In celebration of the International Day for Monuments and Sites, and its focus on the heritage of sport, we've delved into the Tasmanian Heritage Register for a look at some of Tasmania's heritage-listed cricket and football grounds and grandstands.
Tasmania's most recognised and celebrated football venue is undoubtedly Aurora Stadium in Launceston. It has been the regional centre of football in northern Tasmania since 1923, and since 2000, the Tasmanian home for the Hawthorn Football Club.
The area on which Aurora Stadium sits was once known as 'The Swamp' and was considered to be a perfect dumping ground for the city's waste. In 1881, the area was handed over to the Launceston City Council to create a park for recreation, health and enjoyment. The newly named Inveresk Park originally included plantings, carriage drives, footpaths and two grassed ovals. It wasn't until 1921 that cricket and football grounds were added; and in 1923 with the construction of 'The Northern Stand', football games began to be played on the ground.
The first game played on the oval was between Launceston and City with around 3000 turning out to watch. In a sign of our great north/south rivalry, more than 9000 spectators filled the park that same year for a North versus South game.
Unfortunately the legacy of the area's former use as a tip was never far away. Whenever the ground was harrowed, refuse and glass would surface. According to a former footballer, the players would all line up and walk the length of the ground side by side to collect anything which could have caused injury.
Avoiding injury was nearly impossible at Queenstown Oval, known by locals as the Recreation Ground or 'Rec'. Dating back to 1895, the perils of playing on the gravel surface of the 'Rec', perhaps Tasmania's most infamous oval, were well known. Although a suggestion was made in 1933 to replace gravel with turf, the idea was soon dispensed with, perhaps to retain a home-town advantage. In a football match between Roseberry and Queenstown City in 1945, the Mercury reported that 'the visitors appeared to be feeling the effect of playing on the strange gravel surfaced ground', leaving Queenstown City to bask in victory. And it would seem that mainlanders also found the surface difficult to play on. In a letter to the Examiner in 1951, a Victorian correspondent remarked that he had 'never seen another ground so rough and covered with coarse gravel and big stones as that at Queenstown and did not think that a team from Victoria should be expected to run the risk of serious injury by playing there'. Somewhat curiously, Queenstown's Whippet Club ceased using the ground in 1939 'because of the injury to dogs' feet when running on the gravel surface'.
If Aurora is Tasmania's home of the Hawkes, and Queenstown Oval is the stuff of legends, Burnie's West Park, home to the Burnie Dockers, has the dubious record of hosting Tasmania's most controversial football match. In 1967 the Tasmanian Football League was declared a 'no result' at the Grand Final after the goal posts were removed while a visiting team member attempted to kick a goal at the final siren. The old wooden grandstand has been sheltering fans since 1915. It is entered on the Heritage Register because it is considered to be the earliest surviving substantial grandstand in Tasmania. And as with the other ovals and grandstands, the games continue to be as much about ceremony and social interaction as they are about competition.
There are no football grandstands from the south of the State entered on the Heritage Register. Ideas for which, if any, southern ovals or footy stands hit the mark for entry to the Heritage Register can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) dedicates the 18 April each year as the International Day for Monuments and Sites.