The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park in inner Melbourne, home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It is the largest stadium in Australia, and holds the world record for the highest light towers at any sporting venue. The MCG is within walking distance of the city centre, and is serviced by Richmond and Jolimont train stations.
Internationally, the MCG is remembered as the centrepiece stadium of the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricket venues, with the well-attended Boxing Day test match commencing on Boxing Day every year. Throughout the winter, it serves as the home of Australian rules football, with at least one game (though usually more) held there each round. In late September, the AFL Grand Final fills the stadium to capacity.
Until the 1970s, more than 120,000 people were sometimes crammed into the venue - the record crowd standing at around 130,000 for a Billy Graham religious event in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Renovations and safety regulations now limit the maximum capacity to just over 100,000. This makes it the joint eighth largest stadium in the world, alongside Azadi Stadium in Iran and Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Malaysia.
The MCG, often referred to by locals as "The G", has also hosted other major events, including International Rules between the Australian Football League and Gaelic Athletic Association, international Rugby union, State of Origin rugby league, FIFA World Cup qualifiers and International Friendly matches, and large rock concerts. When Madonna performed at the ground during her Girlie Show Tour in 1993, she dubbed it "The G Spot".
It is referred to within Australia as the "Spiritual Home of Australian Sport".
Founded in November 1838 the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) selected the current MCG site in 1853 after previously playing at several grounds around Melbourne. The club’s first game was against a military team at the Old Mint site, at the corner of William and Latrobe Streets. Batman's Hill (now Southern Cross railway station) became its home ground in January 1839, however, the area was already set aside for Botanical Gardens and the club was moved on in October 1846, to an area on the south bank of the Yarra about where the Herald and Weekly Times building is today. Unfortunately the area was subject to flooding forcing the club to move again, this time to a ground in South Melbourne.
It wasn’t long before the club was forced out again, this time because of the expansion of the railway. The South Melbourne ground was in the path of Victoria’s first steam railway line from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). Governor La Trobe offered the MCC a choice of three sites; an area adjacent to the existing ground, a site at the junction of Flinders and Spring Streets or a ten-acre (about 4 hectares) section of the Government Paddock at Richmond next to Richmond Park.
This last option, which is now Yarra Park, had been used by Aborigines until 1835. Between 1835 and 1853 it was an agistment area for colonial troopers’ horses. In 1850 it was part of a stretch set aside for public recreation extending from Governor La Trobe’s Jolimont Estate to the Yarra River. By 1853 it had become a busy promenade for Melbourne residents.
An MCC sub-committee chose the Richmond Park option because it was level enough for cricket but sloped enough to prevent inundation. That ground was located where the Richmond, or outer, end of the current MCG is now.
At the same time the Richmond Cricket Club was given occupancy rights to six acres (2.4 hectares) for another cricket ground on the eastern side of the Government Paddock.
At the time of the land grant the Government stipulated that the ground was to be used for cricket and cricket only. This condition remained until 1933 when the State Government allowed the MCG’s uses to be broadened to include other purposes when not being used for cricket.
In 1863 a corridor of land running diagonally across Yarra Park was granted to the Hobson’s Bay Railway and divided Yarra Park from the river. The area closest to the river was also developed for sporting purposes in later years including Olympic venues in 1956.
The first grandstand at the MCG was the original wooden members’ stand built in 1854, while the first public grandstand was a 200-metre long 6000-seat temporary structure built in 1861. Another grandstand seating 2000 and facing one way to the cricket ground and the other way to the park where football was played, was built in 1876 for the 1877 visit of James Lillywhite’s English cricket team. It was during this tour that the first Test Match was played.
In 1881 the original members’ stand was sold to the Richmond Cricket Club for £55. A new brick stand, considered at the time to be the world’s finest cricket facility, was built in its place. The foundation stone was laid by Prince George of Wales and Prince Albert Victor on July 4 and the stand opened in December that year. It was also in 1881 that a telephone was installed at the ground, and the wickets and goal posts were changed from an east-west orientation to north-south. In 1882 a scoreboard was built which showed details of the batsman's name and how he was dismissed.
When the Lillywhite tour stand burnt down in 1884 it was replaced by a new stand which seated 450 members and 4500 public. In 1897 second storey wings were added to ‘The Grandstand’, as it was known, increasing capacity to 9,000 and in 1900 it was lit with electric light.
More stands were built in the early 20th Century. An open wooden stand was on the south side of the ground in 1904 and the 2084-seat Grey Smith Stand (known as the New Stand until 1912) was erected for members in 1906. The 4000-seat Harrison Stand on the ground’s southern side was built in 1908 followed by the 8000-seat Wardill Stand in 1912. In the 15 years after 1897 the stand capacity at the ground increased to nearly 20,000.
In 1927 the second brick members’ stand was replaced by the present Pavilion at a cost of £60,000. The Harrison and Wardill Stands were demolished in 1936 to make way for the Southern Stand which was completed in 1937. The Southern Stand seated 18,200 under cover and 13,000 in the open and was the main public area of the MCG. It was where the famous Bay 13 was located, the MCG’s equivalent to The Hill at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Northern (Olympic) Stand replaced the old Grandstand for the 1956 Olympic Games and ten years later the Grey Smith Stand and the open concrete stand next to it were replaced by the Western (now Ponsford) Stand.
The MCG was the home of Australia’s first full colour video scoreboard which replaced the old scoreboard in 1982. In 1985 light towers were installed at the ground, allowing for night football and day-night cricket games.
In 1988 inspections of the old Southern Stand found concrete cancer and provided the opportunity to replace the increasingly run-down 50-year-old facility. The projected cost of $100 million was outside what the Melbourne Cricket Club could afford so the Victorian Football League took the opportunity to part fund the project in return for a 30-year deal to share the ground. The new Great Southern Stand was completed in 1992 at a final cost of $150 million.
The 1928 Members' stand, as well as the 1956 Olympic stand and the 1968 Ponsford stand were demolished in late 2002. They were replaced with a new structure in time for Melbourne to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Despite now standing as a single unbroken stand, the individual sections retain the names of Ponsford, Olympic and Members Stands. The redevelopment cost exceeded AUD$400 million and pushed the grounds capacity over the 100,000 mark (when standing room is taken into account). Since redevelopment, the highest attendance was the 2008 Grand Final of the AFL with 100,012.
The first inter-colonial cricket match to be played at the MCG was between Victoria and New South Wales in March, 1856. Victoria had played Tasmania as early as 1851 but the Victorians had included two professionals in the 1853 team upsetting the Apple Islanders and causing a cooling of relations between the two colonies. To replace the peeved Tasmanians the Melbourne Cricket Club issued a challenge to play any team in the colonies for £1000. Sydney publican William Tunks accepted the challenge on behalf of New South Wales although the Victorians were criticised for playing for money. Ethics aside, New South Wales could not afford the £1000 and only managed to travel to Melbourne after half the team’s travel cost of £181 was put up by Sydney barrister Richard Driver.
The game eventually got under way on March 26, 1856. The Victorians, stung by criticism over the £1000 stake, argued over just about everything; the toss, who should bat first, whether different pitches should be used for the different innings and even what the umpires should wear.
Victoria won the toss but New South Wales captain George Gilbert successfully argued that the visiting team should decide who bats first. The MCG was a grassless desert and Gilbert, considering players fielded without boots, promptly sent Victoria into bat. Needing only 16 to win in the final innings, New South Wales collapsed to be 5 for 5 before Gilbert’s batting saved the game and the visitors won by three wickets.
In subsequent years conditions at the MCG improved but the ever-ambitious Melburnians were always on the look out for more than the usual diet of club and inter-colonial games. In 1861, Felix W. Speirs and Christopher Pond, the proprietors of the Cafe de Paris in Bourke Street and caterers to the MCC, sent their agent, W.B. Mallam, to England to arrange for a cricket team to visit Australia.
Mallam found a team and, captained by Heathfield Stephenson, it arrived in Australia on Christmas Eve 1861 to be met by a crowd of more than 3000 people. The team was taken on a parade through the streets wearing white-trimmed hats with blue ribbons given to them for the occasion. Wherever they went they were mobbed and cheered by crowds to the point where the tour sponsors had to take them out of Melbourne so that they could train undisturbed.
Their first game was at the MCG on New Year’s Day 1862, against a Victorian XVIII. The Englishmen also wore coloured sashes around their waists to identify each player and were presented with hats to shade them from the sun. Some estimates put the crowd at the MCG that day at 25,000. It must have been quite a picture with a new 6000 seat grandstand, coloured marquees ringing the ground and a carnival outside. Stephenson said that the ground was better than any in England. The Victorians however, were no match for the English at cricket and the visitors won by an innings and 96 runs.
Over the four days of the ‘test’ more than 45,000 people attended and the profits for Speirs and Pond from this game alone was enough to fund the whole tour. At that time it was the largest number of people to ever watch a cricket match anywhere in the world. Local cricket authorities went out of their way to cater for the needs of the team and the sponsors. They provided grounds and sponsors booths without charge and let the sponsors keep the gate takings. The sponsors however, were not so generous in return. They quibbled with the Melbourne Cricket Club about paying £175 for damages to the MCG despite a prior arrangement to do so.
The last match of the tour was against a Victorian XXII at the MCG after which the English team planted an elm tree outside the ground.
Following the success of this tour, a number of other English teams also visited in subsequent years. George Parr’s side came out in 1863-64 and there were two tours by sides lead by W.G. Grace. The fourth tour was lead by James Lillywhite.
When Lillywhite headed off to New Zealand he left Melbourne cricketer John Conway to arrange the match for their return. Conway ignored the cricket associations in each colony and selected his own Australian team, negotiating directly with the players. Not only was the team he selected of doubtful representation but it was also probably not the strongest available as some players had declined to take part for various reasons. Demon bowler Fred Spofforth refused to play because wicket keeper Billy Murdoch was not selected. Paceman Frank Allan was at Warnambool Agricultural Show and Australia’s best all-rounder Edwin Evans could not get away from work. In the end only five Australian-born players were selected.
The same could be said for Lillywhite’s team which, being selected from only four counties, meant that some of England’s best players did not take part. In addition, the team had a rough voyage back across the Tasman Sea and many members had been seasick. The game was due to be played on March 15, the day after their arrival, but most had not yet fully recovered. On top of that, wicket-keeper Ted Pooley was still in a New Zealand prison after a brawl in a Christchurch pub.
England were nonetheless favourites to win the game and the first ever Test match began with a crowd of only 1000 watching. The Australians elected Dave Gregory from New South Wales as Australia’s first ever captain and on winning the toss he decided to bat.
Charles Bannerman scored an unbeaten 165 before retiring hurt. Sydney Cricket Ground curator, ‘Ned’ Gregory, playing in his one and only Test for Australia, scored test cricket’s first duck. Australia racked up 245 and 104 while England scored 196 and 108 giving Australia victory by 45 runs. The win hinged on Bannerman’s century and a superb bowling performance by Tom Kendall who took of 7 for 55 in England’s second innings.
A fortnight later there was a return game, although it was really more of a benefit for the English team. Australia included Spofforth, Murdoch and T.J.D. Cooper in the side but this time the honours went to England who won by four wickets.
Two years later Lord Harris brought another England team out and during England’s first innings in the test at the MCG Fred Spofforth took the first hat-trick in test cricket. He bagged two hauls of 6 for 48 and 7 for 62 in Australia’s ten wicket win.
By the 1880s the tradition of England-Australia cricket tours was well established, with a total of eight Tests having been played, five of them at the MCG, two at the Sydney Cricket Ground and one at The Oval in London. In 1882, England lost to a visiting Australian team in England for the first time. The match was played at The Oval in August on what was said to be a difficult pitch. Australian bowler Fred Spofforth decimated the English batting after a shocking start by the Australians and the result was a nailbiting finish in which Australia won by seven runs — still one of the closest finishes in Test cricket history. The defeat was widely recorded in the English press and a mock obituary was published in The Sporting Times, lamenting the death of English cricket and noted that "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".
Later that year, the Honourable Ivo Bligh led a team of eight amateurs and four professionals to Australia to recover them, with the first two matches of the tour played at the MCG. The first being a timeless match (as was the custom in those days) that commenced on 30 December. On New Year's Day the attendance was 23,000, and Australia won the match by nine wickets in three days. The second match commenced on 19 January 1883 and was won comfortably by England by an innings and 27 runs.
Two further matches were played by the tourists in Sydney, with the first being won by England and the second by Australia. The second Sydney match was subsequently deemed to not be of Test status, so England had won with the series and had "recovered The Ashes" as Bligh had set out to do. A group of Melbourne women presented Bligh with a small urn and the Ashes tradition was then firmly established.
Donald Bradman's record at the MCG is an average of 128 runs in 17 innings. In the 11 Tests that he played there, he made at least one century in nine of them.
Australia’s highest first class score was posted at the MCG when Victoria made 1107 against New South Wales in 1926-27. Jack Ryder scored 295 for the Vics and hit six sixes in the process.
An incident in the second Test of the 1960-61 series involved the West Indies player Joe Solomon being given out after his hat fell on the stumps after being bowled at by Richie Benaud. The crowd sided with the West Indies over the Australians.
Not only was the first Test match played at the MCG, the first One Day International match was also played there, on 5 January 1971, between Australia and England. Australia won the 40-over match by 5 wickets. The next ODI was played on August 1972, some 19 months later.
In March 1977, the Australian Cricket Board assembled 218 of the surviving 224 Australia-England players for a test match to celebrate 100 years of test cricket between the two nations. The match was the idea of former Australian bowler and MCC committee member Hans Ebeling who had been responsible for developing the cricket museum at the MCG.
The match had everything. England’s Derek Randall scored 174, Australia’s Rod Marsh also got a century, Lillee took 11 wickets, and David Hookes, in his first test, smacked five fours in a row off England captain Tony Greig’s bowling. Rick McCosker who opened for Australia suffered a fractured jaw after being hit by a sharply rising delivery. He left the field but came back in the second innings with his head swathed in bandages. Incredibly Australia won by 45 runs, exactly the same margin as the first test in 1877.
A less savoury incident occurred in 1981 when Indian batsmen Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan walked off the field in a test against Australia. Gavaskar was unhappy with the umpire’s decision to give him out lbw.
A more celebrated unsavoury incident occurred on February 1, 1981 at the end of a one-day match between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand, batting second, needed six runs off the last ball of the day to draw the game. Australian captain, Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor, who was bowling the last over, to send the last ball down underarm to prevent the New Zealand batsman, Brian McKechnie, from hitting the ball for six.
Although not entirely in the spirit of the game, an underarm delivery was quite legal, so long as the arm was kept straight. The rules of one-day cricket have since been changed to prevent such a thing happening again, but the rules of Test cricket still allow such a ball to be bowled. The incident has long been a sore point between Australia and New Zealand.
Chappell’s decision was taken against the advice of his vice-captain Rod Marsh and other senior players. On the surface it seems baffling. McKechnie was a tailender who had just come to the crease. His chances of hitting his first ball for six on the vast MCG were apparently nil and even if he did manage to get it over the fence New Zealand would not win but only draw the game.
However, the series was tied and draw would mean both teams would have to front up again for another match. Chappell wanted the game and the series finished to give his players a rest. He was taking no chances against McKechnie, a dual cricket and rugby international.
In February and March 1985 the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket was played at the MCG, a One Day International tournament involving all of the then Test match playing countries to celebrate 150 years of the Australian state of Victoria. Some matches were also played at Sydney Cricket Ground.
The MCG hosted the historic 1992 Cricket World Cup final between Pakistan and England with a crowd of more than 87,000. Pakistan won the match after sterling all-round performance by Wasim Akram who scored 33 runs and picked up 3 crucial wickets to make Pakistan cricket world champions for the first and as of yet only time. The match was also Imran Khan's last match after which he retired.
During the 1995 Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing the ball, rather than bowling it, seven times during the match. The other umpires did not call him once and this caused a controversy, although he was later called for throwing by other umpires seven other times in different matches.
The MCG is known for its great atmosphere, much of which is generated in the infamous Bay 13. In the late 1980s, the warm up stretches performed by Merv Hughes would often be mimicked by the crowd at Bay 13. In a One-Day International cricket match in the late 1990s, the behaviour of Bay 13 was so bad that Shane Warne had to enter the ground from his dressing rooms and tell the crowd to settle down at the request of opposing England captain Alec Stewart.
|Highest attendance records for cricket matches at the MCG|
|1||Australia v West Indies||Test||90,800||11 February 1961|
|2||Australia v England||Test||89,155||26 December 2006|
|3||Australia v England||Test||87,789||4 January 1937|
|4||England v Pakistan||World Cup Final (day/night)||87,182||25 March 1992|
|5||Australia v West Indies||Benson & Hedges||86,133||22 January 1984|
|6||Australia v India||Twenty20||85,824||1 February 2008|
Despite being called the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the stadium has been and continues to be used much more often for Australian rules football, which reflects that football is Melbourne's most popular sport, winter or otherwise. Indeed, spectator numbers for football are larger than for any other sport in Australia, and it makes more money for the MCG than any of the other sports played there.
Although the Melbourne Cricket Club members were instrumental in founding Australian Rules Football, there were understandable concerns in the early days about the damage that might be done to the playing surface if football was allowed to be played at the MCG - after all it was a cricket ground. therefore, football games were often played in the parklands next to the cricket ground.
This was the case for the first documented football match to be played at the ground. Noted Melbourne cricketer Thomas Wills wrote a letter to the sporting newspaper, Bell's Life in Victoria, on July 10, 1858, suggesting a football club be formed so cricketers could keep fit during the winter months.
Three weeks later Bell's Life in Victoria published another item reporting that James Bryant, publican of the Parade Hotel (now the Melbourne Cricket Ground Hotel) on Wellington Parade close by Richmond Park, had offered to provide a ball for the next football game to be played.
It wasn’t this offer that kicked off football however, as much as headmasters of Australian schools following the trend in British public schools, introducing the idea of muscular Christianity through sport, and football in particular. Two headmasters, Dr John E. Bromby of Melbourne Church of England Grammar and St. Kilda Grammar’s William C. Northcott, arranged a game of football between their schools in 1858. The game was played on the open area just north of the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 31, the week of Bryant’s published offer, and was won by St Kilda Grammar.
The next game was organised between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar a week later. The game began on Saturday, 7 August and bore little resemblance to Australian Football as it is played today. It would have looked more like the folk football matches played between towns in England to which it owed its heritage. There were no written rules and no umpires. The field was a paddock with no boundaries and trees for goal posts. About 40 players on each side kicked a round leather ball inflated by a pigs bladder.
The game commenced about midday, probably with a place kick, and the rules at that time said that the winner was the first team to score two goals. By 5 pm it was getting dark and as both teams had scored only one goal they all had to come back two weeks later on August 21 for the next instalment. Again neither scored and a fortnight later on September 4 both teams returned to continue playing. Again there was no score. The match was declared a draw and that was the end of the first football season. A plaque in Yarra Park, outside the current MCG, incorrectly commemorates this match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar as the first. That these first two games could be so quickly organised after Wills’s letter strongly indicates that they probably were not the first football games at all.
It wasn’t until 1869 that football was played on the MCG proper, even though it was only a trial game involving a police team. It was not for another ten years, in 1879, after the formation of the Victorian Football Association, that the first official match was played on the MCG and the cricket ground itself became a regular venue for football. Night matches were even played that year using specially erected light towers.
In those early years the MCG was the home ground of the Melbourne Football Club, Australia’s oldest, established in 1859 by the founder of the game itself, Thomas Wills. A founding member of the Victorian Football Association in 1877, Melbourne won five premierships in the early years using the MCG as its home ground. Melbourne originally played in white and were known as the ‘Invincible Whites’ but became the ‘Redlegs’ in 1872 and eventually the ‘Demons’ after World War II.
Several Australian Football League (AFL) clubs use the MCG as their home ground; currently Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood and Hawthorn. In 1965 Richmond played St Kilda in its first home match at the MCG. In 1985 North Melbourne played its first home game against Collingwood at the MCG. Collingwood played its first home match at the MCG in 1994. Hawthorn played its first home match at the MCG in 2000.
The first tied grand final to be played at the MCG was in 1948 when Essendon and Melbourne finished 69-all at the end of time. Essendon had dominated the season and finished well ahead of second placed Melbourne. They also beat Melbourne in the semi-final and were expected to win the grand final. However, Essendon scored an incredible 27 behinds and only seven goals to Melbourne’s 10 goals 9 behinds. If only one of the 27 had gone through the middle they would have won. To make things worse for Essendon, Melbourne thrashed Essendon by 39 points in the grand final replay the next week.
In 1966 one of the closest grand final results was between St Kilda and Collingwood. St Kilda was playing in only its third grand final since the founding of the club in 1873. They had been well beaten in the grand final the previous year but this year scores were much closer. In fact the scores were level at the end of regulation time when 17-year old Barry Breen mis-kicked towards goal and the ball scraped in for one point, enough to give St Kilda its first flag. In 1970 the Grand Final between Carlton and Collingwood was watched by 121,696 people, the biggest sporting crowd ever to squeeze into the MCG. Collingwood had skipped out to a 44 point lead by half time and it looked like Carlton was gone, but in the half-time break master coach Ron Barassi told his Carlton players to ‘Handball! Handball! Handball!’ Up until then Australian Rules had been very much a stop-start game with players kicking forward to team mates who took a mark, stopped and kicked again. whille handball was purely used as a defensive option. The 1970 grand final changed all that. In the second half Carlton, instead of kicking and marking, ran and handballed to each other moving the ball quickly away from the Collingwood defenders. Carlton’s tactics saw them catch and beat Collingwood and change forever the way the game is played.
The 1977 season saw one of the most remarkable changes in form in the history of the game. Collingwood finished last in the 1976 competition but under new coach Tom Hafey found themselves in the 1977 VFL Grand Final. It was the first grand final to be televised live in Victoria (in color as well) and viewers tuned in to find Collingwood lead by 27 points at three-quarter time. But North came back in the final period to kick five unanswered goals and overhaul the Magpies. Collingwood did managed to score one goal in the final quarter, Ross ‘Twiggy’ Dunne kicked it in the final minute to level the scores. The replay was North’s fifth consecutive finals match that year and they won it to take their second premiership.
In March 1983 the MCG trustees met to consider a submission from Aylett. Aylett said he wanted the Melbourne Cricket Club’s share of revenue cut from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. He threatened to take the following day’s opening game of the season, Collingwood v Melbourne, away from the MCG. The trustees knew he couldn’t do it but they agreed to a compromise. The money would be held aside until an agreement could be reached.
Different deals, half deals and possible deals were done over the years even going as high as the Premier John Cain who was said to have promised the VFL it could use the MCG for six months of the year and then hand it back to the MCC. In the mid-1980s a deal was done where the VFL had its own members area in the Northern Stand.
Against this background of political manoeuvring, in 1985 North Melbourne became the third club to make the MCG its home ground. in The some year, North played in the first night football match at the MCG for almost 110 years, against Collingwood on March 29, 1985.
In 1986 only a month after Ross Oakley had taken over as VFL Commissioner, VFL executives met with the MCC and took a big step towards resolving their differences. Changes in the personnel at the MCC also helped. In 1983 John Lill was appointed secretary and Don Cordner its president. They did not carry the same old anti-football feelings as those before them.
Shortly after the Great Southern Stand opened in 1992, the Australian Football League moved its headquarters into the complex. The AFL assisted with financing the new stand and came to an agreement that ensures at least 45 AFL games are played at the MCG each year including the grand final in September. Another 45 games of cricket are also played there each year and more than 3.5 million spectators come to watch.
In the current era most finals games held in Melbourne have been played at the MCG. Before 2004 some interstate clubs such as the Brisbane Lions were forced to play "home" finals at the MCG, due to a contract between the AFL and the MCC, which stipulated that at least five finals matches must be played there per year. The contract has been renegotiated to allow interstate sides to have true home matches. However, Melbourne clubs based out of Telstra Dome (which will eventually be owned by the Australian Football League) — as well as Geelong — are still required to play their home finals at the MCG. The AFL Grand Final is always played at the MCG regardless of which teams may be playing.
Matthew Richardson holds the records for having scored the most goals on the MCG, and Kevin Bartlett holds the record for playing the most matches at the MCG. Two players have scored 14 goals for an AFL or VFL game in one match at the MCG: Gary Ablett in 1989 and 1993, and John Longmire in 1990.
Before an AFL match between Richmond and Carlton on 27 August 1999, the city end scoreboard caught on fire due to an electrical fault, causing the start of play to be delayed by half an hour.
The 2008 AFL Grand Final, played between the Geelong Cats & the Hawthorn Hawks attracted a crowd of 100,012 to the venue for the first Grand Final between two Victorian AFL Teams since the Essendon Bombers defeated the Melbourne Demons in the 2000 AFL Grand Final.
As November 22, the date of the opening ceremony, drew closer, Melbourne was gripped ever more tightly by Olympic fever. At 3 pm the day before the opening ceremony, people began to line up outside the MCG gates. That night the city was paralysed by a quarter of a million people who had come to celebrate.
The MCG's capacity was increased by the new Olympic (or Northern) Stand, and on the day itself 103,000 people filled the stadium to capacity. A young up and coming distance runner was chosen to carry the Olympic torch into the stadium for the opening ceremony.
Although Ron Clarke had a number of junior world records for distances of 1500 m, one mile (1.6 km) and two miles (3 km), he was relatively unknown in 1956. Perhaps the opportunity to carry the torch inspired him because he went on to have a career of exceptional brilliance and was without doubt the most outstanding runner of his day. At one stage he held the world record for every distance from two miles (3 km) to 20 km. His few failures came in Olympic and Commonwealth Games competition. Although favourite for the gold at Rome in 1960 he was placed ninth in the 5 km and the marathon and third in the 10 km. He lost again in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and in 1968 at altitude in Mexico he collapsed at the end of the 10 km race.
On that famous day in Melbourne in 1956 the torch spluttered and sparked, showering Clarke with hot magnesium, burning holes in his shirt. When he dipped the torch into the cauldron it burst into flame singeing him further. In the centre of the ground, John Landy, the fastest miler in the world, took the Olympic oath and sculler Merv Wood carried the Australian flag.
The Melbourne Games also saw the high point of Australian female sprinting with Betty Cuthbert winning three gold medals at the MCG. She won the 100 m and 200 m and anchored the winning 4 x 100 m team. Born in Merrylands in Sydney’s west she was a champion schoolgirl athlete and had already broken the world record for the 200 m just before the 1956 Games. She tended to be overshadowed somewhat by her Western Suburbs club mate, the better-known Marlene Matthews. When they got to the Games, Matthews was the overwhelming favourite especially for the 100 m a distance over which Cuthbert had beaten her just once.
Both Matthews and Cuthbert won their heats with Matthews setting an Olympic record of 11.5 seconds in hers. Cuthbert broke that record in the following heat with a time of 11.4 seconds. The world record of 11.3 was held by another Australian, Shirley Strickland who was eliminated in her heat. In the final Matthews felt she got a bad start and was last at the 50 metre mark. Cuthbert sensed Isabella Daniels from the USA close behind her and pulled out a little extra to win Australia’s first gold at the Games in a time of 11.5 seconds, Matthews was third. The result was repeated in the 200 m final. Cuthbert won her second gold breaking Marjorie Jackson’s Olympic record. Mathews was third again.
By the time the 1956 Olympics came around, Shirley Strickland was a mother of 31 years of age but managed to defend her 80 m title, which she had won in Helsinki four years before, winning gold and setting a new Olympic record.
The sensational incident of the track events was the non-selection of Marlene Matthews in the 4 x 100 m relay. Matthews trained with the relay team up until the selection was made but Cuthbert, Strickland, Fleur Mellor and Norma Croker were picked for the team. There was outrage at the selection which increased when Matthews went on to run third in both the 100 m and 200 m finals. Personally she was devastated and felt that the she had been overlooked for her poor baton change. Strickland was disappointed with the way Matthews was treated and maintained it was an opinion held in New South Wales that she had baton problems. One of the selectors, Doris Magee from NSW, said that selecting Matthews increased the risk of disqualification at the change. But Cuthbert maintained that the selectors made the right choice saying that Fleur Mellor was fresh, a specialist relay runner and was better around the curves than Matthews.
The men did not fare so well. The 4 x 440 m relay team, including later IOC Committee member Kevan Gosper, won silver. Charles Porter also won silver in the high jump. Hec Hogan won bronze in the 100 m to become the first Australian man to win a medal in a sprint since the turn of the century and despite injury John Landy won bronze in the 1500 m. Allan Lawrence won bronze in the 10,000 m event.
Apart from athletics, the stadium was also used for the soccer finals, the hockey finals, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and an exhibition game of baseball between the Australian National Team and a US armed services team at which an estimated crowd of 114,000 attended. This was the Guiness World Record for the largest attendance for any baseball game, which stood until a 29 March 2008 exhibition game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers at the Los Angeles Coliseum (also a former Olympic venue) drawing 115,300.
The MCG was also used for another demonstration sport, Australian Rules. The Olympics being an amateur competition meant that only amateurs could play in the demonstration game. A combined team of amateurs from the VFL and VFA were selected to play a state team from the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). The game was played December 7, 1956 with the VAFA side, wearing white jumpers, green collars and the Olympic rings on their chests, winning easily 81 to 55.
The MCG’s link with its Olympic past continues to this day. Within its walls is the IOC-endorsed Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum.
Main Article: 2006 Commonwealth Games
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2006 Commonwealth Games were held at the MCG, as well as athletics events during the games. The games began on 15 March and ended on 26 March.
On 9 February 2006, the then Victorian premier Steve Bracks and Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy announced that the MCG would host a world class soccer event each year from 2006 until 2009 inclusive. The announcement came as the game gained popularity in the country following the qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
The agreement sees an annual fixture at the MCG, beginning with a clash between Australia and European champions Greece on 25 May 2006 in front of a sell-out crowd of 95,103, before the Socceroos left to contest in the World Cup finals. The Socceroos also hosted a match in 2007 against Argentina, losing 1-0, a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2008, and another in 2009 against Japan which could possibly decide Australia's participation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Other matches played at the MCG include the following:
In 1889 the MCC arranged for tennis to be played at the then Warehousemen’s Cricket Ground, now the Albert Ground, at Albert Park, rather than the MCG.
|All time highest attendance records at the MCG|
|1||130,000||Billy Graham Crusade||15 March 1959|
|2||121,696||VFL Grand Final Carlton v Collingwood||26 September 1970|
|3||120,000||40th Eucharistic Congress||25 February 1973|
|4||119,195||VFL Grand Final Carlton v Richmond||27 September 1969|
|5||118,192||VFL Grand Final Hawthorn v St Kilda||25 September 1971|
Outside of the MCG are statues of famous Australian athletes donated by Tattersalls and known as the Parade of Champions, including many Australian rules football and cricket legends.
Cuthbert, Betty (1966) Golden Girl
Gordon, Harry (1994) Australia and the Olympic Games Brisbane: University of Queensland Press
Hinds, Richard (1997) Low blows. Sport’s top 10 The Sydney Morning Herald November 1
Linnell, Garry (1995) Football Ltd Sydney: Ironbark Pan Macmillan Australia
Pollard, Jack (1990) Australia Test Match Grounds London: Willow Books
Plan of the Town and Suburbs of Melbourne 1843
Vamplew, Wray; Moore, Katharine; O’Hara, John; Cashman, Richard; and Jobling, Ian [editors] (1997) The Oxford Companion to Australian Sport Second Edition Melbourne: Oxford University Press
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