From Mandurah to Joondalup, Freo to Basso and a fair bit in between, there are footy grounds with enough heritage and heart to bring out your tribal colours, wave a scarf, admire some silverware and photos of yesterday’s champions and watch close up, todays champions of men and womens footy, and listen to their coaches support and spray them at quarter and three quarter time.
Wherever you live in the metropolitan area, there’s a WAFL ground near you. Click on the link below to listen to our ABC Perth Hidden Treasures story on WAFL grounds around Perth:
All of the WAFL grounds offer spectators the opportunity to get over the boundary fence at quarter time breaks and have a kick to kick or listen to the coaches and players as they huddle around the magnet board at quarter and three quarter time.
It’s these moments that make WAFL truly special. Getting on to the ground. Kicking a footy. Getting close to the teams. Seeing up close the mouth guards being rinsed, the smell of liniment getting rubbed into legs that are fit and strong … but not quite as big as Ron Bouchers. And high level coaches instructing high level players. And big wins.
Mandurah has a redeveloped arena that is next door to the main shopping centre in Mandurah and highlights one of the characteristics of WAFL grounds, they’re accessible and central to the community they represent.
Clint Wheeldon fondly remembers when Rushton Park used to truly have that country footy feel with cars parked the oval. When he was on air for the ABC covering a game he’d give a shout out to the cars and they’d honk their horns and flash their lights. The lights thing didn’t work well for radio but he said it was lots of fun.
Up the road in Freo are two grounds that embody the rivalry between WAFL clubs. While East Fremantle fans love their Shark Park with its acres of grassy banks and its low stands with plank seating that is more splinter than plank, Fremantle Oval is completely different.
The mightiest football team in the world, the South Fremantle Bulldogs, has allowed the Italian influence in Fremantle to literally pave the spectator terraces in concrete to follow many an Italian homeowners gardening creed that there are no weeds in concrete.
Despite the concrete terraces, there is the beauty of some of Perth’s grandest old fig trees, the wall of Fremantle Jail just behind the scoreboard and a contender for the best stand in Perth the Victoria Pavilion, built in 1897.
Up Stirling Highway you’ll find the transformed Claremont Oval which in the Covid environment is the easiest way to get a resort experience in Perth. The fully redeveloped ground is only lacking a swim up bar to complete the picture. Much of the seating is sumptuous and there are even sofas and proper coffee tables with proper coasters!
Just up the road is the dual tenanted Leederville Oval, home to Subiaco and East Perth. As a venue for the 1962 Empire Games it’s grandstand reflects this era and if you like the look down spectator experience like major stadiums, this won’t cost you anymore to sit in than the gate entry price of $15 – with complimentary Footy Budget.
Joondalup is one of the pioneer grounds in Perth to make the transition from footy oval to multi sports complex, incorporating a swimming complex, gym and other sports while still retaining that great hallmark of WAFL grounds, the grass embankment.
Lathlain is another ground that has retained and redeveloped. There’s still a van with a loud generator making hot chips and big hotdogs but there’s also the sophistication and dominant architecture of the West Coast Eagles complex that is alongside the oval. It’s got the big stand from the same era as Leederville Ovals and has a great view of the game and you can sit close to the commentators and hear how they’re seeing the game unfold.
I guess now we’ve got to make the long trek out to Bassendean and have a look at Bassendean Oval. While it’s true that Swan Districts got a hat-trick of flags in the 80’s I don’t know if there’s much else to say about them.
They do have a spectacular grass embankment and two stands that put the grand in grandstand. The ground is a great hub for local kids with a skate park adjacent to the oval and on the my last visit there were two kids playing with a footy near the goals and taking turns pretending to be their favourite player as they kicked for goal.
Best ground that resembles a resort: Claremont – sofas, seating and service like a Nusa Dua resort
Best Gates: Bassendean Oval
Best Grass: Bassendean Oval
Best Stand: Victoria Pavilion, Fremantle Oval
Best Trees: Fremantle Oval
Best Ground Announcer: Leederville Oval “Describing children as ‘kiddies and young un’s’ and saying ‘please’ when advising spectators to get off the ground and to ‘please remember to help your kiddies gently over the fence’.
Honk your horns for WAFL grounds! WAFL grounds are hidden treasures that are well and truly in the open throughout suburban Perth. They’re accessible, good value and are a great way to connect with your community and watch good footy. Thank you to all the WAFL clubs who let me be a part of their game day experience. They’ve got heritage and heart and even if you’re not a member of your local club, you’re always welcome.