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September 12, 2014

Home ground advantage

As the Aussie rules football finals approach and the season reaches fever pitch, we pause to take a look at how South Australia's new home ground has changed the game, the fans, the players and the city.

  • Words: Harry Thring
  • Pictures: Michael Errey

When the South Australian Government committed to Adelaide Oval’s redevelopment in 2009, it caused uproar and controversy so severe it split the city in two.


The anecdotal evidence of traders throughout the city also points to a lift in economic activity on game day, with more sales being reported (to us, in the pub – very scientific) across areas as diverse as fashion and bikes.

One camp was outraged and feared the project would desecrate Adelaide’s prime sporting icon – a historic and sacred place.

The other welcomed the renovations, claiming it was needed to push a typically conservative city into the modern era and deliver to the people what they so desired – the return of football in the CBD.

The huge crowds seen throughout the 2014 AFL Premiership season suggests people have voted with their feet and the revamping of Adelaide Oval has proved an overwhelming success.

Both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide – the two AFL clubs who now call Adelaide Oval home – have seen enormous increases in home-game attendances; the Crows’ home crowds were amongst the very best in the League, while the Power averaged more than 40,000 a game.

Last year, prior to the move into the city, Port managed fewer than 27,000 a game and in 2012 their average home crowd was just 19,910.

Port lineup in front of another capacity crowd

Port lineup in front of another capacity crowd

Arriving at Port Adelaide in late 2012 from Essendon, forward Angus Monfries has played plenty of footy at both AAMI Stadium and Adelaide Oval.

The 27-year-old won an under-17 SANFL grand final at Adelaide Oval well before any renovation; he also represented Sturt’s reserves and senior sides at the venue. The overhaul has significantly changed the ground since Angus’ early days in the game. 

Now, what sets the redeveloped Oval apart from the former SA home of footy, AAMI Stadium, is the atmosphere it generates.

“…to see so many people crowding in Rundle Mall and marching to the ground is a pretty electrifying experience.”

There’s a buzz in and around the stadium that is only possible in Adelaide’s heart and it starts well before the first bounce is bounced or the first ball bowled. 

“You’re driving through the city to the game and there’s people everywhere – waiting for buses, walking around in the CBD,” Angus says.

“I’ve done a few appearances before the games when I’ve been injured and to see so many people crowding in Rundle Mall and marching to the ground is a pretty electrifying experience.

“The ground itself is a different shape, it’s narrower, and with one end being that hill environment it feels much more open to the fans.

“You definitely know when you kick a goal at that end – it can get deafening.”

Angus lines up for a kick

Angus lines up for a kick

Although typically thought of as a cricket ground before its renovation, Adelaide Oval historically played host to some of the SANFL’s fiercest rivalries.

Countless finals and grand finals were won and lost on its hallowed turf, including the 1965 decider between Sturt and Port Adelaide when more than 62,000 people spilled onto the sidelines to watch.

Angus says the stadium’s history is clearly visible, from the heritage-listed scoreboard, to the fig trees on the hill, to the original brickwork at the back of the members stand.

He says he and his teammates are well aware of how special it was to add to the venue’s history and how privileged they are to help dictate its future.

“Adelaide Oval’s a unique structure, but importantly it’s managed to retain its heritage which no doubt adds to its appeal,” he says.

“I’ve always loved playing out there, – you’re in the heart of the city and the ground’s always in immaculate condition and you know you’re playing in a place that’s hosted some massive SANFL grand finals.

“We’re pretty lucky.” 

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