Whitten Oval


Whitten Oval

Infobox_Stadium
stadium_name = Whitten Oval
nickname = Western Oval


location = West Footscray, Victoria
broke_ground =
opened =
owner =
operator =
surface = |Medium to Hard construction_cost =
former_names = Western Oval
tenants =
Western Bulldogs (training and administration only)

seating_capacity =
25,000

Whitten Oval is a stadium in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia located at 417 Barkly Street, Footscray West. It is the home base of Australian Football League side Western Bulldogs.

Formerly known as the Western Oval, it was renamed in honour of former Footscray champion Ted Whitten. A statue of "Mr Football" was later erected at the ground to further honour the great man.

Background

The Whitten Oval is the centrepiece of a reserve that, from 1860, was a stone quarry used by the railways. In 1866, the quarry was turned into a reserve that included botanical gardens. Other former quarries within the City of Footscray that were turned into public gardens in this era include the Yarraville Reserve, which is the site of the current Yarraville Oval, off Williamstown Road; the Yarraville Gardens, off Hyde Street; and Footscray Park, which fronts the Maribyrnong River.

History

In 1879, after moving from ground to ground, the local council finally grants the local football club permission to use the Western Reserve as their home ground. [http://www.afl.com.au/TheClub/History/PottedHistory/tabid/4190/Default.aspx]

In 1883, the Footscray Football Club was formed. A year later, the club began hosting games in the botanical gardens. While the gardens became known as the David Spurling Reserve, the oval within the gardens became the Western Oval.

In 1941, the Club packed up and left Western Oval and played their home games at Yarraville, leaving the oval free for soldiers on the way to the battles of New Guinea during World War Two. [http://www.afl.com.au/TheClub/History/PottedHistory/tabid/4190/Default.aspx] In 1943, the club returned to Western Oval. [http://www.afl.com.au/TheClub/History/PottedHistory/tabid/4190/Default.aspx]

In 1995, the oval was renamed the Whitten Oval after the death of the football club's favourite son, Ted Whitten. The driveway leading from Barkly Street to the car park behind the oval was named Whitten Avenue.

Finally, in 1997, the last official AFL game was played at Whitten Oval. In what will go down as one of the most memorable matches within the Club's history, the Western Bulldogs defeated the West Coast Eagles by two goals. The match was known distinctively for a "before the game" fight between Michael Gardiner of West Coast and several Western Bulldogs players.

After the appointment of Campbell Rose as Chief Executive of the football club in 2002, discussions commenced on a redevelopment of Whitten Oval in which construction commenced in 2006.

Canary Island Palms

Fifteen Canary Island date palm trees line the footpath north of the oval, facing Barkly Street. Three Canary Island pine trees are behind these palms. To the west of the oval, between the car park and Hocking Street, there are two more palms.

Of the 15 palms that line the reserve's northern border, 10 are south of the entrance to Whitten Avenue and five are north of the entrance. Behind the palms, to north of the entrance, is the Lions Club of Footscray Memorial Playground. The palms are believed to have been planted about the 1920s, during a beautification scheme overseen by noted landscaper David Matthews.

Football Stadium

The ground previously seated up to 25,000. It is currently not used for league matches, but is undergoing a redevelopment, and it has been hinted that it could soon be up to AFL standard.

The ground is known famously for being particularly long and narrow as opposed to many other grounds, with deep squarish pockets, and for the wild wind which bellowed over the ground, particularly at the Geelong Road end of the ground. These reasons, most specifically the wind, meant that the Western Oval was the site of many abnormally low scoring games, inaccurate scoring tallies, and games where more than 80% of all scoring was kicked to one end. The ground developed a demographic of the "ground visiting sides hated to play at", with passionate Bulldog supporters and unique playing conditions making it an arduous task to leave with a win.

Windy Days at the Western Oval

In a game typical of the worst that the Western Oval wind could offer, Footscray beat Fitzroy in a close game by the score of 14.9.93 vs 13.7.85 in Round 10, 1964. Of the total of 178 points scored in the game, only 7 were scored against the wind. When Footscray met Fitzroy in Round 17, 1927, only 6 of 173 points were kicked against the wind. In 1948's Footscray vs Geelong game, only 2 of the 58 scoring shots were made into the wind. While these are extreme examples, it was common to see no more than two or three goals kicked into the wind, while fourteen or fifteen would be scored at the other ends.

Whitten Oval Redevelopment

In September 2004, during Grand Final week the Western Bulldogs pulled off one of the most exhilarating coups in the Club's history, with Prime Minister John Howard visiting the oval and announced that his Liberal Government will be contributing $8 Million to spearhead a $19.5 million redevelopment of the Whitten Oval. [http://www.liberal.org.au/documents/Sept23_Media_Release_-_Re-Development_Of_Whitten_Oval_%E2%80%93_A_Community_Partnership.pdf] [http://www.maribyrnong.vic.gov.au/Files/Maribyrnong_News_Nov2006.pdf]

Once completed, the redeveloped ground will include a 120 place childcare centre, a conference and convention centre and a state-of-the-art sports, medical, and health care centre. President David Smorgon claimed that the announcement will be recorded as one of the most significant in the Western Bulldogs history. [http://www.westernbulldogs.com.au/TheWhittenOvalRedevelopment/tabid/4281/Default.aspx]

Construction of the redevelopment commenced in 2006 with the demolition of the old scoreboard and the stand on the outer wing (The E.J Smith stand). [http://westernbulldogs.com.au/default.asp?pg=redevelopment&spg=newsdisplay&articleid=238968]

Completion of the redevelopment is planned for late 2008 with a large indoor sports hall (incorporating netball, basketball and soccer) scheduled for completion in 2009.

Current Activities.

Post its use as a VFL/AFL stadium, the Whitten Oval is now primarily used as the training ground for the Western Bulldogs.

A number of local community groups, schools and sporting organisations utilise the ground; particularly because of its close proximity to the Melbourne CBD and local transport. The Footscray West train station and local bus lines service the oval well.

The Western Region Football League (WRFL) and the Victorian Womens Football League (VWFL) utilise the ground for games and finals.

A local Rec Footy competition, the Western Bulldogs Family Day and a host of other community activities throughout the year mean the oval is constantly used.

External links

*Austadiums|137
* [http://www.aroundthegrounds.bellestorie.com/western/western.html "Around the Grounds" - Web Documentary - Western Oval]


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