Where have all the icons gone?

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HE STILL longs for the days of lounging in the original Long Room, watching the champs battling it out on grass at Kooyong… GEOFF POULTER looks back with longing for the good old days:

NOT that long ago you could spend wonderful moments among some of the city’s historic sporting landmarks. AFL Park, Waverley, Kooyong grass courts, Albert Park public golf course, the MCG Long Room, Festival Hall to name a few. No longer!

In a few months they’ll all be gone. Waverley (lasted 29 years) after constant neglect and criticism finally boasted a perfect playing surface; watching top level competition on Kooyong’s famed grass was an idyllic experience; a quick round at Albert Park just down the road for most; the “original” MCG Long Room was a stunner; Festival Hall hosted everything from the Beatles to world title fights.

They’ll tell you it’s progress, don’t knock it. Need to look ahead, they were becoming obsolete. Pity the same rationale didn’t apply to forecasting the city’s traffic gridlock, exacerbated by 140,000 new citizens a year exposing lack of foresight and appropriate infrastructure required to cope with such a massive expansion.

The worst passing of all was the charming MCG Long Room, gobbled up in a major ground redevelopment a decade or so ago. A substitute doesn’t provide the same sense of cricket history. They were unable to recreate it. Or those beloved Boxing Day turkey sandwiches.

Your correspondent recalls penning an article representing firm views of legends such as Keith Miller, Neil Harvey and Keith Stackpole among those who believed it should be preserved in its exact state. The MCC explained it would have cost an extra $100 million to do so. But a pittance to retain something so loved, valuable and irreplaceable.

Kooyong and the grass. Recall Laver, Newcombe and Rosewall beating the Czechs in a Davis Cup semi in 1973. Hoad and Rosewall in the ‘50s. Cash recovering from two sets down in a ‘80s Cup tie. Tennis on other surfaces seems so inferior. Festival Hall had most things but I recall a McEnroe-Connors exhibition match and, on its big screen, watching Ali battling Leon Spinks in a world title fight.

Days gone by at Kooyong. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Days gone by at Kooyong. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Playing Albert Park, a hacker appreciated how it was flat and uncomplicated with very few bunkers. Now there are plans afoot to turn it into a trendy nine-hole course with precious space given over to other activities.

Waverley Park was a 20-minute dash down the freeway where the Aylett-VFL regime allocated the Press the best car park area – right outside the main entrance.

Surely the national trust/heritage bodies could have saved them all?

Also gone, the Menzies and Southern Cross hotels; the Chevron in St Kilda Road where you could get a drink late at night; Dirty Dicks medieval theatre; McClure’s restaurant where you ordered from a table phone. As Tennyson wrote: the old order changeth, yielding way to new.

Footy has lost a lot, too. Fitzroy, curtain-raisers, the drop kick, torpedo (just about), stab kick, positional play, all free kicks, reserves, under 19s and fourths, the big V, suburban grounds. Don’t forget half-time charity blankets; the bloke walking inside the boundary carrying a blackboard with winning raffle details; cheer squad floggers; horse race results on the scoreboard; all games starting about 2pm. Oh, and I nearly forgot, pure football!

Must be getting old and grumpy. But not so deluded as not to admit it.


Author: Geoff Poulter

GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!



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