Remember the Grand ‘J’

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 As a young teenager in the early eighties with a burning passion for what now is our national game, namely the VFL/AFL, I relished the opportunity to watch my beloved Melbourne Demons play on the smaller ‘traditional’ suburban footy grounds. Needless to say one of these favourites was the ‘J’ (aka the Junction Oval) in St Kilda. Despite its location the ‘J’ was strangely the home ground of the Fitzroy Lions.

St Kilda fans watching from the old perimeter picket fence at their home ground, the Junction Oval in St Kilda, 1961 Source: Geoff Slattery Publishing

The ‘J’ is a glorious historical ground akin to the Brunswick Street and Glenferrie Ovals, which all hold a majestic charm. Thankfully the ‘J’ is blessed by protection through heritage listing.

I still remember riding the old ‘red rattler’ train into enemy territory. Even though Fitzroy was the owner of the venue at the time let us not forget that for nearly eighty years the St Kilda Football Club called the ‘J’ home, this precious venue has also been home to the St Kilda Cricket Club since 1856 to the present day.

Unlike the concrete and glass jungle of the nearby ‘G’ (aka the MCG) the ‘J’ is constructed of mostly red house bricks giving her the appearance of a large circular suburban house, complete with wooden seating, surrounded by a lush green backyard.

By the way, do you remember the days when you could get plastered at the footy? This is no fault of the ‘J’; it was just due to the fact that liquor laws were quite lax back then. Boy o’ boy was it fun stumbling to the train when you had a skinful of piss! This happened to me quite often as the Demons didn’t win too many at the ‘J’ and there was nothing else to do!

Now, to all the nostalgias out there; this ground is truly one of Melbourne’s first and revered sporting grounds which today remains almost as she was 100 years ago! What happened to the Lakeside Oval? Didn’t South Melbournians love their ground? Obviously not as much as St Kilda loves its original home.

A friend of mine still recalls attending the ‘J’ for a VFA grand final between Preston and Frankston which had an attendance of more than 22,000 yahoos!

Now in the next few days I’m planning on revisiting this magnificent ground so I’ll give my feedback as to how it is in 2012 next month… just joking… here are my thoughts…

A few days ago I had my marathon journey from Frankston and boy was it worth it! The ground really has not changed as much as I thought it would have. The grandstands from yesteryear are still in ‘as new’ condition but have been obviously repainted.

Forget footy on this patch of the suburb, the whole oval is meticulously prepared like a mini ‘G’ complete with a dude (at the time of my visit) rolling a perfect looking cricket pitch.

I really wish I could say that you could take the kids inside for a ‘kick to kick’ but alas no-go. However the ‘J’ is surrounded by beautiful parkland including: one hundred year old trees, park benches, and heaps of lush green grass to have that ‘kick to kick’ or even an inner suburban picnic on.

Don’t forget; when you visit this magnificent sporting venue and its lookalike botanical gardens take time out to visit the old St Kilda railway station, although it now resembles a mini arcade. Keep an eye out for the large Roman numeral clock, alerting past travellers to the arrival of the “NEXT TRAIN,” this clock very much resembles the Flinders’ Street variety – what a reminder!

So, in a nutshell, do yourself a favour and go visit this jewel of St Kilda. After all it’s a piece of cake to get there, via tram/light rail, so there is no excuse.

Now if in the rare case, you get bored, tired, thirsty or hungry while there don’t forget you are surrounded by a truckload of a cafés and bars for that beverage or twenty.

Just between you and me, I did have ‘one’ beverage! But relax readers; I did make it back to the 96 tram to start that epic return trip!

Talk to you soon…

By Ando

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