Adelaide 68 North Melbourne 24 (AFL)

Adelaide 03

Adelaide Crows 68 North Melbourne 24 (14/06/2009)

I arrived in Adelaide with a carefully planned itinerary allowing a third game in a weekend that very afternoon. Planning ahead, I’d also purchased a ticket in advance to save time. What I hadn’t planned for, perhaps thrown by every game I’ve seen on live from Adelaide being bathed in sunshine, was being hit with the reality that winter does actually exist in Australia after all.

Stadiums, and cities overall, never look their best in the rain, so my arrival with Adelaide doing a good impression of a wet English afternoon in November didn’t put me in good spirits. Checking into my hotel did help either. Decked out in dark brown, and colours less vibrant than that, it looked as if it had been purposefully designed to contrast with the lively Hindley Street on which it situated. Travel reviews had said the decor was dated. I just didn’t realise they meant carbon-dated, full of furniture old people would tell you their grandparents had.

Deciding that spending a second more than necessary in my hotel would have me reaching for the razor blades, I made my way a little early to the stadium. I was a bit too early, with the buses running to the stadium still being empty enough to wonder if I’d got the day wrong. Luckily the emptiness at least turned into a trickle of fans making their way to this stadium, miles out from the centre in the north west.

Although AAMI Stadium is in the midst of Adelaide’s sprawling suburbs, the 1970s built stadium still has that out of town feel, surrounded by acres of grass on all sides. On a nice day the setting would no doubt be almost idyllic, but my only thought was to get from the bus to somewhere under cover as soon as possible.

Actually my other thought was to buy another ticket. Mine, thanks to Ticketmaster’s policy of pretending there are only 3 seats you can buy at any stage of ticket sales, had left me with a seat stuck exposed in the open. Re-purchasing in the covered stand opposite didn’t require much time to ponder over.

Once inside I checked out my sodden old seat and felt glad I’d switched. From this exposed side though, you could get a sense of the scale of the ground. It holds over 50,000 despite none of that stands being that big. The stands just covered a larger area, with most of the seats being in a fairly shallow, but large, single continuous lower tier. Opposite was the main members stand, which did have a second tier above, but higher still was a later addition at the northern end. This curved around the end goal, before stopping abruptly just past the goal-posts, with a large scoreboard picking up the baton of trying to fill this end.

The other two sides weren’t completely uncovered, but the small roof covered only a few rows of seats, with executive boxes being added above at one end. Without the intimacy of a small venue like Geelong, or the towering presence of the other AFL venues, it was a stadium geared to the big event on a sunny day, just as the architect’s drawing do doubt pictured it. In the wet, and against low-ranking opposition who bring few fans, it’s going to be harder to see its charms.

One thing the place does have going for it is the Adelaide Crows fans. The club has the third highest membership in the AFL, and even a less-appealing fixture such as this one had over 30,000 venturing out to the stadium. It’s just a shame they weren’t rewarded with a better match.

Not that they’d have gone home unhappy. They won the game at a canter, with North Melbourne seemingly showing less enthusiasm for the conditions than I did. They didn’t score a single point in the first quarter, and could probably count themselves fortunate to only be 16-0 down at the first break. The complete ineffectiveness of North Melbourne made Adelaide also sloppy. A very poor 2nd quarter saw just 8 points added apiece, giving both teams the chance to reflect at the break that this wasn’t a training session.

As it was, easing into 2nd gear was enough for Adelaide, such was the limited threat North Melbourne posed. Indeed, by the final siren, the eight rushed behinds they’d gifted to Adelaide meant they scored more times for their opponents than themselves. To make matters worse, promising younger Jack Ziebell broke his leg during the match. And to crown a fine weekend, North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley resigned a few days later.

Given the conditions, the poor game, the 20,000 empty blue seats, and my less than favourable impression of Adelaide so far, I probably didn’t see AAMI Stadium in its best light. I still enjoyed the day overall, but it was still in spite of everything, rather than because of it. I’m sure with better conditions it would seem a completely different venue, but on this day it just seemed oversized and rather cold, functional venue.

In total contrast, the following day I visited the Adelaide Oval. The sun shone brightly as I walked from the now much better looking city centre to one of cricket’s most picturesque test venues. Set in a park just across the river, the ground seemed to be part of the park, rather than an imposition on it. Given how Adelaide really comes alive in the sunshine, it is just as well.

There was no game on, but the open gates allowed free access. The ground’s tasteful light brown and green colour scheme gave it an almost organic feel, like a well-tended country garden. The tent roof on the stand on the east side could have jarred with the older, but still pristine member stand around the corner, but instead just looked light and airy. The far end was, a few rows of seats apart, just a grass bank. This bank was topped by a large old-fashioned manual cricket scoreboard. An electronic clock, thoughtlessly tacked onto the bottom corner, was at least small enough to not detract from the overall image.

The only sad part was that the best piece of the ground, the terracotta roofed west stand, was in the middle of being demolished. It’s since been replaced by a larger modern structure. While the curving roof sections of this since completed stand make it a world away from a dreary monolith, it is the first part of a total redevelopment in order to allow the place to hold AFL games. There’s no doubt it will be a terrific stadium once finished, but it’s a shame that such a pretty stadium as the Adelaide Oval had to be replaced. There aren’t many grounds with its charm any more, so to lose another is a shame. I’m just glad I saw it in (almost) its original form. Maybe I’ll go back there one day and see a game there, and see if it was worth it. I just hope it isn’t raining if I do.

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