground’s facilities and playing surface.
REDEVELOPMENT PLANS AND THE LEGENDS STAND
To some degree, but not as much as the former suburban grounds, Princes Park had (and still has) its problems. Significant reasons these grounds ceased to be AFL grounds included that they were located on residential streets with limited parking and sub-optimal public transport, and were unable to develop and update facilities. Princes Park did have redevelopment ability, reasonable parking and adequate public transport.
In the late 1980s, Princes Park expanded with the addition of the John Elliot (now Heroes’) Stand, removing the old, dilapidated press box and standing-room in favour of limited seating capacity with state-of-the-art corporate boxes and dining rooms. The next plan was to ‘finish’ the ground – encircle it with grandstands. The outer – regarded as “one of the last bastions for watching football” – and the revered, old-style scoreboard were to make way. In mid-1994, Carlton unveiled plans to increase capacity to 45,000 (from approximately 32,000), with long-term aims of adding floodlights (in line with other major grounds).
Right from the outset, resident groups tried to thwart these redevelopment plans on environmental issues. The residents were concerned in particular about Carlton’s future plans to build an underground car park and floodlights for night matches. They argued that increasing capacity (and therefore the venue’s importance) would increase traffic, noise and game regularity. Richard Malone (Secretary of the Princes Park Protection Association) reacted strongly, calling the project “Albert Park Mark II”. Letters to the editor such as this – which were always written by representatives of minority groups – were published by The Age, but there was little incisive comment on the merits of the argument by sports writers or in opinion articles.
Criticism initially came from local residents, rather than from ‘football experts’ predicting the downfall of the ground and the wisdom of such a move. The media instead focused on the positive aspects of redevelopment – that it will be good for Melbourne – it will create competition for Waverley as Melbourne’s second most important venue. Stephen Linnell stated that the redevelopment was to “transform the ground into a key sports and tourist attraction capable of hosting national and international events”.
As the issue continued, the residents’ profile was raised, eventually forcing the capacity increase to be lowered to 35,000 to ensure the preservation of nearby parkland. Parts of the media portrayed this dispute as a class struggle between David (residents) and Goliath (the CFC), as they battled “the privatisation of a public park”.
In a series of feature articles on the ground a few years later, Karen Lyon argued that “probably unknown to a football club not skilled in the planning and development debate, Carlton’s plans could not have come at a worse time. With several other projects planned for Melbourne’s parklands, there was a growing fear that the city’s famous parks were becoming construction sites”. This statement does not take into account that battles between the football club and residents had been ongoing from (at least) the construction of the 1970s ‘Hawthorn’ (now Pratt) Stand. It is hard to see this battle as a class struggle, as most residents protesting the redevelopments were from Garton Street, Carlton (across the road from the ground), which is by no means a poor area. Nor could the residents’ groups of that area be classified as being made up of the ‘downtrodden and oppressed’. It is interesting to note that when this issue was at its peak, an advertising article appeared in The Age about a house for sale in Garton Street. The proximity to Optus Oval was used as a key-selling feature.
Perhaps a more important issue (which was not covered by media reports of the Princes Park redevelopment) was the class struggle that was developing over the replacement of the outer with expensive reserved seats – the club argued it was moving with the times, in accordance with other venues. Although the ground now undeniably has better facilities, the walk-up spectator has been disadvantaged by these changes, as the entire ground has almost become exclusive to those who can afford reserved seats or corporate boxes, or with CFC, AFL or MCC memberships.
Football, arguably above all other pursuits in this city, has been one of inclusion regardless of class, race or sex, rather than exclusion. Football seems to be becoming less and less accessible to the average football fan. There is a limited amount of general admission tickets available at Princes Park, compared to other venues. Because of this, although Princes Park is the last ground, with the feel of an old suburban ground, it no longer upholds the ideals of old suburban grounds for which people feel nostalgic, because of how it now appeals – in both senses of the word – to the high end of town.
Media perceptions on the redevelopment of the ground changed in mid-1996, halfway through construction, when the State Government announced it was considering upgrading Olympic Park or building a new complex at Docklands. Sports journalists immediately realised the benefits of another large multi-purpose stadium (with state-of-the-art facilities) close to the city. Even with the inevitable Waverley demolition, Princes Park would be relegated to number three again – “just as Carlton prepares for a reconstructed Optus Oval to be crowned as prince to the MCG’s king, a new contender has emerged”. The media also began to question the “wisdom of borrowing so much money for a stand that boosts capacity to only 35,000”.
As the ‘new stadium’ issue progressed, and once the Legends Stand opened in 1997, the CFC blamed the AFL for undertaking a “destructive anti-Optus campaign, which had damaged the reputation of the club”. A poll, taken during the construction year to examine the popularity of different football grounds in Melbourne, reported less than glowing results for Princes Park. The club maintained that it was merely due to the inconveniences caused by construction, however in similar surveys conducted since, Princes Park has continued to poll poorly. Other problems that compounded the bad press were the pricing of Legends Stand tickets, and that in many of the ground’s early 1997 games, the Stand was only half-full. It was clear that apart from Carlton supporters, the ground was (and remains) not well-liked. It was an astonishing fall from grace in a very short space of time, for the would-be number two Melbourne venue.
The CFC hired a public relations firm to combat the negative press. The four-page PR campaign (which appeared in The Age), noted that the new stand was built because “consumers have shown that they now want seats – and they want them under cover”, and highlighted the advantages of buying a reserved seat. Another article described Princes Park as being “ideal for the corporate day out”. Carlton’s attempts to improve perceptions of the ground by focusing on economic issues did not help the situation.
In 2000, the AFL responded by reducing Princes Park’s games to Carlton home games only, preferring to pay out its contract rather than force other teams to play ‘home’ games there. The ground’s future has continually been questioned since Docklands’ opening, and it appears that in 2006, when the ground’s contract with the AFL expires, Carlton may well be wooed (with significant economic benefits) by either the then-newly completed MCG or Docklands.
Also at play in the recent history of Princes Park has been the arrogance and attitude displayed on this issue by CFC. It is not surprising that the media relied on CFC quotes by John Elliot (always depicted in the media as a male chauvinist) and that the leading spokesperson for the residents was a woman (Save Princes Parks’ Sandra Hart). Perhaps it can simply be put down to men (economics), versus women (environmental issues). Despite well-documented debts of over $10 million, the CFC last year (edit: 2002) submitted plans to redevelop the Gardiner Stand – a further $5 million. This male egotism was not confined to Elliot; in 1995 (when residents were heavily opposing redevelopment to extend capacity to 42,000), board member and prominent Melbourne businessman Richard Pratt outlined his vision of upgrading Optus Oval to 70,000. Furthermore, until last year, no woman had ever served on the Carlton board.
The CFC have maintained that Princes Park has not been given a ‘fair go’ by the media in recent years. In no way should the ground be immune from criticism, but as the last suburban Melbourne ground, it will be sad, from an historical point of view, when the ground inevitably suffers the same fate as other suburban grounds. The media’s sudden change of tune in the mid-to-late 90s will have aided the forces behind Princes Park’s ultimate demise.
Although many fans would like to keep the ground for traditional reasons, as explored in this essay, these reasons alone cannot ensure the ground’s future. As with many other facets of today’s society, even history and tradition can be sold for the right price.
Contributed by Lygon Legends (Stephen Walsh)
1878: CARLTON GRANTED THE USE OF 11 ACRES OF PRINCES PARK ON JUNE 09The Melbourne City Council on June 9, 1878 granted 11 acres of Princes Park to the Carlton club. After 16 years of improvisation Carlton Football Club in 1879 at last found a home ground. This ground was located at the southern end of Princes Park (not the current location) and named Princes Oval; it had a movable picket fence around it, goal posts 40 feet high, and other equipment.Although it was held by the club solely at the pleasure of Melbourne City Council, it was felt generally in Carlton that the Council would not seek repossession of the ground for many years.
The 1878 proposed diagram see below, differs from the Allen & Tuxen map of 1888 see Pre VFL Venues. The 1888 map has the ground running east -west and is further north towards the Melbourne General Cemetery. It would seem that this Allen & Tuxen map is correct, as football reports of the era mention the cemetery end of the ground, as well of complaints from the Cemetery Trust of noise and people accessing the ground through the cemetery.
The Lord Mayor of Melbourne formally opened it on May 3, 1879 and Carlton (with 20 players) defeated a combined team of 25 (made up of 10 players each from Lincoln, Victory and 5 from Carlton Imperials) Carlton won seven goals to nil – Extracts from the Carlton Story written by Harry Bell and Hugh Buggy (published in 1958). For many seasons Carlton were not allowed to charge admission and even ‘passed the hat around’. But it wasn’t until joining the newly formed league in 1897 that the Club, as one of the conditions was allowed to move to the current location and erected a permanent fence.
The Blues were hampered by the inability of not being allowed (by the Melbourne City Council) to charge for admission, unlike all the other teams whose local councils promoted their club. Carlton used the Princes Oval on and off through this period till 1897. However, the M.C.G. was Carlton's home ground from 1885 to 1890. Then the Melbourne Cricket Club took over the Melbourne Football Club and that ended the Blues' tenure. East Melbourne Cricket Ground, the University ground, the Warehouseman's ground, the M.C.G., and even Victoria Park were used as home grounds as a charge for admission could be made.
There is a thought that the powerful Melbourne Cricket Club influenced the City Council to stymie Carlton's attempts, as the Blues were such a crowd puller and that the cricket club's coffers would be unduly affected.
See Pre VFL Venues
An enlarged extract of the Allen & Tuxen 1888 map. 'C' indicates the Princes Park football ground.
1878 The petition's diagram of the proposed Carlton Football Ground signed by Ben James.
The playing surface is a massive 860x590 feet or 262x180 metres! (although the goal posts are marked a little further inside the arena.)
Compare this with M.C.G.'s 'puny' 171x146 metres.
The playing arena is surrounded by a 100 foot (30 metre) 'Promenade' for spectators.
To read club historian Tony De Bolfo's article on the found petition click here> www.carltonfc.com.au/news/2015-12-15/historic-princes-park-petition-found
1887: CABLE TRAMS
Two years after the opening of the North Carlton railway station on the Inner Circle railway line, the St.Kilda to North Carlton cable tram service ran along Rathdowne Street terminating at Park Street. At the same time a cable tram service was introduced along Royal Parade (Sydney Road) from the city to Brunswick.
"Traffic" - Cable Trams"At an early hour in the afternoon, almost every available vehicle, crowded with supporters and enthusiasts, started off from South Melbourne to witness the big game, and cheer their team to victory.
As already known, there was an enormous crowd estimated as from 30,000 to 35,000, at the match. The Brunswick trams pass within a stone's throw of the ground, and anticipating a great rush, the Tramway Company had made elaborate preparations to accommodate the traffic.
Over forty dummies, with their long bogie cars attached, were put on the road, and at the busiest periods of the afternoons these were despatched at minute intervals, with no timetables for the conductors, but instructions to get through as quickly as possible compatible with safety.
The traffic to the match was handled quite satisfactorily, as it extended over a considerable time, many going very early to take up good positions on the ground. At the conclusion of the game, however, the conditions were very different. Everybody wanted to get home at once. The precaution had been taken to "hold up" the cars travelling city-wards at the entrance to Prince's Park. By 5 o'clock there was a string of them extending northwards nearly to the Sarah Sands Hotel.
Then the rush commenced. Every car near the entrance was almost instantly overloaded, and the people commenced to rush up the line to get on those behind. The cars and dummies were despatched with tremendous loads of humanity. Every inch of standingroom was occupied, and dozens clambered onto the roofs or gained a precarious foothold on the sides of the cars even. The rolling stock and cables must have undergone a severe test, but they stood it well. The wonder it that there were not some severe accidents to those who, to use the fanciful phrase of Mr. Melville, M.L.C., were "holding on by their eyebrows."
Meanwhile, impatient thousands, unable to get on the cars for the city, took those bound for Moreland, and travelling up the line until they met empty cars coming from the sheds. These were quickly filled, and had to run past the crowd lower down. It is safe to say that some thousands paid double fares in order to obtain standing room. Thousands of others walked northwards for as much as a mile, and for a time Sydney-road - the main street of Brunswick - was crowded with pedestrians walking away from the direction of their homes to obtain conveyances. Many others others walked easterly through North Carlton, and took tram from the north end of Rathdown-street.
It was quite a unique experience for the company, and the takings must have been very heavy, though the conductors must surely have missed collecting some fares."
(Trove; Record Emerald Hill, June 09 1906 p3)
1892 - 1968 CURATORS - TOMMY WARNE & BERT WARNECarlton historian Tony De Bolfo's two part article on the long time curator.
Firstly Tommy was the curator of 'The Triangle' in 1892 and then the new Princes Park Oval from 1897 until his retirement in 1942. His son Bert Warne then took over the curator's duties from 1943 until 1968.
Part 2 contains a short colourised film taken in 1942 with shots of Princes Park including the old score board and the outer shelter shed.
Part 1: http://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/2014-04-10/tribute-to-tom-conjures-images-of-old-carlton
Part 2: http://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/2014-08-05/tribute-to-tom-in-film
1897: CURRENT LOCATION OF PRINCES PARK OVAL
Carlton moved to and played their first league match at Princes Park in Round 7, 1897
On Tuesday June 22, 1897 Carlton played their first match at Princes Park and was defeated by Collingwood by 4 points. The final scores were Carlton 5.6.36 to 6.4.40 and the field umpire was Keenan. Carlton player Oscar Manchester made his league debut in this game and Arthur Cummins who had been recruited from Castlemaine played his 7th and last league game. When he left he was one of only five Carlton players that had played every Carlton league game. Arthur Cummins holds the astonishing record for any league player to have played his whole career in seven consecutive matches at seven different venues against seven different sides.
1897: CARLTON'S FIRST MATCHThis is a reproduction of an article in the weekly newspaper "Table Talk" Friday June 25 1897 p15.
The author is former foundation member of the Carlton Football Club - George F. Bowen writing under his alias, "Nunquam Dormio."
The digital reproduction in Trove in the beginning of the article is difficult to read, so without seeing the original there may some inaccuracies.
'Carlton boys (Young Ones and Old ones) were in strong force in Princes Park on Tuesday afternoon to witness the opening of the new Princes Oval - held in joint possession by the Carlton Cricket Club and the Carlton Football Club. ...? to quote the words of friend "Observer" in Monday's Argus, it was opened "in a manner of the best traditions of the old club" Aye! that it was.
True, there were no substantial buildings to foregather in, but there were spacious marquees and the marquee always presents itself to me as being so specially pertinent to a cricket ground that I hope to see one in evidence there for many a long day to come. It does look like Old Times.
Not but what the Carlton fellows will have the other necessary eceterae/etcetera? in due time. You had better believe it! President George Robertson, and Fred Bennett, Joe Harrington, Wally Donaldson, Cunningham, McFarlane, A. H. Shaw, M. B. Hearne, Jack Donovan, Jack Gardiner, Jack Melville, and goodness knows how many more, have all got their ears well thrown back, and Mean Business, I can assure you. And when the crowd I have mentioned "mean business," something is certain to come of it, which something is equally as certain to be considerably augumented when Lieut. Colonel "Bob" Robertson, Alderman "Jim" Moloney, and Messers. George H. Ievers, Alex Gillespie and others of the rank-and-file chip in.
You should have witnessed the "rale ould punt" with which Alderman "Jim" duly opened the football ground. It was worthy of the best days of dear old Lanty O'Brien (whose magnificent "shadow," I am pleased to be able to state, shows no signs of growing any less; rather t'other way about, in point of fact).
To revert back to the Moloney kick-off. I had the extreme felicity in taking part in the opening match of the Carlton Football Club in 1864, when sides were chosen by the President and Vice President, the first President being none other than Mr. G. S. Coppin. And George Sands Coppin kicked-off too! That he did! In the Princes Oval, three-and-thirty years ago!
And the "Arful Dodger" didn't make half a bad kick either. But he took a "place," not being as well inculcated then in the art and mystery of football as the worthy Alderman of today.
Pleasant indeed it was on Tuesday to witness the gathering of old mates and old friends. In the true Fellowship of Sport the executive of the Collingwood Football Club had donated their share of the "gate" towards the improvement of the reserve; whilst good and trusty friends from South and North Melbourne put in an appearance to add eclat to the occasion and wish the Dark Blues every success. The City Council was also well represented, those of the "city fathers" being lavish in their acknowledgments of the splendid improvements already made in no short space of time and with such limited capital.
By granting permissive occupancy of Princes Oval to the Carlton Cricket club and Carlton Football Club the members of the City Council have Conferred an Obligation on the Whole of the British Nation. Now that is a very sweeping assertion to make, but it is an Incontrovertible Fact nevertheless. As how? Thuswise: Johnny Crapaud and the rest of the foreigners have always maintained that Britishers take their pleasures sadly. And up to Tuesday last no part of the British Dominions had made an effort to disprove this disparaging statement. But you didn't require to be two minutes in the convincing ground on Tuesday, to be aware of the fact that there wasn't a Tinge of Sadness there. No! Although some thousands of Britishers were gathered - on pleasure bent - in the Very Shadow of the Graveyard.
One way, it was just as well that Collingwood defeated Carlton on Tuesday. Collingwood - last year's premiers - still have a chance of annexing the premiership again this season, whilst Carlton Haven't an Earthly. Therefore it wouldn't have done Carlton any good - except Morally. And morally - as any disinterested spectator who was there will tell you - Carlton had the best of the game - and the worst of the umpiring.
There wasn't much "sentiment" between the players though throughout the transaction; the little "boys in blue" trying their level best to down their opponents. That episode between Peter Williams and Pannam was an object lesson in that connection.'
1897: CARLTON'S FIRST WIN AT PRINCES PARKCarlton won their first game at Princes Park on July 31, Round 13, 1897 against St. Kilda by 33 points, the final score was 8.11.59 to 3.8.26 and the field umpire was Kendall. Jim Goonan made his debut (in his two game league career) and became the first Carlton player to make his debut in a winning Carlton side at Princes Park in this historic win. He is the father of Jimmy Goonan, (born on February 9, 1897) who would later play 22 games for Carlton between 1922 and 1927 and be their captain coach of the Carlton’s second 18 for three premiership between 1926 and 1928 and became the first Carlton League father and son combination. (Note Jack Gardiner and Vin Gardiner are the sons of Carlton’s VFA 1877 Premiership Captain and later president in Alderman Jack Gardiner and the Gardiner Stand at Princes Park is named in his honour.)
1899: CRICKET CHATTER"Felix" of The Australasian November 18, writes about the Carlton Cricket Club and it's formation, the old "Triangle" ground, the then new Princes Park ground, various committee men of both the Cricket and Football clubs, the ground staff, cycling track, and future plans for the arena.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138610943
1902: EMBANKMENTRound 6, June 07 Carlton vs South Melbourne, a new embankment was opened for the crowd to obtain a better view on this day.
1904: SCOREBOARDThese two blurry photos are enlargements from the Round 16, 1904 match against Melbourne. Note the top score has been altered between the two photos.
Carlton scored it's only goal during the second quarter. The numbers may have been painted on white panels as in the 1910 photo below.
This may be the same 1910 scoreboard, but painted black. The photo on the left seems to have a pediment on top as the 1910 pic.
This match is also famous for the "Carlton Sash," this is the first time the clash/sash guernsey has been captured in a photograph. Click link> Round 16, 1904 for more photos from this game.
1910:Below: This is the earliest clear image found of a scoreboard at Princes Park. The photo is from the Round 7, 1910 match against Essendon, showing the half time scores.
This scoreboard was located on the northern side on the wing - half forward, towards the Lygon Street or outer end of the ground.
This was replaced by a new scoreboard which was located in the northern side back pocket of the outer end - see the 1939 practice match, the US Army baseballers & the Ken Hands photos below, and it can just be made out in the 1932-1934 aerial photo below.
So far, no information is available when either scoreboards were erected.
In the mid 1960's a brick & steel scoreboard was built by former player John Benetti in the southern side outer end back pocket.
This was the iconic Princes Park scoreboard, famous for the operators' abilities to change the score within seconds of a score being kicked.
The brick score board was demolished to make way for the Legends Stand in the late 1990's, and was replaced with electronic scoreboards on the so called "Elliot Stand" on the northern wing and one on the southern side near the Hawthorn/Pratt Stand.
This photo shows the location of the Princes Park scoreboard. This team photo is believed to be from 1908, but we do not know which match.
The mystery surrounding this image continues, the club adopted white shorts and discarded it's blue and white socks for all navy from April 1905.
Also, the old press box had the old cricket club's buildings on it's left. This image does not show the club rooms. Was the press box originally to the left (our right) of the cricket club rooms?
1909 Rnd 9 vs Essendon. Has the scoreboard has been moved closer to the back pocket? Image: Trove; Punch June 24
1939 Carlton practice match, quarter clock? advertising B.D.V. 'everfresh' cigarettes.
Can anyone name the players?
Trove; Age March 27
1942 US Army baseballers playing Victoria - Princes Park scoreboard, with quarter clock? advertising Grey's cigarettes.
Image: Trove, Australasian July 18
Ken Hands in front of the scoreboard which stood until the mid 1960's
The "new" mid 60's scoreboard in 1976 Rnd 1 v Collingwood. Image: Herald-Sun
The iconic 1960's scoreboard with the remaining outer shelter shed in 1995.
They would soon be demolished to make way for the Legends Stand.
The scoreboard's lower section had been bricked in, see B&W photo above.
1905: BASEBALL - CARLTON vs SOUTH MELBOURNE110 year old views of Princes Park.
Baseball was the curtain raiser to V.F.A. and then V.F.L. matches from the 1880's until 1947. Most of the inner suburban football clubs had a baseball team.
Images: Trove, Australasian Saturday July 22 (p27) 1905
The previous Saturday 21st. July, Carlton played South Melbourne Round 10, 1905 at Princes Park.
Note; the catcher's gloves - hand does not fit inside the glove.
Above: Deravin, centre field of the Carlton team showing the uniform.
This baseball match would have been the curtain raiser.
Although the crowd in these photos is sparse, 20,000 people attended the football match.
1909: GARDINER STAND
Trove; Argus March 12 1909
There looks like a stage has been set up on the ground facing the grandstand, perhaps this is for a general meeting?
1918: REMEMBERING PRINCES PARKThis article is a recreation from The Leader newspaper March 02 1918 (p21) which was under the heading Cricket Gossip.
"I thought as I looked at the Carlton cricket ground the other day that it is a wise decision to save our grounds for happier times. The Oval is magnificently situated in Princes Park, and it looked a thing of beauty and a joy forever. If the grounds had been abandoned, as some fanatics advocated, then it would have been years, if ever, before they could have been restored to their pristine excellence. Thousands of pounds have been spent and much loving labor lavished to bring the ovals to their present state of excellence. Surely it is a duty to posterity to preserve our organisations as far as possible and to hand down the grounds to future generations as perfect as they are at the present day.
The Carlton ground is of greater area than any other metropolitan ground, not even excepting the M.C.C. enclosure, and therefore it's potentialities are vaster in proportion. Only a score of years have passed since the first cricket match was played on it, and the surrounding then were primitive. The old fence that did duty on the days of George Coulthard has disappeared, and a neat white and substantial picket fence now surrounds the enclosure. The lofty, graceful and commodious stand which was designed by the present Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and is capable of indefinate extension on the same plan, was not there in the old days, and the spacious and commanding embankment, the spoil of sewerage operations, with a capacity for 50,000 people, was also non-existent. It would be a crime indeed if the ground were let go back if it were any way possible to save it, as I said above, for happier times.
The Carlton people were many years endeavoring to get a suitable oval, and the earlier history of the playing grounds of both the Carlton cricket and football clubs is unique in that neither had a settled abode. The Royal Park, Madeline-street reserve, Princes Park, and the old cricket ground ("Triangle"), opposite Ormond College, all these localities have played their part in having been the resting places of one or both clubs. The Triangle is more particularly associated with the cricket club's past and popular career, and was the scene of many exciting contests, indentified with many veterans whose names are now almost forgotton with the arising of a new generation. I myself played in the last game on the old Triangle, and the first game on the new oval.
After repeated ineffectual attempts to get a permanent and suitable abode extending over many years, the present site of 10 acres in Princes Park was granted by the Board of Land and Works and City Council on the 17th April, 1896, and the existence of the Carlton Recreation Ground was an accomplished fact, and the nomadic wanderings of the Carlton clubs terminated.
The cricket club surrendered the old Triangle for the present site, and moved it's goods and chattels where the old pavilion with it's clock and motto - "Mens sana in corpore sano" still stands, an insignificant but sacred relic of a momentous past. The new site was practically a wilderness. In fact it had long been a rubbish tip, and in one corner, where Tom Warne's cottage stands, there was a water-hole in which the local dogs were trained in aquatic exercises.
The prodigious task of reclaiming the wilderness and erecting suitable buildings and fences now faced the committee, but the burden was shouldered with resolution and vigor. Carlton has always been noted for it's sturdy supporters, and free labor was in great demand, and many an afternoon was spent with pick and shovel by men whose daily avocations were far removed from the exercise in levelling and otherwise improving the site. Fortunately the big sewers for Carlton and Brunswick were then being laid, and advantage was taken of the these operations to get filling material, to which the splendid and unrivalled embankments round the ground are a testimony.
As time went on improvements came, turnstiles, buildings of one sort and another, culminating in the erection of a grandstand, which alone absorbed £5,246. A new fence round the playing area was erected in place of the old shaky fence, which had done its on the old as well as the new oval for nigh on half a century. In the old nomadic days the fences and goal posts had to be dismantled at the close of each football season. Everything connected with the old ground in the park had to be of a movable character. Even the dressing-room was on wheels.
Space forbids further references to the career of the ground, but on 22nd June, 1907* 1897 - Queen Victoria Jubilee Day - the first football match, Carlton vs Collingwood was played. In referring to the game an old football critic wrote: - "Everything went off with a rattle from the first kicking of the ball by Alderman Jim Moloney, the formal baptism of the ground, as it were."
A host of names occur to me of those great hearted pioneers who worked for the good of the ground from the inception to the present. Some have passed the Great Divide, but where all did so well it would perhaps be invidious to mention one more than another. George Robertson, Billy Donaldson, Jack Donovan, Adam Kemp, Jack Gardiner, Tom Pigdon, Bob Heatley, Mat Hearne, Arthur Shaw are amongst them, with others who labored just as hard and faithfully. The club has been particularly fortunate in the possession of it's little cricket curator, Tom Warne. Since 1892 he has been the mainstay of Carlton in the cricket, and as curator he is, in my opinion at least, unrivalled in the cricket world. His manly attributes are in accordance with his other qualities, and I have never heard an unpleasant word said of him, except by hard tried opposing bowlers, in a friendship extending over a quarter of a century. The genial Tommy is a good citizen in another respect. He has thirteen children, and rumor has it that he is after a football eighteen. Surely he is a living exemplification of multum in parvo."
.* printing error - should have been 1897
multum in parvo (Latin) - A great deal in a small place.
FootnoteWarne born January 13 1870, played cricket with Carlton for 28 years with an average of 57, and scored more than 10,000 runs with the bat. He averaged 31 in State games amassing 2,000 runs. His great batting partner at the Blues was Jack Worrall.
"Tom Warne's standing in Victorian Cricket was recognised by the awarding of a benefit match at the M.C.G. in 1910/11 - the only non-Test representative to be accorded such distinction in Australia." (Cricket Victoria)
In 1940 Tommy had spent 47 years as a player and curator at Carlton, he passed away at his home "The Lodge" Carlton Cricket Ground, July 07 1944, aged 74 years.
The curator's house "The Lodge" was in the "back pocket" at the bottom of this aerial photo. http://www.blueseum.org/show_image.php?id=11115&scalesize=o
1924: LETTER TO THE EDITOR"Sir - Now that the 1924 football season is over, supporters are looking forward to the improvements to be made to the ground this summer. Nobody in South Melbourne who has seen the other other league grounds denies that our local ground is in a shocking state of neglect; not the members stand but the ground as well.
When one comes to look at the heights of the Carlton Oval, he is at once struck with the low banks at South Melbourne. Even as it was before the recent improvements at Carlton, that ground was one of the best in the league to see from. The action of the Carlton club in making their banks still higher, ought to be a lesson to other clubs, that, no matter how good a ground is, there is always room for improvement. When the Carlton club saw the Brunswick Council woodblocking Sydney Road, they threw open the gates of the ground and offered it for a "tip."
(Trove Record, Emerald Hill November 08 1924 p8)
1929: CARLTON'S GROUND - CRICKET & FOOTBALL CLAIMSCarlton time keeper John Keating writes in the Sporting Globe September 28 p5 about the problems between the Carlton football and cricket clubs.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182531004
1930: THE ODD COUPLE - FOOTBALL AND CRICKETThe tensions between football and cricket clubs are flaring. Carlton's time keeper John Keating replies to an article in the Sporting Globe by cricket administrator Mr. W. S. Stott. While the relations between the two bodies at Princes Park are cordial, Keating points out the financial reliance cricket has on football, and that the football clubs are not being treated as equals. It costs £1,600 per year to maintain Princes Park. In 1929 the revenue generated by the Carlton Football Club was £1,853 while the Carlton Cricket Club contributed the grand sum of £21. In 1930 the football revenue jumped by nearly 33% to £2,400, while cricket contributed a paltry £7. The article tackles this and other issues which affected all the League clubs and still has some ramifications the best part of a century on in 2015.
W. S. Sottt's article, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1830066759
The VFL response, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183006726
John Keating's reply, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183007607
1932 - 1934: AERIAL VIEW
The "new" scoreboard can just be seen in the outer back pocket at the rear of the embankment, to the left of the goals.
This photo was most likely taken from the scoreboard.
1934: TETANUS PARKRound 11, 1934 Maurie Johnson received a severe cut to the side of his shin. The cut was nearly to the bone and occurred during the latter stages of the third quarter against Essendon. Maurie received 6 stitches and the leg was strapped. Despite being urged not to go back on he resumed playing in the final quarter.
The Age said;
"After the game he was treated with anti tetanus serum, as the soil of the Carlton oval is particularly dangerous as regards tetanus".
THE OLD PRESS BOX & CLUB ROOMS
Photo believed to be from circa 1913. On the left, the old press box which was replaced in 1934.
Note: The old club rooms with the clock which was incorporated into the facade of the new 1934 press box.
Also, the two differing font styles for the 1910-1922 monogram and the old 1890-1907 lace-up canvas jacket.
Image: CFC web site
1934: NEW PRESS BOXThe "famous" Carlton press box on the northern wing was first used in the opening round of 1934.
It stood for approx. 50 years until it was demolished for the building of the Elliott Stand in 1986.
This 'new' 1934 press box was preceded by another press box, and it too was on the northern wing near the end of the Gardiner Stand. Adjacent to it was a weather-board building with a verandah, above which was housed the Carlton Cricket Club's clock around which was the motto; Mens Sana In Corpore Sano. This clock had for many years been housed at the cricket club's former ground "The Triangle."
See Round 2, 1928 for a photo which shows the original press box.
1939: OUTER SHELTER
Trove; Age April 24 1939 p14
Trove; Age August 11 1939 p11
1939: VALE "COCKY" ST. MARR"One of Melbourne's most enthusiastic and vociferous league football's barrackers, "Cocky" St. Marr, passed away peacefully at the age of 43. Forty three is not an old age for a human being, even if he he has from early boyhood strained his vocal chords roaring for his side and abusing the umpire.
But "Cocky" is, or was, a large white sulphur-crested cockatoo. For more than 30 years he rarely missed a match in which Carlton was engaged, and he was in no need of no prompting to scream his delight when the "Blues" scored a goal. By some instinct he knew when Harry Vallence was near the ball, and he would scream, "Up there, Soapy." It is said and really believed that when a free kick was given against Carlton he invariably shouted, "Who told you you could umpire?"
He went to matches with his owner, Mr. Robert St. Marr, who had no need to worry when the tram would arrive at Princes Park. "Cocky" knew that stop well, and would yell, "Here we are, Bob." At the match between Carlton and Richmond "Cocky's" enthusiasm attracted the attention of the State Governor (Lord Huntingfield), who expressed a desire that he should be presented to him. "Cocky" was willing, and kissed His Excellency and the Lord Mayor and other members of the official party, and then having done his duty he returned his attention to the game with "Give them a fair go, umpy." "Cocky" had breakfast every morning with his owner, both ate the same food. "Cocky" was particularly fond of steak and eggs, bacon, and custard pudding. Unlike many football barrackers, he was never known to swear. The old fellow died with head on Mr. St. Marr's shoulder."
(The Mercury, Hobart November 29)
1945: AERIAL VIEW
Note: No further work on the southern shelter shed due WW2 shortages.
1948: NORTH CARLTON RAILWAY STATION CLOSEDFrom 1885 until 1948 daily suburban passenger rail services operated on the Inner Circle railway line. Originally a steam era railway it was electrified in 1921. North Carlton on Lang Street was the nearest station to Princes Park, a 600 meter walk from the ground.
The station briefly reopened during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games for events held nearby.
The Inner Circle line was then used for freight only until 1981 when it was closed.
This writer remembers VR diesel locos, travelling very slowly, hauling briquette trucks from the Fitzroy depot heading west towards Royal Park at the Bowen Crescent railway crossing on some match days.
Image: Courtesy VRfan Train videos
1949: BELL REPLACED BY SIREN
Image: Carlton F.C.
Since Carlton (Vic) Football Club replaced the oval bell with a siren, many people have asked to buy the bell. but it is not for sale. Carlton wants it in case the siren breaks down."
(News (Adelaide) 18 June 1949 p9)
The Coburg Football Club installed a siren for the 1939 season. (Argus May 01 p17)
An initiative by the club for a former footballer to ring the bell prior to the start of a Carlton home game was started for the 2016 season.
1950: AERIAL VIEW
1950, possibly late morning before the start of the curtain raiser - Note: the completion of the long shelter shed on southern wing which was begun in 1939.
This shed was reduced in size to make way for the construction of the Hawthorn/Pratt Stand, leaving about the outer one third standing until the development of the Legends Stand. (See 1994 aerial below)
Sporting Globe March 29 1952
This may be an older photo as the terracing shown in the preceding image does not appear to have been completed, or is it over grown with weeds?
1952: CARLTON'S OLYMPIC STADIUM TO ACCOMMODATE 125,000 PEOPLEWatch a brief British Pathe newsreel of the ground and the winning design on youtube.
Click here> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIW94s8J35A
Harry Seidler's losing design
1955: OUTER STILL ON 'OUTER'In a series of articles, The Argus, January 25, examines the football grounds with 82 days before the football season commences.
First up is a damning report on Princes Park.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71691481
1955: HOT-AIR ADVERTISING BALLOONSThis writer as a young child in the mid to late 1950's, has vague memories of hot-air balloons dropping small parachutes carrying tickets & advertising pamphlets onto the crowd. These hot-air balloons were launched from the parkland adjacent to the Princes Park ground.
The Argus September 10 1955 wrote about inventor Andy Anderson who made and launched these balloons.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71694563
The movie Andy is advertising is the 1950 film "Destination Moon" it was one of Hollywood's first SF feature films.
1950's - 1970's: "PEANUTS, PEANUTS, - SHILLING A BAG"Carlton historian Tony De Bolfo wrote a fascinating article about John Boyd "The Peanut Man," who used to sell his wares from inside the boundary line and who threw accurately a brown paper bag of unshelled peanuts back to his customers in the crowd.
To read Tony's article click the link The Peanut Man at the bottom of this page.
1972: BOB'S RAMPFormer Prime Minister and Carlton's No.1 ticket holder Sir Robert Menzies watching the football from a specially built vehicle ramp.
The Club had the ramp built next to the Heatley Stand for the ailing Menzies who was a life long Carlton supporter.
(There was a space between the Heatley and the Harris stands which was removed when the Harris Social Club Stand was extended.)
Menzies in his chauffeured Bentley at Princes Park.
1972 Rnd 22 Carlton vs Footscray. The Blues won by 3 points.
1994: (Circa) AERIAL VIEW
The remaining part of the outer shelter shed which had begun in 1939.
Articles: Landmark: The Alderman Gardiner Stand, Princes Park | The Peanut Man
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